Our physical appearance is what boosts our self-esteem. It gives us the confidence that we are admired and accepted by the people in our society. Our appearance defines greatly affects how other people see us. It is the first thing that others will see from you, and it leaves a long-lasting impression.

When you stare at yourself in the mirror, what do you see? Do you think you’re pretty? Or do you have any displeasing physical features that you wish to be altered? Surgically altering your body is called plastic surgery.

Read through this article and discover why people agree to undergo multiple plastic surgeries to improve their appearance. Determine what causes plastic surgery addiction. And learn ways to treat plastic surgery addiction and keep it from ruining our psychosocial life.

Causes of Plastic Surgery Addiction

Addiction could come from environmental and genetic factors. We live in an appearance-driven world where everyone gets to criticize how we look. It is normal to have insecurities that we can hide through heavy makeup, accessories, or clothing. But people who constantly seek plastic surgeries to feel better might be suffering from an addiction.

Childhood Abuse

Research shows that plastic surgery patients suffering from body dysmorphic disorder or other psychological disturbances still undergo ‘unhealed’ childhood trauma. The developmental damage could be a result of long-term neglect, bad parenting, and maltreatment. The developmental damage can eventually lead to mental illness such as addiction.

Traumatic experiences during childhood can greatly impact our sense of control and safety in the world. Their addiction to cosmetic surgery could serve as a secure outlet for these patients. Undergoing numerous cosmetics procedures empowers them and gives them a sense of control over something.

Substance Use

When the addiction to cosmetic surgery and plastic surgery is being related to mental health concerns, substance abuse could be one of the underlying causes.

Having an obsessive-compulsive disorder is characterized by having persistent and intrusive preoccupations. It is a type of anxiety disorder that causes repetitive behavior.

Dealing with substance addiction is never easy, and it is even more challenging for a patient who is already struggling with a mental health disorder.

Body Dysmorphic Disorder

DSM 5th edition defines Body Dysmorphic Disorder or BDD as a mental health disorder where a person cannot stop thinking about the flaws and defects in their physical features. No matter how minor the flaw is, it will always make them feel embarrassed and anxious.

People struggling with BDD exhibit obsessive-compulsive behaviors such as skin picking, repetitive mirror-gazing, and reassurance seeking. The severity of body dysmorphic disorder varies on a person’s mental health. It causes severe emotional stress to others, leaving a devastating impact on their life.

Surgery rarely resolves symptoms of body dysmorphic disorder since it does not address its underlying issues. Instead, plastic surgery will just leave more new scars and dissatisfaction.

Body Dysmorphic Disorder and Plastic Surgery

Patients suffering from body dysmorphic disorder are overly obsessive about their body image that they will consistently check themselves in the mirror or seek reassurance from others.

The imagined or small defect causes them significant distress hindering their ability to function well daily.

Plastic surgery addiction, on the other hand, is a behavioral disorder. It happens when a person constantly seeks surgical procedures to change their appearance. People with this disorder are willing to spend more and risk their lives in exchange for their unrealistic expectations.

Body dysmorphic disorder is one of the major underlying causes of plastic surgery addiction. A study made in 2007 suggests that BDD is a common psychiatric disorder seen in people who constantly seek reconstructive surgery and other invasive treatment options.

A person who shows an obsession with surgeries that continuously alter one’s appearance may have a diagnosed mental illness. The surgeries they go through may become a temporary “fix” for their anxiety, but symptoms usually return after some time.

Cosmetic Surgery vs. Plastic Surgery

If you think that cosmetic and plastic surgery are the same, then you’re wrong. These are two separate areas of surgical expertise.

The surgical procedure for cosmetic surgery focuses entirely on improving the physical appearance of the patient. It enhances the aesthetic symmetry and proportion of a person’s face and body. It is an elective surgery since it is a treatment for the body areas that are properly functioning.

Examples of cosmetic surgery are:
  • Breast augmentation
  • Rhinoplasty
  • Cheek enhancement
  • Facelift, brow lift, eyelid lift
  • Liposuction

Plastic surgery focuses on the reconstruction of physical defects. The procedure corrects the dysfunctional parts of the body. A plastic surgeon may choose to complete more advanced training to perform cosmetic surgery.

