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Congenital Facial Disfigurement Has Limited Psych Impact

Last Updated: December 27, 2011.

Adults born with severe congenital facial disfigurement have relatively normal psychological functioning, but are more prone to internalizing problems, according to a study published in the January issue of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery.

TUESDAY, Dec. 27 (HealthDay News) -- Adults born with severe congenital facial disfigurement have relatively normal psychological functioning, but are more prone to internalizing problems, according to a study published in the January issue of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery.

Sarah L. Versnel, M.D., from the Erasmus University Medical Center in Rotterdam, Netherlands, and colleagues investigated long-term psychological functioning for 59 patients with severe congenital facial disfigurement, 59 patients with traumatically-acquired facial disfigurement during adulthood, and 120 non-facially disfigured adults. The extent to which the congenital group's psychological functioning correlated with satisfaction with facial appearance, fear of negative appearance evaluation, self-esteem, and the severity of the facial deformity were also estimated. Participants completed standardized physical, demographic, and psychological questionnaires (the Fear of Negative Appearance Evaluation Scale, the Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale, the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale, the Achenbach Adult Self-Report, the 36-Item Short-Form Health Survey, and a visual analogue scale).

The investigators found that, although the congenital group appeared to be more susceptible to internalizing problems than non-facially disfigured adults, they had relatively normal psychological functioning. The congenital group had fewer problems than the acquired facial deformity group only on the physical component score of quality of life. Except for the physical component score of quality of life, the different aspects of psychological functioning were well predicted by satisfaction with facial appearance, fear of negative appearance evaluation, and self-esteem.

"Adults with congenital facial disfigurement have rather normal psychological functioning but are more prone to internalizing problems," the authors write. "Future research should focus on the individual patient and risk factors for maladjustment."

The study was supported by the Nuts-Ohra Foundation, a Dutch health insurance organization.

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