Psychological Aspects

Years ago, improving life quality was not one of the reasons for plastic/cosmetic surgery – it is certainly not the case today.

Of the many reasons for having cosmetic surgery in the past, today’s candidates note the following as their main drive to get ‘fixed’:

  • Gaining an improved appearance and a more active lifestyle
  • Emotional and psychological rewards
  • Notable happiness and renewed self-esteem and and confidence
  • Daily benefit of being more attractive
Though not uncommon for candidates to bring photos of celebrities or models for surgeons to emulate, it is important that to understand your main need to get cosmetic surgery.

Do You Really Need It ?
In most developed nations across the globe, culture places a lot of emphasis on body weight, size and appearance. We are conditioned from a very young age that ‘self-worth’ is derived from these aesthetic characteristics.

Our media sets unrealistic standards of what body type and weight that is considered ‘normal’. These stereotypes of being slim or fat, muscular or skinny, toned or flabby is reinforced many times over not just by the media, but by our family or friends, and even health professionals.

It’s a fact that nobody (not many anyway) look like that, not even the celebrities or models themselves. Only about 5% of people have the genetic makeup of the ultra lean and long body type – hardly a major statistic. But that is probably the only body type that men and women compare themselves with because we really cannot underestimate the pervasive influence of the media in our lives. In our desperate attempts to conform to societal pressure, many will resort to restrictive dieting, fat burning products and/or smoking to get rid of fat and unwanted calories.

Bad eating habits, sedentary lifestyles and poor health and fitness undoubtedly reflect on weight measurements and overall body image. Choosing cosmetic surgery to improve your appearance while not improving these ingredients isn’t really going to work.

Engaging in a fit and active lifestyle has its obvious benefits. Refraining from processed foods and getting more healthy and wholesome food in your diet not only maintains your desired weight and shape, but also provides more energy for fitness. Including some cardio and strength training for at least 20 minutes daily gets your heart pumping and provides overall toning. Besides, exercise releases endorphines into your bloodstream giving you the natural high for life on a daily basis.

Just How Much Do You Need?
In a Glamour magazine survey, 75% of women between 18 -35 believed they were fat, while in reality only 25% were medically overweight – the same percentage as overweight men (Beauty Myth by Naomi Wolf). This kind of exaggerated self-criticism is called Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD), can severely affect your self-image as you’re always obsessed with a body or facial trait. This anxiety disorder usually starts in adolescence, a time when looks can be everything, and affects both men and women. BDD is real and can impair work and social functioning to a point of withdrawal or isolation.

Many times, a person with BDD may perceive a defect that no one else does. While many candidates do require multiple procedures for the physical improvement they seek, BDD sufferers go overboard for the sake of looking like someone or something else – from Michael Jackson to a tiger.

Treatment is available today for people with BDD. Recent reports show that people respond well to oral medication and cognitive therapy, learning to replace thoughts of perceived defect with positive habits.

All The Wrong Reasons
If you begin the pursuit of cosmetic surgery at the wrong foot, chances are you will not be happy with any result:

  • It’ll last forever. It is important to understand that your results do not last a lifetime – gravity always prevails. While many experience positive outcomes in their lives for the next 10 – 15 years, you will need to address this again later in life. In order to help maintain results, it is imperative to engage in a healthy and active lifestyle before and following surgery, as unlike aging, this is something within your control. Follow up procedures are a legitimate need over time – from minimally invasive to secondary procedures.
  • Jackson syndrome. Over 50% of surgeons have seen patients who’ve asked for Jolie’s lips, any one of Brad’s facial features, Gisele’s boobs, or Madonna’s cheekbones. BDD are key triggers of unrealistic expectations, and almost all candidates end up disappointed with their results or at the surgeon.
  • Problem solving. While cosmetic surgery improves specific body areas, it does help with cases of life’s problems – from getting a raise, recovering from an illness or picking up after a divorce/retirement. From our observations, surgery only provides a starting point for positive improvement, as the ultimate change comes from your changed attitude towards life.
  • My friends got it. Some people may fixate on a procedure/s their friends or family had recently gotten. Remember that what worked for your friends may not work for you, so it’s crucial to speak to a professional regarding your needs and procedures required. Sometimes you may need multiple surgery when you think you need a single procedure, and vice versa.
How You Feel After Surgery
The decisions involving cosmetic surgery can be a tremendous effort for some people. Emotions range from nervousness in anticipation for surgery to recovery ‘blues’ from bruising and swelling. Recovery comfort and emotional support cannot be underrated during this period of emotional highs and lows.

This adjustment period can sometimes prove daunting as final results may take up to 6 months. The surgeon does not wave his magic wand and you magically transform overnight. As you wait in anticipation for your body to adapt, some people may slide into depression, particularly those with unrealistic expectations. Post operative depression is not uncommon with any surgery. Similar to symptoms of post partum depression, this may arise out of emotional and social challenge from gazing eyes, doubting and disapproving looks or simply just by expecting too much.

People who are predisposed to depression, personality, anxiety disorders and other psychological issues are more likely to experience an emotional letdown. It is important to bear in mind that physical changes from cosmetic surgery comes pre-packaged with emotional changes – positive or negative.

Managing Your Expectations
Not everyone is suitable from cosmetic surgery. We have to have clear guidelines to select suitable candidates and weed out those who will not benefit greatly from surgery.

Having realistic expectations is key. Do not have surgery if you want to look exactly like someone else because that fixation will probably be as fleeting as your decision to change. Though the purpose of cosmetic surgery is to improve self-image, almost all people with a stronger self-image will eventually lead to an even stronger self-image and positive attitude about life.

If you wish to talk to people about the procedures you desire, talk to someone who’ve had similar work done – not with your disapproving sister, mother or friend. You may obtain pictures of the look you wish to achieve and your surgeon will advise you on the viability of your options. He/she will review your desired look and advise you how best these will fit your features and body type. So as important it is to be candid with your surgeon, it is equally important to accept his professional recommendations.

Unlike general surgery, there isn’t a valid and logical reason to have cosmetic surgery, except for accident or burn victims. However described, many who don’t condone it will always only attribute it to vanity and lack of self-worth. Do your homework, research, talk to people and get your emotions straight. After all, it is you and only you who can justify this important, (and in many cases) life-changing decision because its going to benefit or affect you the most.