Height Dysphoria Due to Heightism in 2021

Written by Joshua Leaf | Updated on September 13, 2021


Feelings of constant inadequacy and dissatisfaction can drive even the most successful person into the depths of anxiety. These lackluster feelings are frequently influenced by others’ perceptions and discrimination based on height rather than solely deriving from personal perception.

If you’ve been feeling extreme distress about not being the seemingly “right” or “ideal height,” you may be suffering from what’s professionally known as height dysphoria. And if others shun you for your height, then heightism might be influencing your perception too.

Heightism and Height Dysphoria Explained

Heightism & dysphoria are two different issues, but they’re deeply related to one another in many cases. Some people face dissatisfaction in height solely based on others’ perceptions and discriminations. In contrast, some people’s height dysphoria might be deeply rooted within 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 (euphoria – happy, days – without, therefore dysphoria – without happiness).[1] Though societal factors may cause dysphoria, it can also be something inherent to one’s psyche.

Height dysphoria is also considered a body dysmorphic disorder (BDD). In both cases, people perceive themselves differently than they appear, which brings dissatisfaction with their stature. This distaste can be enrooted in someone’s deepest beliefs, implanted there from cultural preferences, being surrounded by taller people their entire life (comparisons), or being made fun of for their height. 

Someone standing at 6’2 can have height dysphoria, but they often consider stature lengthening to become taller due to the psychological distress. Or, in some cases, 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.

This condition can be extremely anxiety-inducing and has many features in common with body dysmorphia[2]. Here, the patient sees one’s body as different than it actually is and attempts to change to fit their own image of how it’s supposed to look. 

What is Heightism?

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. The only way to turn a blind eye to heightism or height-hating is to withdraw from society completely.

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.

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 dysmorphia.

If all else fails, cosmetic limb 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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