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30-10-2011 | Psychology | Article

Many female cosmetic surgery patients have psychopathologic symptoms


Free abstract

MedWire News: A high number of women undergoing cosmetic surgical procedures have symptoms suggestive of psychopathologic disorders, such as body dysmorphic disorder (BDD), show study results.

"During the past decades, cosmetic surgery has become increasingly popular," say Sandra Mulkens (Maastricht University, the Netherlands) and colleagues.

"People with certain psychopathology disorders, for example, BDD, are dissatisfied with their physical appearance, and a significant number try to receive cosmetic medical treatment for their complaints."

To assess the number of people with these conditions who undergo cosmetic surgery, Mulkens and team sent questionnaires to 1000 people who underwent cosmetic surgery at one of the four Velthuis Clinics in the Netherlands, and who consented to be contacted after their surgery. In total, 135 questionnaires were sent back, but only eight were from men, so the researchers restricted their analysis to women.

The questionnaires focused on dissatisfaction with body image, BDD symptoms, psychopathology in general, and satisfaction with surgery.

As reported in the Journal of Plastic, Reconstructive & Aesthetic Surgery, 22.0-59.0% of the women scored higher on questionnaires (Dutch Body Dysmorphic Disorder Examination Self-Report [DBDDE-SR] and My Appearance Questionnaire) about body image dissatisfaction and psychopathologic symptoms than the average for women in the general Dutch population. But only 6.7% of the respondents had ever been refused cosmetic surgery.

Most women (86%) were happy with the outcome of their surgery. However, those with a high number of BDD symptoms (above a score of 38 on the DBDDE-SR) were more likely to have a worse outcome for all measurements than women without symptoms of BDD. This included lower satisfaction with surgery, higher psychopathologic symptoms, and lower self-esteem.

"The present findings indicate that evaluation of the psychological condition and motivation of the candidate patient in cosmetic medical treatment settings is valuable," write Mulkens and co-authors.

They say that it is concerning that psychologically ill patients with BDD seem to be able to receive cosmetic surgery with relative ease, despite it having no or adverse effects on their condition.

To combat this, the researchers suggest that "medical practitioners might screen patients with (short) questionnaires and/or consider collaborating with psychologists," and that "cosmetic surgeons might be trained to recognize potential problem patients and be informed about psychiatric disorders and their preferred psychological treatments."

By Helen Albert

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