Examples of plastic surgical procedures are:
  • Burns repair surgery
  • Breast reconstruction
  • Repair of congenital defects such as the cleft palate and cleft lip
  • Scar revision

Symptoms of Plastic Surgery Addiction

Hollywood superstars are not the only ones who suffer from plastic and cosmetic surgery addiction. Most of us have desires to change some aspects of our physical features. But how can you tell if a person has surgery addiction?

  • When a person starts seeking plastic surgery in rapid succession
  • Patients usually transfer from one plastic surgeon to another to be able to receive multiple surgeries. Some patients would even prefer to seek surgeons without proper credentials just to get the treatment.
  • These patients have unrealistic expectations of their surgical outcomes. Their dissatisfaction with the outcomes will trigger their desire for another surgical reconstruction.
  • Patients with BDD are unlikely to be satisfied with the surgical outcomes that they will eventually take their frustration out with their plastic surgeons.
  • They firmly believe that undergoing surgery will bring them love, happiness, and success.

Reasons Why People Undergo Plastic Surgery

Most people with body dysmorphia turn to reconstructive surgeries for personal reasons. They wanted to feel good about themselves and boost up their low self-esteem.

Surgeons identified some of the reasons why most of their patients go through plastic surgery:

For Social Acceptance

Nowadays, these social media platforms have greatly influenced self-perception. We are more concerned about how our Instagram followers react to how we look than being comfortable in our own skin.

With social media dictating our appearance, not meeting the social standards pushes others to do something about it. It encourages others to change their appearance to be socially accepted. Undergoing plastic surgery will give them a permanent, long-lasting modification.

To Boost Up Self-Confidence

Being able to fit in your clothes will make you feel more attractive and sexy. Some people seek plastic surgery to improve their personal opinion on how they look.

They associate their low life satisfaction with their physical image and seek reconstructive alteration as a result. Undergoing surgery builds their confidence and encourages them to live their life to the fullest.

Internal Insecurity

Each person has their own definition of beauty. The urge to undergo another surgery may stem from the reason that they don’t look the way they imagine themselves. They could be suffering from emotional issues and repeatedly seeks “comfort” in plastic surgery as the only way to solve their problem.

To Get Positive Treatment From Others

Most people believe that when you look good, you feel good, which is actually true. They believe they can receive more favorable treatment from others.

Having a physical defect such as “saggy breast” and “Dumbo ears” is a recipe for social condemnation. Plastic surgery is one of the solutions to relieve social anxiety. Fixing these physical flaws gives them the confidence to go out and receive the social treatment they deserve.

The Role of Plastic Surgeons in Plastic Surgery Addiction

Most plastic surgery procedures have potential negative risks that could affect a patient’s psychosocial and mental health. Plastic surgeons must be responsible enough to identify these patients with underlying mental conditions before surgery.

Plastic surgery addicts may have developed a mental obsession that encourages them to look perfect through numerous cosmetic procedures. If not properly addressed, excessive surgeries might lead to permanent, irreparable damage.

Treatment for Plastic Surgery Addiction

It is normal for us to notice a few things in our body that we don’t like. Undergoing multiple plastic surgeries is not a bad thing, as long as it improves a person’s self-worth.

Most of the time, being addicted to plastic surgery is a symptom of extreme cases of a mental disorder. Treatment for this kind of underlying cause requires therapy.

Effective treatment for body dysmorphia requires therapy that could help a patient understand their thoughts and behavior. When surgery becomes an addiction, it is important to identify the root cause of the problem for better treatment.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is one of the best-suggested treatments by surgeons known to be effective in treating BDD. It helps the patient understand and alter unhelpful negative perceptions about their body.

Happy woman who has learned to love herself thanks to counseling.
Image from 123RF by marctran

Final Thoughts

Since nobody is perfect, all of us are flawed in one way or another. We all wish that we could correct these flaws that we try so hard to hide. But risking your life and everyday health to achieve your unrealistic goal of perfection is something that should be put into question.

Body Dysmorphia and plastic surgery addiction can be challenging to overcome. Seeking help could be your first step to recovery. If you want to connect with a therapist to help you understand your thoughts, Kentucky Counseling Center is here to help. Please book an appointment with us so we can start your journey towards a stronger mind. Start living a happy and meaningful life without being overly obsessed with your appearance.

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