When beauty sees a beast
In our appearance-conscious society, almost everyone feels insecure about his or her looks at times. But for a few thousand adults, imagined cosmetic "defects" create a disabling obsession. American psychiatrists are just now addressing this problem, which they call body dysmorphic disorder, and the best treatment thus far is drug therapy. People with the disorder agonize over features that most others consider normal. In their minds, large noses, thinning hair or big mouths become grotesque eyesores. These people feel so unbearably ugly that their work and relationships suffer. They may seek cosmetic surgery, hole up at home or become suicidal. Katharine A. Phillips, an instructor in psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, said the most promising treatments so far are psychiatric drugs.
Staying out of hot water
When tap water comes out scalding hot, most people simply adjust the spigot. But young children, the elderly and people with disabilities can't always manage this. Tap water causes up to 17 percent of all severe childhood scald burns. There is a safety valve that prevents scalding by automatically shutting off the water before it gets too hot. The state of Washington has found that another approach works, too. In 1983, the state passed legislation capping the maximum setting for new water heaters at 120 degrees, which is up to 20 degrees lower than settings allowed elsewhere. This tactic appears to be working: In a recent study, doctors at the University of Washington School of Medicine and various Seattle hospitals have shown that Washington residents have had fewer and milder burns as a result.