July 28, 2011 -- A third of patients seeking cosmetic surgery to improve their nose have at least moderate symptoms of a mental disorder that makes them preoccupied with imagined or slight defects in appearance, a study shows.
The mental disorder is called body dysmorphic disorder (BDD).
In previous studies, up to 10% of nose job patients were found to have the problem, says Peter W. Hellings, MD, PhD, associate professor of otorhinolaryngology at University Hospitals Leuven in Belgium.
"It's higher than we thought," he tells WebMD. "We found 40% had some BDD symptoms, but 33% had at least moderate symptoms of BDD."
"They have symptoms, but not the full diagnosis," he says. "I would say half of them have the full disorder."
The study is published in Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery.
More than 252,000 nose-reshaping surgeries (rhinoplasties) were done in the U.S. in 2010, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. Up to 3% of the population is thought to have BDD.
Nose Jobs and Mental Health
Hellings evaluated 226 patients who sought nose-reshaping surgery; 147 had the surgery for aesthetic reasons and 79 for functional problems. These patients were compared to 65 patients who came to the clinic because of general ear, nose, or throat problems.
Hellings gave everyone standard questionnaires to screen for BDD. Independent observers also evaluated the noses of the patients.
In those who got the surgery mainly or only for functional reasons, only 12% had moderate symptoms of BDD, compared to the overall 33% who had moderate symptoms.
When Hellings looked at only the aesthetic group, he found 43% had at least moderate BDD symptoms.
In the comparison group, only 2% had moderate symptoms.