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Getting a nose job may mean you're mentally ill, study says

New research suggests that those seeking a nose job for cosmetic reasons may suffer from body dysmorphic disorder. Do you agree with the study?

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Nose jobs are nothing to sniff at.

In fact, one-third of people who have their noses surgically altered may be mentally ill, reports the New York Times.

A Belgian study suggests they may have body dysmorphic disorder, a mental condition in which sufferers agonize over minor or perceived bodily defects.

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Plastic surgeons in Belgium assessed 266 patients over a 16-month period. Just 2 per cent of patients seeking rhinoplasty (a nose job) for medical reasons met the criteria for body dysmorphic disorder (BDD), compared with 43 per cent of those who wanted the surgery for cosmetic reasons.

Despite patients' high levels of distress, most had noses that were relatively normal, researchers found.

BDD is a serious condition, according to a 2010 German study. Compared with people who do not have the disorder, BDD patients are more likely to have a history of cosmetic surgery (16 per cent vs. 3 per cent), suicidal thoughts (31 per cent vs. 4 per cent) and suicide attempts due to appearance concerns (22 per cent vs. 2 per cent).

The American Society of Plastic Surgeons warns that cosmetic surgery should not be done on patients who show symptoms of "excessive concern" about appearance, said society president Phillip Haeck. "The chances that they will be satisfied afterward, no matter how good the shape of the nose may be, are very low," he told the New York Times.

There's no doubt that cosmetic surgery can be addictive. Check out the "before" photos of celebrities such as Michael Jackson, Joan Rivers, Lil' Kim and Heidi Montag, who boasted about having 10 plastic surgery procedures in a single day.

But cosmetic surgery is not effective against distorted body image - despite patients' reported satisfaction, according to a 2009 study in France. The study concluded that most of the BDD patients still had the mental disorder five years after cosmetic surgery, which represented "a significant handicap."

In other words, there's no use cutting off your nose to spite your face.

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Are people better off learning to embrace the schnoz they were born with?

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About the Author

Adriana Barton is based in The Globe and Mail’s Vancouver bureau. Her article on growing up with counterculture parents is published in a McGraw-Hill anthology, right after an essay by Margaret Atwood. She wishes her last name didn’t start with B. More

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