Cosmetic Surgery Addiction

By Elana Pruitt © 2007-2009
PlasticSurgery.com Editor

Maybe it’s the shape of your nose, breasts, or even calf muscles (or lack thereof) that you’d like to change. This is normal – we all have at least one feature we wish could be improved with a simple snap of the fingers. But unfortunately there’s no magic lamp to rub or shining star to wish upon. So before you take the steps to attain narrower nostrils, sexier cleavage, or better-sculpted muscles, you gotta do some serious thinking and evaluate why you want cosmetic surgery in the first place.

What if you think you are completely realistic about what you want done and the type of results to expect? Is society’s skewed standard of beauty influencing you to keep going back for more? According to board certified New York plastic surgeon Dr. Sydney Coleman, cosmetic surgery addiction can be caused by a medical condition called body dismorphic disorder (BDD).

“BDD affects both men and women and manifests as a preoccupation with an imagined physical defect or an exaggerated concern about a minimal defect,” he says. “This can lead the patient to a plastic surgeon or dermatologist in an attempt to try to change the perceived defect.” However, he adds, turning to a doctor for more surgery is rarely successful because that patient will never be happy with these changes.

According to Dr. Dubrow, "The best plastic surgery is unseen."

This cycle could possibly lead to even more requests for a nip here and a tuck there.

When most people think of what looks to be cosmetic surgery addiction, images of specific figures come to mind: Michael Jackson, Joan Rivers, and the infamous Jocelyn “Cat Woman” Wildenstein. Just look at the “before” photos of these celebrities, and you’ll find yourself asking, “Why?”

Pressure from living in the limelight no doubtedly contributes to the desire to look as beautiful as possible; however when a person’s face takes on a different direction and becomes unrecognizable – something seems clearly wrong. So what happens when BDD sufferers or those who rely on cosmetic surgery for the wrong reasons, turn to a doctor for even another procedure? Is it that medical professional’s responsibility to put their foot down and say “stop?”

Is it that medical professional’s responsibility to put their foot down and say “stop?”

Board certified Newport Beach plastic surgeon Dr. Terry Dubrow, who stars on “The Swan,” doesn’t believe in saying “enough is enough;” however he will share what he thinks may be “counterproductive” to a person’s appearance.

For a doctor who plays an instrumental role on Reality TV, and knowing that media attention has “made people more plastic surgery-aware,” Dr. Dubrow feels the phenomenon of “overly-pulled faces” and unnatural looking, huge breasts has come and gone – despite how many people go to him for the multiple procedures they see performed on television.

Just as it is your decision to find an experienced doctor, it is your decision to get surgery in the first place.

“When a physician encounters a patient that desires surgery but clearly has already had enough, it is time for a very frank discussion with the patient,” says Dr. Coleman. “It is important to recognize the point at which either nothing more can be done or nothing more should be done.”

According to Dr. Dubrow, “The best plastic surgery is unseen.” He says that if you can tell someone has had work done, then it wasn’t such a great job after all. When it comes to a plastic surgeon’s craft, Dr. Coleman couldn’t agree more: “The result of an operation or procedure is a reflection on the plastic surgeon and most do not want their patients walking around with a distorted, unnatural face,” he says.

According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS), there are two types of patients who undergo plastic surgery. There are patients who possess a strong self-image and would like to have a specific physical characteristic improved or changed, and there are those who have a physical defect or cosmetic flaw that has diminished their self-esteem over time.

Doctors can usually identify “troubled” patients during the initial consultation, which may prompt them to advise psychological counseling first. The ASPS admits to there being exceptions to the rule; however individuals who may be advised to seek counseling include:

  • Patients in crisis
  • Patients with unrealistic expectations
  • Impossible-to-please patients
  • Patients who are obsessed with a very minor defect
  • Patients who have a mental illness

So what’s the doctor got to do with it? Truth is – a (good) doctor is not going to push you towards getting a procedure you don’t want and try to sell you the idea of getting more surgery when you clearly don’t need it. Just as it is your decision to find an experienced doctor, it is your decision to get surgery in the first place!