Cosmetic surgery and Body Dysmorphic Disorder

Striving for perfection is hard at the best of times, but no more so than in the modern world of 24/7 social media, photo sharing, and beauty and fashion magazines. For some, the perfect image is about the right clothes, hair or body shape which can be achieved by getting a new outfit or going down to the gym. For others, it involves taking a step into the world of cosmetic surgery.

Cosmetic procedures can offer what lotions and potions can’t. From removing lines and wrinkles to the more invasive surgery of tucks, lifts and liposuction cosmetic surgery can seem like a relatively quick fix. For the majority of patients the surgical option satisfies their expectations. However there are times when the surgery you hoped and saved for is not all you thought it would be. And for some people the position can be complicated by a little known psychological condition called Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD).

BDD is a condition which causes a person to become preoccupied with what they consider to be imperfections in their physical appearance. It is an obsessive condition that goes beyond glancing in a mirror when you walk past one. In serious cases it can involve people taking hours preparing to leave the house or perhaps not leaving the house at all. It can also involve sufferers constantly checking and re-checking their appearance and trying to change perceived flaws. Many factors combine to result in BDD arising, from early life experiences to social, personality and genetic issues. The very nature of the condition is a psychological one, however it manifests in the individual’s perception of a physical problem.

It is thought that at least one person in every 100 people in the UK suffers from BDD, but the true extent of the problem is not known as individuals can often feel unable to seek help or to share their experiences due to a sense of shame in their appearance. Of course, BDD is not only associated with cosmetic surgery; it is a more complex condition than that. However cases can develop as a result of surgery, particularly when a surgeon attempts to correct a single ‘imperfection’ without considering the patient as a whole and the root cause of their dissatisfaction with their appearance – which could potentially go beyond a few lines and wrinkles.

For those who suffer from Body Dysmorphic Disorder cosmetic surgery does not always provide the ‘fix’ that they are looking for and even if it does it is often only a short term solution as the patient then diverts their attention to another perceived physical flaw. Being trapped in this cycle is something that requires specialist treatment from trained professionals. Cosmetic surgeons are not obliged to look into the psychological reasons for someone wanting surgery. However guidance published by the General Medical Council (GMC), backed by the Royal College of Surgeons (RCS), earlier this year put the onus on cosmetic surgeons to manage their procedures more effectively – from obtaining the client’s consent in the first instance, allowing them time for reflection before proceeding with surgery and advising them who they should contact if complications arise.

The best advice is always to research the chosen procedure carefully. It is also important to choose the right surgeon to perform the surgery and ensure you take time to consider whether the surgery is right for you. If necessary, seek advice from suitably trained medical practitioners. The majority of surgery does have a successful outcome, however if you are suffering from complications following a cosmetic procedure, or think that you may have acquired Body Dysmorphic Disorder resulting from negligent cosmetic procedures, then call our confidential legal helpline on 0808 139 1592 or email us at [email protected]

Body Dysmorphic Disorder and Negligent Cosmetic Surgery