Avoidance Of Facial Disfigurements Linked To Fear Of Disease

How do you feel when you see someone with a facial disfigurement? Most of us would like to think we could overlook an injury, cleft-palate, or birthmark. But when confronted by someone who looks very different from us we tend to shy away, lower our eyes, or look the other way. Some of us may move away, make a face, or avoid physical contact like a handshake.

What do you see when you see disfigurement?

We’re not alone and it may just be a deeply rooted biological reaction. A new study suggests that these reactions may come from an ancient disease-avoidance system that would normally prevent us from contracting an illness. We are treating facial abnormalities as infectious diseases and some researchers believe the revulsion we feel may just come from a primal fear. Our disgust may actually be a deep seated motivation to stay alive.

A research study was initiated with three models, one apparently healthy, one with a large port wine stain on the face, and the last with flu-like symptoms. After the models were observed using props that were put into their mouths the test subjects were given what they believed to be the same props. Their aversion was the same with the port wine stained model as it was with the seemingly sick model. They expressed equal resistance to handling the props of both models and none toward the “healthy” model.

The subjects seemingly treated the disfigurement as a disease and implemented an avoidance defense system against it. So even though facial disfigurement has little or nothing to do with actual illness we may still treat it as such.

So does this absolve us of any guilt when we turn away from someone who looks different from us? Probably not. We learn what a “normal” appearance is and tend to categorize our reactions based on those acquired catagories.  When we spend more time around something (or someone) we become more accustomed and comfortable around it. Acceptance is our choice and should be our goal.

At Wagner Oral Surgery we can help with the disfigurement caused by jaws that are misaligned and require orthognathic surgery. We can also help repair facial trauma that may come from accidents, sports injuries or acts of violence. Dr. Wagner is a highly qualified and compassionate surgeon, trained at the regional trauma canter in Cleveland, where he encountered many instances of facial trauma. You’re in wonderful hands when you come to Wagner Oral Surgery and we can help to heal and comfort you.

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