With the constant growth of social networks, the search for the perfect selfie and the exaggerated use of filters to hide any small imperfections can reveal a big problem: dysmorphic disorder. Although strange, the term is given to the disturbance in the perception of one’s own appearance, causing minimal and imperceptible defects to gain disproportionate prominence in front of the mirror.
Dr Patricia Marques, a plastic surgeon specializing in head and neck surgery and a member of the SBCP, says that it is essential to be aware of the behavior of each person who enters the office in search of surgery. It is estimated that 15% of people who seek plastic surgery suffer from the disorder. According to the SBCP (Brazilian Society of Plastic Surgery), in stages considered mild, interventions in the appearance can serve as part of the treatment, but it is essential that the procedure is performed by a specialized professional to ensure the ethical commitment to perform only appropriate interventions for each patient.
A study carried out by the Faculty of Medical Sciences of UERJ (State University of Rio de Janeiro) points out that most people who develop the disease are anxious, perfectionist, sad, insecure, have low self-esteem, tend to be lonely, introspective and obsessive. Check out the interview!
In a virtual universe where filters are becoming more and more realistic, social networks are increasingly being the scene of cases of inferiority, and this has caused several problems. How have you, as a professional in aesthetics, been seeing these events? At what point does Photoshop go from being a friend to becoming an enemy?
For many decades there has been an imposed ideal of beauty, especially on women. Filters and programs such as Photoshop reinforce these unrealistic patterns and affect children and adolescents above all, sometimes creating mental health disorders. Mistakenly, plastic surgery is attributed only to the purpose of adapting to the standards of social networks, filters or celebrities, but plastic surgery is a very serious medical specialty committed to health, above all.
The standard of beauty in society also interferes a lot in how people see themselves. How do you deal with patients who end up believing in this aesthetic imposed by the other, leading them to look for unnecessary and often invasive procedures?
It is a challenge to deal with cases like this, especially when dealing with very young people. We have to listen and understand the pain that exists, but when we realize that it is really unnecessary surgery, that it will not bring benefits or that the expectations regarding surgery are unattainable, we need to be honest and talk. The biggest difficulty I face in my clinical practice is that the treatment of this pain is done through psychotherapy, but there is still a great prejudice in relation to this. That’s why I try to be very tactful when talking.
Regarding the issue of this “accurate” perception that users have had regarding their own appearance, this issue was defined as a true case studied by psychology. Could you tell us a little about dysmorphic disorder and what are the physiochemical phenomena that cause it?
Although strange, the term Dysmorphic Disorder is given to the disturbance in the perception of one’s own appearance, causing minimal and imperceptible defects to gain disproportionate prominence in front of the mirror. Very difficult to identify, the disease, considered serious, is characterized by exaggerated concern with appearance and manifests itself in compulsive behavior, causing a lot of suffering for the patient. It is estimated that 15% of people who seek plastic surgery suffer from the disorder. According to the SBCP (Brazilian Society of Plastic Surgery), in stages considered mild, interventions in the appearance can serve as part of the treatment, but it is essential that the procedure is performed by a specialized professional to ensure the ethical commitment to perform only appropriate interventions for each patient.
How does it feel to see a patient who really has some physical discomfort leaving the operating table satisfied and with high self-esteem again after a surgery performed by you?
It feels like a mission accomplished. From the first consultation, I try to establish a relationship of trust and closeness with my patients in order to understand what they really want and explain what they can expect from the outcome of the intervention. When we manage to achieve the expected result and add to people’s self-esteem and self-confidence, the feeling is wonderful. I feel very privileged to be able to work with what I like and make dreams come true.
In the media, it is already possible to come across hundreds of cases in which the search for aesthetic procedures has already caused tragedies, including deaths. Reflecting on these cases, to what extent can the incessant search for beauty standards end the life of a human being?
I see 2 very important points here. The first is mental health. We have to review the way in which the internet and social networks are impacting our lives, encouraging consumerism and immediacy and imposing, in an increasingly strong way, standards of beauty and life. We need to be aware of this and seek solutions to face it, so that we can enjoy all the good that technology offers us, while taking care of its harm. The second point is the trivialization and commodification of aesthetics. More and more we see people without training and preparation working with invasive aesthetic procedures. Even when perfectly performed, a surgery is subject to risks, let alone when performed carelessly, without all the technical care. The first step to avoid complications is to look for a specialized professional, a member of the Brazilian Society of Plastic Surgery, who performs the procedure in a safe and hospital environment.
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