Plastic Surgery Addiction

Plastic surgery addiction is a behavioural disorder whereby a person constantly wants to change their appearance by undergoing plastic surgery. This disorder may cause someone to spend thousands of dollars on multiple operations, all of which may not ultimately make them any happier.

The desire for plastic surgery often arises from the insecurity that people feel about how they look. This is a feeling that most people will experience occasionally. However, it becomes a problem when the insecurity becomes obsessive, leading a person's life to center around plastic surgery.

Body Dysmorphic Disorder often serves as an underlying condition affecting plastic surgery addiction. It is characterized by an obsession with appearance, or with specific flaws that are either real or imagined. Body dysmorphia can cause significant distress and prevent people from going out, keeping jobs or otherwise living their lives in a healthy way. However, not all people who have plastic surgery have BDD, although BDD is more common among people who have cosmetic surgery. Between 7% to 15% of people who undergo plastic surgery are thought to struggle with BDD.

 

Symptoms

People with body dysmorphic disorder experience symptoms that can cause significant distress. These signs and symptoms can include:

  • Obsessing over appearance
  • Compulsive mirror checking
  • Experiencing significant distress over small or non-existent flaws
  • Covering up or masking one’s appearance
  • Seeking appearance-related affirmation

People who appear to be addicted to plastic surgery may have a diagnosed mental health disorder. Among people with BDD, surgery may act as a temporary fix for their appearance concerns. However, symptoms usually return after undergoing surgery, or the person’s fixation may shift to a new part of their appearance.

This cycle can be the cause of multiple surgeries. However, an addiction to plastic surgery does not mean that there is a physical dependence on surgery in the same way that a person can be dependent on a substance. Rather, surgery is often used as a coping strategy.

 

Physical Risks

Plastic surgery is typically intended to enhance and improve certain features of the body. Therefore the purpose of plastic surgery is to make someone feel more attractive and confident. One plastic surgery operation might yield a positive result, but multiple operations could have unintended consequences. Some of the risks of plastic surgery include:

  • Blood Clots
  • Scarring
  • Bruises
  • Swelling
  • Collapsed Muscles
  • Excessive Bleeding
  • Nerve Damage
  • Tissue Death
  • Infections, Including Pneumonia
  • Delayed Healing
  • Anaesthesia Risks

 

Other Forms of Risk

✽   Negative Impact on Family & Friends

Plastic surgeries are time-consuming and intense procedures. Recurrent surgeries may adversely affect interpersonal relationships. Friends and family may not understand why their loved one is undergoing another procedure. They might become angry or overly curious. As a result, due to fear and shame, people with plastic surgery addiction might lie or withdraw from their loved ones.

✽   Financial Impact

Plastic surgery costs vary, but they are expensive and rarely covered by any form of insurance or other subsidies. Repeated procedures can quickly become costly.

✽   Worsening Mental Health Conditions

Plastic surgery addiction may exacerbate body dysmorphic disorder, anxiety disorders, depression, and eating disorders. In addition, because the individual never feels fully satisfied with their appearance, they often continue feeling worse and worse about their self-esteem.

 

Treatment

Therapy can be an effective way to support those experiencing plastic surgery addiction. In particular, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) may help individuals overcome the obsessive feelings of low self-esteem which accompany the disorder.  CBT can also allow people to recognize and change unhelpful thinking and behaviors related to their appearance, as well as treat any underlying conditions that might be affecting the addiction.

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