Disfigurement is a condition in which an individual's physical appearance has been significantly and noticeably damaged. A person can be disfigured by an illness, birth defect, or an accident, and although disfigurement can happen to any part of the body, it is often associated with parts of the body that are apparent to the public, such as the face or limbs. An individual may also be said to be disfigured if her body posture or gait is afflicted by a medical condition such that it differs significantly from that of others. When a person experiences this condition, he may have difficulty in coping with issues surrounding body image and the way he is perceived by others. Disfigured people may had a difficult time developing interpersonal relationships and may likewise have difficulty achieving professional success. Some areas of medicine, such as plastic surgery and dermatology, have made great strides in treating individuals living with disfiguring conditions and helping to reintegrate them into society.
In some cultures, disfigurement may be considered a sign of being cursed or have other negative connotations that can subject disfigured individuals to severe social and religious discrimination and exclusion, even within their own families. Even in countries that do not regard disfigurement as having any bearing on individual's internal character or spiritual situation, an affected person may find herself marginalized as other people have what is often an unconscious negative reaction to her condition. Both disfigured children and adults may experience taunting and harassment as a result of their different appearance. It may also be difficult for disfigured individuals to successfully pursue romantic relationships, which can contribute to feelings of loneliness and isolation. Even in places where anti-discrimination laws may forbid employers from discriminating against individuals on the basis of their disfigurement, it may still be difficult for an individual with impaired physical appearance to do well professionally, particularly if the position that he holds involves significant interaction with the public.
In coping with the social and psychological fallout of disfigurement, many affected individuals may seek out psychotherapy as well as both specialized medical and cosmetic help. Dermatologists, plastic surgeons, and orthopedists can work to minimize disfigurement, while medical aestheticians can help individuals camouflage disfiguring conditions with the use of cosmetics. In addition to these resources, counseling and psychotherapy may be able to assist individuals with developing self-esteem and coping with issues such as depression.