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Summary: Plastic surgery has certainly gone mainstream and the stigma that used to surround altering one’s face or figure has been largely diminished. There’s certainly nothing wrong with improving part of your body that you’re not happy with or enhancing yourself in some way that gives you more confidence. However, when does the desire to change one’s appearance go too far and borderline on obsession?

Understanding Body Dysmorphic Disorder

Body dysmorphic disorder, or BDD, is a chronic mental illness that causes a person to intensely obsess over a slight(sometimes imagined) physical flaw or defect. BDD can take over a person’s thoughts and actions, causing serious disruptions to their ability to maintain a normal life and have healthy relationships.

Sometimes, a person with BDD is obsessed over a specific defect that other people may agree is relevant concern, such as a crooked nose. However, sometimes the obsession is over a perceived imperfection that most people would not see as a problem or a desired look that is either unrealistic or unnatural looking.

When BDD Leads to Plastic Surgery Addiction

Reality TV has no shortage of people who focus their life, money and energy on attaining a certain physical appearance, often with either a celebrity or even a fictional person like Ken or Barbie as their ultimate goal. A person with BDD places a disproportionate amount of importance on physical appearance and equates beauty to happiness. In their minds, they think that by “fixing” their perceived imperfections, they’ll be happier, have a better career or have better relationships.

People with BDD often have unrealistic expectations about how much plastic surgery can improve their lives. An individual with BDD often becomes frustrated when they still feel unattractive or unfulfilled despite having multiple cosmetic procedures that they thought would bring them happiness. This is because the true problem behind BDD is mental illness that no amount of plastic surgery will be able to correct.

The Plastic Surgeon’s Role

Before agreeing to perform a procedure, a plastic surgeon should carefully determine how emotionally prepared a person is for plastic surgery. A conscientious plastic surgeon will take the time to understand the person’s true motivations and make sure they have healthy and realistic expectations about how plastic surgery can improve their appearance and impact their lives.

Because a person with BDD is rarely satisfied with the results of a cosmetic procedure, they’ll continue to return to have more and more work done. Ethical plastic surgeons will recognize this behavior as BDD and will stop the endless chain of surgeries that will ultimately diminish, rather than enhance, the person’s appearance.

Carefully Consider Your Motivations

Just because you want to have a cosmetic procedure, that doesn’t necessarily mean you have BDD. If having breast augmentation will help you finally feel confident in a bikini or a little black dress, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. Likewise, if having a nosejob to create more facial balance and symmetry will help you put your best face forward, that’s perfectly fine.

However, you should spend some time analyzing your feelings and motivations before getting cosmetic procedures. Plastic surgery may be a physical change, but it has emotional and mental implications that should be considered. Be sure you want plastic surgery for the right reasons and not because you think someone will love you more or you’ll have more friends. Also, be realistic in your expectations with plastic surgery. The goal with cosmetic procedures is improvement and never perfection.

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