Modern Family's Reid Ewing speaks about body dysmorphia

Reid Ewing in 2012

The actor who plays Dylan in Modern Family has written about his struggle with body dysmorphia.

In a letter written for Huffington Post Reid Ewing describes his mental torment.

He explains how he felt so ugly he felt compelled to get surgery after surgery.

He tells Newsbeat: "At 16, I was doing a lot of weird stuff, like wanting to get into a car accident just so I could be so badly damaged that they would reconstruct my face."

He went under the knife in 2008 when he was 19 years old. He now regrets it.

"I really didn't think there was another option. I'd been struggling with this since I was pretty young," he tells Newsbeat over the phone.

"It stems from a lot of self-hatred."

I underwent cosmetic surgery for my body dysmorphia... and I wish I hadn't

According to the NHS, body dysmorphia is an anxiety disorder that causes a person to have a distorted view of how they look and to spend a lot of time worrying about their appearance.

For example, they may be convinced that a barely visible scar is a major flaw that everyone is staring at, or that their nose looks abnormal.

Having body dysmorphia does not mean the person is vain or self-obsessed.

Reid Ewing
Image caption Reid Ewing said he was offered no support

"I genuinely believed if I had one procedure I would suddenly look like Brad Pitt," he explains.

I couldn't do anything but scream

A doctor then "quickly determined that large cheek implants would address the issues I had with my face, and a few weeks later I was on the operating table."

Reid remembers how he woke up screaming from pain, with tears down his face.

"The doctor kept telling me to calm down, but I couldn't," he says.

"I couldn't do anything but scream, while he and his staff tried seemingly to hold back their laughter."

For help and information on body image you can visit BBC Advice.

He describes his face, after all the swelling went down, as "horrendous".

"The lower half of my cheeks were as hollow as a corpse's, which, I know, is the opposite of what you'd expect as they are called cheek implants.

"They would be more aptly called cheekbone implants."

Reid asked for more surgery because he was unhappy with the change but the doctor said he'd have to wait for six months.

All the isolation, secrecy, depression, and self-hate became too much to bear

He tells Newsbeat: "I went under quite a few times because if you have this disorder, you're always going to hate the way you look.

"It's all consuming- you do one surgery and I'd be begging my parents, please give me money, I just need to fix this horrible mistake they did.

"One of my grandmothers died and left me $6000 and I used that for it.

"The whole time I was thinking in my head, I should not be doing this. Yet I kept on doing it and that's why I use the word addiction.

"These doctors do not care.

"For them its just one day. For the person that they are doing it to, it's mental anguish that goes on and on and on. It was over a four year span for me: four years of not being able to find my way out of this mental ditch. "

Reid Ewing in 2010 and in 2014
Image caption Reid in 2010 and in 2014

For the next couple of years Reid continued to have more cosmetic surgery, including chin implants but they would cause new "problems" he felt needed fixing.

He was filming Modern Family while this was happening.

"I wish I could go back and undo all the surgeries"

"At the beginning of 2012, all the isolation, secrecy, depression, and self-hate became too much to bear," he explains.

"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."

In total Reid had four surgeons and not one offered him a mental health screening.

"My history with eating disorders and the cases of obsessive-compulsive disorder in my family never came up.

"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."

He's now asking people to think carefully before getting cosmetic surgery.

"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," he ends.

If you need help on mental health issues you can visit BBC Advice.

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