What is Height Dysphoria or Height Neurosis?

Surgery | Written by Joshua Leaf | Updated on January 28, 2022

A person of short stature with heel lifts and elevator shoes wishing he was taller while looking up to a taller man.

How you perceive yourself can have a profound effect on your self-esteem and your self-confidence so being satisfied with your own body can certainly be a blessing. But what if you feel unhappy with your appearance, if there is something that bothers you and you feel like there is nothing you can do to change it? If you are frequently overwhelmed with emotions of inadequacy about your height, and especially if you are a male in today’s society, chances are you might be suffering from height dysphoria.

What is Height Dysphoria or Height Neurosis?

To understand what height dysphoria is, we have to be aware of the meaning of dysphoria. It is a Greek word that literally means ‘difficult to bear”. We all know what euphoria means, this is just the opposite. Sort of like the evil twin sister of euphoria.

Dysphoria is a mental state of unhappiness, restlessness, dissatisfaction, or frustration, and it can be a symptom of several mental health conditions. It is a distinct state of unease or dissatisfaction with yourself characterized by apathy, fatigue, sadness, unease, worry and low life satisfaction. It can accompany other mental health problems like a loss of interest in pleasurable activities and disturbances in appetite or sleep. If the perception of individual’s height is the cause of this mental state, than he or she suffers from height dysphoria.

Height dysphoria is a mental state of profound dissatisfaction with the person’s height, that leads to anxiousness, nervousness, sadness and excessive concern about and preoccupation with a perceived shortcoming of physical size.

Some, with identical meaning, also call this state height neurosis. While used interchangeably in many cases, neurosis in psychopathology denotes any one of a variety of mental disorders characterized by significant anxiety or other distressing emotional symptoms, such as persistent and irrational fears, obsessive thoughts, compulsive acts, dissociative states, and somatic and depressive reactions.

Living with Height Dysphoria or Neurosis

Regardless of how you want to view it, as a height dysphoria or as the case of body dysmorphic disorder, it is all the same to the people who are suffering from it, and there is a root cause for their discomfort.

Related Reading: Dysmorphia vs Dysphoria Explained (Height, Gender & Beyond)

Some people have difficulties being content with their height on a personal level, but when societal discriminations of short stature is also a factor. This is otherwise known as heightism. It is a widespread prejudice that causes unfair treatment of short people. It hurts men much more than women.

You might not have heard of it, but if you are a man living in the USA and you are under 5 ft. 8 in. tall, you may have noticed people treating you differently. This differential treatment can hurts one’s self-esteem and self-confidence to the point of demise.

What makes heightism a dangerous form of discrimination and a bit different from most is the fact that it flies under the radar. Only rarely people and media talked about it and acknowledged as discrimination. It’s so deeply rooted to the point that it is considered as “normal”. For example, if a woman says she likes man over 6 ft. tall, it is considered a preference, not a prejudice and society at large will not correct her for it. What’s more, inventing derogatory terms to label statistically shorter men is seen as witty and funny. Heightism is not “regulated” by political correctness and there’s little legislation around the matter.

Height Dysphoria Treatments

Long term Solutions

Height dysphoria is a symptom, not a stand-alone disorder and there are different ways to approach it. If you are experiencing mental problems associated with height dysphoria that is preventing you to live your life in a normal way, seek professional help as soon as possible. There are different types of psychotherapy that will ease the severity of your problem and make you feel better about yourself.

Individual psychotherapy is a common tool to treat dysphoria but you can benefit greatly from group therapy. Talking to people in a similar situation and mental state will be very beneficial to your mental health in general, even if it is not in a professional environment. Seek people, make friends and talk to them. Talk to your family, relatives, friends or people on the internet about the feelings you have and create your own support group, make them aware of your condition.

Depending on the severity, medication is also an option in conjunction with psychotherapy, although not recommended and always in consultation with your therapist.

Do everything you can and is in your control to improve your mental condition. Adjust your routines to counter factors contributing to dysphoria, even if that means separating yourself from hurtful people. For example, try to stop ruminating about your height and rethinking every stressful situation from the past. In addition, eat well, exercise regularly, and live a healthy life.

Short-term solutions

There are many different ways in today’s world that can help you look taller. Elevator shoes available on the market nowadays can make you approximately 2 to 5 inches taller. Get familiar with all the different options and choose what suits you best.

Heel inserts are another option too. Fill your favorite shoes with some heel inserts and you will gain 1-3 inches with ease. They come in different styles and materials, choose what makes you feel best.

Lastly, walk with your head high and better posture. This just may give you a confidence boost and accentuate your natural height.

Leg Lengthening Surgery as a Permanent Solution for Height Dysphoria

Limb lengthening or in this case, leg lengthening, is a surgical treatment that corrects height proportion, balances the patient’s gait, and addresses aesthetic concerns in those who are discontent with their height. It might seem radical to many people, but according to Dr. Paley’s institute, it is one of the most effective way to alleviate the psychological burden that comes along with stature dissatisfaction. Height increasing surgery doesn’t resolve dysphoria in all patients, but it can be a large step to changing your perception about yourself if your mental state has reached critical levels.

If your height dysphoria is so severe and you have tried everything else with no avail, then it may be worth considering cosmetic leg lengthening as possible solution.

Many transgender patients find themselves with the desired gender after their sex-change operation but with inadequate height. Previously male now female individuals might want height reduction surgery and vice versa. Height dysphoria can set in with great intensity after their transitioning operation.

If one chooses this route, it’s vital to consider the risks and complications that may arise. General complications including soft tissue contracture, neurovascular injury, joint subluxation or dislocation, poor regenerate bone, and premature consolidation. Complications surrounding external fixators include pin site infections, associated deep tissue infections, pain and contracture from soft tissue tethering of the pins, and collapse of regenerate bone after frame removal. Complications specific to intramedullary methods involve failures in the function and integrity of the implantable nail used.

However, if you pick a great surgeon with a lot of experience and a safe method, the chances of complications are slim increasing the probability of the desired outcome. In such case, patients report high rates of satisfaction with the result along with improvements in self-esteem and self-confidence. Have in mind, this is a cosmetic procedure and can present a potential financial setback. Today, limb-lengthening procedures are done in many countries and the cost can range from about $15,000 in Russia, attracting a lot of so called medical tourists, to about $85,000 in USA.

As a cosmetic procedure that increases height in an otherwise healthy patient, limb lengthening has stirred controversy especially within the orthopedic community with height dysphoria at the center of it. You can perceive the procedure either as an enhancement or as a treatment depending on the patients psychological diagnosis.

If you relate to this article in one way or another, it’s best to consult with a health care professional to find which treatment options suit you. 


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