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When Cosmetic Surgery Goes Too Far
New York, NY February 18, 2003 –
With all the recent news coverage regarding Michael Jackson’s
alleged obsession with cosmetic surgery, a little known condition comes to mind: Body Dysmorphic
Disorder (BDD). Many who have seen Michael Jackson of late, have been left wondering why his plastic
surgeon(s) did not ‘put down the scalpel’ and say, “that is enough surgery Mr. Jackson.” Even more
alarming than Jackson’s altered appearance due to over 50 surgeries by one surgeon’s estimate, is the fact
that some sources estimate that as many as one in every fifty Americans suffer from some form of BDD, a
mental disorder that causes the victim to feel ashamed about their appearance. BDD sufferers become
obsessed over things that they find undesirable, when there is actually nothing wrong. “BDD can cause
beautiful people to spiral downwards into a world of depression, anxiety and obsession that can lead to
suicidal inclinations,” says Elliot Duboys, MD, who is board certified by the American Board of Plastic
What signs should one look for?
Dr. Duboys warns that “BDD is often very difficult to diagnose because
not much is known about it. The same was once true for anorexia, which only began to gain recognition
less than two decades ago.” Still there are some signs that may indicate that a person is suffering from
BDD. They include:
• Frequently looking in the mirror, or avoiding mirrors all together
• Constantly comparing one’s appearance to that of others, or critiquing the appearance of others
• Compensating for a “perceived defect” by wearing extra makeup, or covering the area with
• Always seeking reassurance or trying to convince others of one’s flaws
• Avoiding situations where the perceived defect might be exposed (i.e., swimming)
The list goes on. According to Dr. Duboys, any good surgeon questions a patient prior to surgery to see what his/her motives are for having a particular procedure. “If a patient comes in requesting a nose job because a loved one has made a condescending remark about it, then that is when I would question their motives and help that particular patient make an informed choice.” All surgeons do not practice the same moral code. Michael Jackson’s obsession with his face started because of remarks his father made, and was allowed to spiral out of control because of surgeons who did not take the time to question his mental state. For some surgeons though, BDD is the answer to keeping their office doors open. “I made an ethical promise when I started my practice. The first rule is to always keep my patients’ mental and physical health my number one priority.” For those who do suffer from BDD, there are several treatment options that include meeting with a therapist regularly and taking anti-depressants like Prozac, Zoloft, Paxil, Luvox, and Anafranil. Even with treatment options, many victims are ashamed of having BDD, and often try to hide it from themselves and others.
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