In the Mag: Dangerous Obsession

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Two renowned plastic surgeons weigh in on a disorder that cosmetic procedures can’t fix.

Do you constantly worry about your looks? Do you obsess overperceived flaws, no matter how minor? Are you always searching for the next cosmetic answer?

It could be that your body isn’t the problem. Body dysmorphic disorder is a chronic mental illness in an estimated 1 percent of the U.S. population (according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America). No matter how beautiful they are to the rest of the world, those who suffer feel that they’re ugly—and they can’t stop focusing on exaggerated or imagined physical defects.

So they turn to plastic surgeons, cosmetic specialists, dermatologists and others who re-ally don’t have the power to fix the problem.

Anthony Dardano, a board-certified plastic surgeon who has practiced in Boca for 15 years, has seen the disorder in patients young and old.

“It’s OK to have cosmetic surgery, and it’s OK to want to improve your appearance and look better,” Dardano says. “It’s not OK to obsess over a physical finding that perhaps cannot be improved with cosmetic surgery or injections.”

Ultimately, people with body dysmorphic disorder will not be satisfied with surgery or a rejuvenating injection. Dardano says the condition requires cognitive psychological therapy.

Even people who don’t have the disorder can go too far in order to maintain physical perfection. Like Dardano, when Cristina Keusch consults with patients, she assesses whether the cos-metic changes people want are reasonable, logical, realistic and safe.

“If the expectation is unreasonable and unachievable, we want to avoid [the surgery] because, generally, the patient is not going to be happy with the outcome,” says Keusch, a board-certified plastic surgeon in Boca for 25 years. “Extrinsic motivations are also a problem—trying to please someone else instead of doing it for oneself.”

Overdoing cosmetic surgery can happen to men and women. But Dardano says the disor-der is most likely to affect type-A personalities, people who spend a lot of time in public.

“They always want to look good, which is not problematic itself,” says Dardano, president of the medical staff at Boca Raton Regional Hospital. “But after undergoing a procedure, they always want more and don’t know when to stop.”