Height Dysphoria Due to Heightism in 2023

Surgery | Written by Joshua Leaf | Updated on January 4, 2023

Three taller people standing in a group and ostracizing a shorter person who is standing on their own. One tall person has their hand out to compare his height to the shorter preson, essentially mocking the person of shorter stature.

Have you ever felt distress or worry for not being the “right” or “ideal height?” If so, you may be suffering from what’s professionally known as height dysphoria (height dissatisfaction). And if you have been made fun of for being short, then you may be a victim of heightism (height discrimination and/or shaming) too.

Height shaming can contribute to feelings of inadequacy and dissatisfaction, which can drive even the most successful person into the depths of anxiety. Which goes to say, these lackluster feelings are caused by others height hating remarks, as well as the victims personal perceptions.

Heightism and Height Dysphoria Explained

Heightism & dysphoria are two different issues, but they’re deeply related to one another in many cases. Some people aren’t happy with their height because of others judging and discriminations against them. In contrast, some people’s height dysphoria might be deeply rooted within their minds and they could care less what people think.

To elaborate further, let’s go over what heightism and height dysphoria actually mean.

What is Height Dysphoria?

Height dysphoria, also known as height neurosis, literally means being unhappy with your height.[1] Though societal factors may cause dysphoria, it can also be something inherent to one’s psyche or rooted in their deepest beliefs.

In contrast, this distaste can be implanted there from cultural preferences, being surrounded by taller people their entire life and comparing heights, or being made fun of for their height. This is an example of height dysphoria due to heightism because societal factors are the main cause for height dissatisfaction. 

Someone standing at 5’1, or 6’2 can have height dysphoria, but no matter their starting height, they may consider height surgery due to the psychological distress. Or, in some cases, individuals even height reduction surgery.

What Does Height Dysphoria Feel Like?

When your height conflicts with who you think you’re supposed to be, or even who you want to become, this insecurity might lodge itself permanently in the back of your mind and become the subconscious cause of all your unfulfilled dreams and regrets, preventing you from living a full, happy life. Some even compare themselves to family and left wondering why their younger siblings are taller

This condition can be extremely anxiety-inducing and has many features in common with body dysmorphia [2]. Yet, with height dysphoria it’s a mere dissatisfaction and with body dysmorphia, the the patient sees their body in a different light and seeks to change it to how they think it should look. The differences between dysmorphia vs. dysmorphia are often skewed, so it’s important to consider the unique properties of each. 

Though height dysphoria is a consequence of a person’s perceived lack of height, it’s not fueled solely by one’s mental state. Height shaming against those with short stature in the workplace, dating scene, or anywhere can also exacerbate the condition. The prevalence of heightism on social media and in real life isn’t going anywhere, not even with the body positivity movement.

Heightism in Action

Though you may not even notice when a movie or TV show makes a joke about short people, heightism has tangible, long-lasting effects. You’d surely notice if a commercial tried to be cheeky and poke fun at someone’s weight, right? The normalization of heightism is aided by the boom in popularity of Instagram, where everyone seems to be striving for the perfect body. Still, after puberty, height isn’t something you can naturally change.

Dating apps like Tinder, where perceived attractiveness is the name of the game, also plaster your image at the forefront of your profile. Studies have even found that taller men are more likely to have higher-paying jobs than their shorter counterparts. A little under 3% of CEOs are below 5’7″ [3], which could be attributed to a lack of confidence and bullying that comes along with growing up at a shorter height.

The Correlation Between Height Dysphoria and Heightism

If everyone on earth were the same height, would there be any height discrimination, or would anyone perceive themselves as short? Of course, this will never happen, but this goes to say that a personal dissatisfaction in height can be partly attributed to others’ opinions of what they consider to be an acceptable height.

That’s right, all those short people jokes can really take a toll on people’s overall satisfaction, and some even opt for surgery to get taller.

The perception of “ideal” height is highly dependent on your cultural context. In a country like Yemen, a 6-foot guy might feel like a giant since the average man’s height is 5’3″ there. Yet, the same 6-foot man would be considered average in Denmark where the average male height is 5’11.5″ [4].

Do You Have to be Short to Experience Height Dysphoria?

No. In fact, you can even be taller than average but still experience height dysphoria – it’s not always related to how people perceive you, though external factors might exacerbate it.

It’s the manifestation of how tall your mind perceives your body should be. The Paley Institute has seen leg-lengthening patients between 4’10” to 5’11” when it comes to men and 4’6″ to 5’8″ amongst women[5], which is a significantly wide range.

How Can I Reduce Height Dysphoria?

Suppose intrusive thoughts regarding your height constantly plague you. In that case, you should seek professional help from a therapist or psychologist, especially one who specializes in issues related to body dysphoria.

If all else fails, leg lengthening surgery is an option that can help reduce heightism. Leg lengthening surgery can be expensive, time-intensive, and comes with risks, but it’s the only way to become permanently taller in less than a year. [6]

As always, do your due diligence and consult with a qualified physician about your height dysphoria, but don’t give up – the newest lengthening methods have a success rate of almost 100% [7]. With modern medical science and technology, you no longer have to live life shorter than you’d like…


[1] Paley, D. (2018, August 15). Cosmetic Stature Lengthening. Paley Institute. https://paleyinstitute.org/wp-content/uploads/Cosmetic-Stature-Lengthening-FAQs.pdf

[2] Lee, R. C., Aulisio, M., & Liu, R. W. (2020). Exploring the Ethics of Stature Lengthening as Treatment for Height Dysphoria. Strategies in Trauma and Limb Reconstruction, 15(3)(Sep-Dec), 163-168. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8121106

[3] Rauch, J. (1995, December 23). Short Guys Finish Last. Articles by Jonathan Rauch. https://www.jonathanrauch.com/jrauch_articles/height_discrimination_short_guys_finish_last/index.html

[4] World Population Review. (2021). Average Height by Country 2021. World Population Review. https://worldpopulationreview.com/country-rankings/average-height-by-country

[5] Paley Institute. (2019). Frequently Asked Questions. Aimis Paley Institute. https://aimispaley.com/frequently-asked-questions/

[6] Height discrimination. Wikipedia. (2021, September 1). https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Height_discrimination.

[7] Rozbruch, S. R. (2020, April 28). Limb Lengthening – An Overview. HSS. https://www.hss.edu/conditions_limb-lengthening-overview.asp

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