You’ve seen the rack of fashion magazines in the checkout aisle at your local grocery store: Gleaming, gorgeous stars with crystal-white smiles, beaming complexions, and symmetrical features. You’re also aware that many of these tabloid-rocking divas had crow’s feet here, love handles there, and fixed them with cosmetic surgical procedures. So naturally if you follow suit you’ll look and feel better too—right?
Plastic Surgery Motivations
You aren’t the only one who feels this way. According to Anthony P. Sclafani, M.D., the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery recorded nearly 10,000,000 plastic surgeries in the U.S. in 2009—a rate that represents a mind blowing 147 percent increase from 1997.
The population is displaying an insatiable appetite for permanent aesthetic changes, but does going under the knife really improve quality of life? According to a study published in the April 2004 issue of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, good outcomes and bad outcomes are equal possibilities.
What’s more, studies show that dissatisfied patients are at risk of undergoing repeat procedures, suffering depression, participating in self-destructive behaviors, and isolating themselves, among other negative behaviors. Since many of these problems arise from underlying psychological disorders, having your mental health screened by a surgeon is a crucial first step before undergoing any surgical cosmetic procedure.
It’s Not as Simple as Asking for the Surgery
Plastic surgeons put protections in place to make sure that those seeking cosmetic surgery will truly benefit. They must screen for indicators of mental health problems that may be unhealthy motivators for plastic surgery.
Things like body language, demeanor, speech, dress, and attitude act as a window that surgeons can peer through to determine whether or not a person is a good candidate for surgery. Avoidance of eye contact, provocative clothing, nervous appearance, and self-consciousness are all negative indicators pointing towards mental instability. These signs usually prompt a surgeon to investigate a patient further before agreeing to perform a procedure.
Poor Mental States Lead to Poor Plastic Surgery Outcomes
People with one or more personality disorders usually have poor surgical outcomes. These patients have unreasonably high or unrealistic post-surgery expectations and are generally considered bad candidates for surgery. Body Dysmorphic Disorder, for example, is an unhealthy preoccupation with physical appearance that causes an individual to grossly exaggerate his or her minor defects. The adage “turning molehills into mountains” definitely applies here. Sometimes defects are imagined and not apparent to others at all.
Body Dysmorphic Disorder affects 10 to 20 percent of plastic surgery seekers, according to Anthony Young, M.D., of CNN Health. Other personality disorders that make for bad surgery candidates include: Schizoid Personality Disorder, Histrionic Personality Disorder, Depressive Personality Disorder, and Paranoid Personality Disorder.
Bad Verses Good Motivations for Plastic Surgery
It’s just as important to determine a person’s motivation for going under the knife as it is to evaluate their mental state. Someone that’s pursuing cosmetic surgery as a way to please others, get ahead in life or their career, or patch up their unhappiness with life like a band-aid is in for a major let-down. These are all bad motivations, and surgeons must ensure that patients are seeking surgery with good motivations.
Good motivations for plastic surgery include:
- Seeking help with legitimate facial/body deficiencies
- Having deep feelings about a single deficiency
- Removing unwanted body modifications
- Wishing to look younger while aging
- Repairing an obvious physical defect that damages self esteem
Surgeons must look out for individuals with imagined defects or excessive dissatisfaction with several parts of their bodies. Such patients aren’t seeing their true selves and are often dissatisfied with their appearance even after surgery. Such problems have motivated surgeons to use mental health screening methods, either in the form of standardized tests or in-depth open-ended questions, to determine if a patient has healthy motivations for seeking plastic surgery.
Jessica Bosari blogs abut health and beauty for breast augmentation surgeon Robert Goldman.
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