Do Nose Jobs Mean Mental Illness?

Cosmetic surgery may indicate symptoms of body dysmorphic disorder

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Plastic surgery is often thought of as purely cosmetic, driven either by vanity or a sincere desire to remedy what one considers a glaring physical defect.

For people who want a nose job, officially known as rhinoplasty, the desire for such surgery could actually point to a mental disorder associated with body image.

"Consider the psychological implications before scheduling a nose job."

Research in Belgium has found that about one-third of people who want to get a nose job also have symptoms of BDD - body dysmorphic disorder, a mental disorder that creates excessive concern over minor, or even imagined, defects in appearance. BDD can be so overwhelming that it interferes with a person's normal, daily life.

Dr. Valerie A. Picavet of University Hospitals Leuven led the study, and suggests that plastic surgeons should be aware of the disorder and its prevalence among patients who seek cosmetic surgery, particularly rhinoplasty. The research states, "Patients undergoing revision rhinoplasty and with psychiatric history are particularly at risk. Body dysmorphic disorder symptoms significantly reduce the quality of life and cause significant appearance-related disruption of everyday living."

Picavet's team surveyed 226 patients who consulted with surgeons about a nose job, using the Yale-Brown Obsessive Compulsive Scale to assess BDD symptoms. 33 percent had moderate to severe symptoms of BDD. Among those who wanted a nose job solely for the purpose of improving their appearance, the percentage jumped to 43. Only two percent of the patients who were seeking rhinoplasty for medical reasons only showed signs of BDD.

Although the study dealt with nose job patients only, researchers say that BDD symptoms are common among people who have had previous plastic surgery. In fact, 20 percent of the patients in the Picavet research had had previous rhinoplasty. BDD symptoms were most severe among those who had mental health issues or psychiatric problems.

Study results were published in the August 2011 issue of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
August 25, 2011
Last Updated:
August 26, 2011