Many people with BDD seek and receive unnecessary medical and surgical evaluation and treatment. Doctors often refuse to provide such treatment because the defect is so minimal they consider treatment unnecessary. Several men I’ve seen have even been turned down by hair clubs. But some people nonetheless persist in their search for a doctor who will give them what they want. Some receive treatment after treatment—even surgery after surgery—hoping that the next one will finally provide the relief they so desperately seek.
This behavior can take the place of living. Abby, who told me she’d seen just about every dermatologist in Chicago, described this behavior as “just about all I do. The doctors I saw said my skin wasn’t so terrible. Some of them thought I was crazy. So off I’d go to find another one. It’s how I spend my days—going to skin doctors.”
While most people who have cosmetic surgery are happy with the result, this doesn’t seem to be the case for people with BDD. Most are unhappy with the outcome and blame themselves or the doctor for having made a serious mistake. For some, preoccupation and suffering diminish temporarily, only to return. Or the bodily preoccupation may shift to another area.
Rarely, people with BDD who are dissatisfied with medical or surgical treatment are violent toward the doctor who provided it. There are several reported cases of violence, even murder or attempted murder, toward a physician who the patient thought had ruined his or her appearance. Occasionally, people with BDD sue, even though the treatment outcome appears acceptable to others. Large amounts of money may be spent seeking and receiving such treatments, to no avail. In some cases, life savings are depleted.
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