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Disfigurement, whether caused by a benign or malignant condition, often leads to severe psychosocial problems such as negative body image; depression; difficulties in one's social, sexual, and professional lives; prejudice; and intolerance. This is partly due to how the individual copes with looking 'visibly different', though the extent of the disfigurement rarely correlates with the degree of distress the sufferer feels. An additional factor which affects sufferers of a disfigurement is the reaction they get from other people. Studies have shown that the general population respond to people with a disfigurement with less trust, less respect and often try to avoid making contact or having to look at the disfigurement. Disfigurements affecting visible areas such as the face, arms and hands are thought to be present greater difficulty the coping of sufferers than do other disfigurements.
Deliberate mutilation resulting in physical disfigurement has also been practiced by many cultures throughout human history for religious or judicial purposes. During the Byzantine Empire, the emperor was considered God's viceregent on Earth, and as such the physical wholeness of his person was an essential complement to the perfection of Heaven. For this reason, many deposed emperors were blinded, had their noses cut off, or their tongue split by their successors, as these permanent disfigurements disqualified them from ever reclaiming the throne.
Conditions that can cause disfigurement include:
- severe acne
- cleft lip
- Proteus syndrome
- severe strabismus
Plastic surgery or reconstructive surgery is available in many cases to disfigured people. Some health insurance companies and government health care systems cover plastic surgery for these problems when they do not cover plastic surgery for cosmetic purposes.
The term "disfigurement" is sometimes used pejoratively to describe the results of intentional body modification.
- Face transplant -- an experimental treatment for severe facial disfigurement
- Physical appearance
- Physical attractiveness
- Physical disabilities (attitudes toward)
- Physical disorders
- Changing Faces - a British organization for people with facial disfigurements
- Let's Face It - an American organization for people with facial disfigurements
- Unique Face - a Japanese organization for people with facial disfigurements
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