Reid Ewing is opening up about his nightmarish struggle with body dysmorphia, and the resulting horrors he faced when he attempted to use plastic surgery to fix it.
The 27-year-old actor is best known for playing Haley's lovable ex-boyfriend, Dylan, on Modern Family. Ewing recently penned an essay for The Huffington Post, in which he gets shockingly detailed about the difficult time in his life.
Body dysmorphic disorder is a mental illness in which a person obsesses over the way he or she looks, thinking about their real or perceived flaws for hours each day. Ewing says that after a few years of "analyzing every feature," he made his first appointment to meet with a cosmetic surgeon in 2008, when he was 19 years old. Though he describes the doctor as "curt and uninterested in my worries," nevertheless, he underwent surgery to get large cheek implants.
"I woke up screaming my head off from pain, with tears streaming down my face," Ewing recalls. "The doctor kept telling me to calm down, but I couldn't. I couldn't do anything but scream, while he and his staff tried seemingly to hold back their laughter."
Ewing says he faced even more problems after the surgery. He describes attempting to hide from the public because of his distorted appearance post-surgery, and shares one incident when he says a cop pulled him over for a broken tail light, then ended up staring at him "in bewilderment." The cop also took a picture of him with her Polaroid camera, after he says he lied and said he had been in a car accident.
"I couldn't help imagining she would show the picture off back at the station, and that one day it would surface and ruin me," he says.
Ewing acknowledges the results of his surgery were "horrendous," but says the doctor refused to operate on him for another six months. He ended up going to another doctor, who suggested he get a chin implant and operated on him on the very same day. After a few days, he had to under the knife again, when he says the doctor admitted that he made a mistake on the chin implant.
The actor shares that for the next couple of years, he got several more procedures with two other doctors. But each procedure would cause a new problem that he would have to fix with another procedure. He got the money for the surgeries from his savings, and borrowed from his parents and grandmother when he became most desperate.
"Much of this was going on during the same time period I was shooting Modern Family," he reveals. "Most of the times I was on camera were when I'd had the numerous implants removed and was experimenting with less-noticeable changes to my face, like injectable fillers and fat transfers. None of them last very long or are worth the money."
"At the beginning of 2012, all the isolation, secrecy, depression, and self-hate became too much to bear," he continues. "I vowed I would never get cosmetic surgery again even though I was still deeply insecure about my looks. It took me about six months before I was comfortable with people even looking at me."
Ewing says that of the four doctors who worked on him, not one had mental health screenings in place for their patients.
"My history with eating disorders and the cases of obsessive compulsive disorder in my family never came up," he says. "None of the doctors suggested I consult a psychologist for what was clearly a psychological issue rather than a cosmetic one or warn me about the potential for addiction."
"I think people often choose cosmetic surgery in order to be accepted, but it usually leaves them feeling even more like an outsider," he muses. " ... Before seeking to change your face, you should question whether it is your mind that needs fixing."
Clearly, he regrets all of his procedures.
"[Plastic surgery] often helps people who actually need it for serious cases, but it's a horrible hobby, and it will eat away at you until you have lost all self-esteem and joy," he concludes. "I wish I could go back and undo all the surgeries. Now I can see that I was fine to begin with and didn't need the surgeries after all."
Ewing isn't the first Modern Family star to go under the knife. Ariel Winter, 17, underwent a breast reduction surgery earlier this year. In her case, she couldn't be happier with the results.
"I had a lot of back problems," Ariel said about her former 32F bra size. "I really couldn't stand up straight for a long period of time. It started to hurt so bad that I couldn’t take the pain. My neck was hurting so bad and I actually had some problems with my spine. I had been discussing my chest with doctors for many years, but when I finally said, 'I’m thinking of doing this,' he said, 'Your back is going to thank you so much.'"