Are you Feeling Ugly? The Nightmare of living a life obsessed with your Appearance

Are you Feeling Ugly? The Nightmare of living a life obsessed with your Appearance

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We unexpectedly catch sight of ourselves in a mirror and, in an instant, are thrown into despair: the odd nose, the unsatisfactory hair, the sickening skin tone, but most of all, the only too familiar, deeply gormless needy expression.

It feels at such moments as if every worst fear about us must be true. All our efforts to run away from our monster-self have failed. A hideous spectre is, for our brief time on the planet, truly whom we are fated to be.

Two years ago, ex-model Alicia Douvall made two shocking revelations: she had spent more than $ 1.5 million on cosmetic treatments and her addiction to surgery had originated in undiagnosed body dysmorphic disorder (BDD).

This condition, which is also known as dysmorphophobia, involves an out-of-normal concern for detail in appearance.

Often the symptoms begin in adolescence.

Minnie Wright, 47, has spent almost all her life suffering from TDC .

“The symptoms started when I was 11 years old and I was the victim of bullying, ” he says. “It was largely because of the size of my nose.”

Minnie adds that she put on shadow makeup and put her head down to avoid showing her profile .

Vanity? It’s not fair

Minnie Wright
Copyright of the MINNIE WRIGHT image
Image caption This is how Minnie Wright looked at the time the symptoms began.

People with BDD delay asking for help for fear of being labeled as vain.

Dr. David Veale, an eminence in TDC, specialized in this area 20 years ago after one of his patients committed suicide for this disorder.

“Ideally, what we want is to examine and diagnose people with BDD at an early stage, because treatment is easier before all those thoughts and anxieties are ‘entrenched’ in your mind .”

Veale adds that “the most important message is that TDC is a treatable disease.”

The treatment usually consists of a combination of antidepressants and cognitive-behavioral therapy . However, getting to diagnose the disorder and treat it is a slow process.

And during that time those who suffer from BDD may try to “cure” those imperfections they perceive with plastic surgery .

“Immobilized”

Minnie explains that she wanted to do something. “But I was still a girl, when I turned 18, they gave me nose surgery .”

“At first I felt better, but deep down I was unhappy, it was like moving furniture around, but the underlying problem was still there, it just looked a little different.”

Later Minnie focused her source of unhappiness on her hair and the symptoms became “immobilized” in such a way that she contemplated suicide .

Studies suggest that people with this disorder are more prone to suicide than the general population. Minnie met four people with BDD who took their lives.

Veale, who works for the Body Dysmorphic Disorder Foundation, says that one third of her patients have undergone at least one cosmetic treatment.

The most alarming is that less than 10% of people with this disorder are satisfied with the results .

Their anxieties usually focus on another aspect of their appearance, which sometimes leads to the person undergoing multiple procedures.

Diagnostic tool

Surgical intervention
Copyright of the SPL image
Image caption One third of people with BDD undergo cosmetic treatments.

It is estimated that 15% of people who want to have plastic surgery have TDC .

The plastic surgeon Simon Withey notes that the TDC “is extremely complicated”and warns that surgeons “can never be experts.”

“However, with the right questions, one acquires a sixth sense to detect that something is not right, for me, one of the signs is when the patient is ‘too prepared .  If I feel something is not right, I do not operate.” .

Psychiatrists have several tools to identify dysmorphophobia , but these take too long for a surgeon to use in their clinic.

Dr. Alex Clarke studies the psychological aspects of plastic surgery. Your team has been developing a more accessible analysis questionnaire .

” Surgeons want to operate, their concern is that if they say no, the patient will knock on someone else’s door,” explains Clarke.

The questionnaire identifies the presence of the classic symptoms of BDDand explores the patient’s expectations.

In the study tests, both surgeons and patients have accepted this new tool.

“In the last 15 years we have seen how surgeons have gone from resisting to recognizing that these practices are part of a superior quality service .”

“Wild West”

But the problem lies in how to reach those unscrupulous professionals willing to do everything for a good sum of money.

Woman looking in a mirror
Copyright of the THINKSTOCK image
Image caption If the person is determined to have surgery, for the right price you can find someone to do it.

Surgeon Marc Pacifico, spokesman for the British Association of Plastic Surgeons and Anesthesiologists, confesses that “out there is the far west . 

“It’s a sad fact that if you look, you find someone willing to do the operation you want, anyone can call themselves a ‘plastic surgeon’ and have an office .”

Pacifico adds that people can be easily deceived with sophisticated internet sites and reputable addresses.

To avoid falling into the hands of “unscrupulous” the Association recommends looking for certificates and official credentials.

The negligent practices may include that the patient be visited first by a sellerrather than a surgeon. Also, the suspiciously low price of a surgery or “limited time” offers may be signs that you are an unsound surgeon.

First world?

Woman looking at herself in the mirror
Copyright of the image

Often, the comments that follow the articles published in the media on BDT comment that this is “a first world problem” .

But there is evidence to the contrary. Brazilian professor Leo Fontanelle is a TDC specialist in Rio de Janeiro. And Brazil is one of the countries with the largest plastic surgery operations in the world.

“We have seen patients from all socioeconomic strata, but we still do not have the data to know how many of our patients have undergone surgery before being diagnosed and treated.”

However, Fontanelle adds that “it is still important that our surgeons are awareof the disorder and refer patients to the appropriate services.”

Is selfie the culprit?

Girl making a Selfie
Copyright of the SPL image

For a long time it has been pointed out to the media as the last responsible for people to develop a wrong body image, and in recent years there has been a boom in selfies or selfies .

A recent study shows that people between 16 and 25 years on average spend 16 minutes and seven attempts to take the perfect selfie.

Does this pressure to look perfect affect the mental state of the people?

Dr. Veale does not think so. “It is difficult to draw a line between what is a body dissatisfaction and the TDC itself.”

The expert explains that it is the experiences at an early age , such as a poor relationship between the child and the mother or bullying, which will affect the person.

” Pressures from the media are out there , but they only play a small role in history, ” he adds.

For her part, Dr. Clarke considers that dysmorphophobia is an issue that should be attacked in schools .

It is necessary to teach children media education so that they learn that all those retouched images are not real, it is very easy to be a victim of these pressures if you are not strong enough.”

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