It is now possible to completely and permanently alter our faces and bodies in a single day, give or take a few thousand pounds – but what effect does changing ourselves so drastically have on our emotional wellbeing?
Cosmetic procedures have become increasingly popular with both men and women the world over as prices of procedures drop and availability and acceptance rise.
Now psychologists are starting to question the impact of cosmetic surgery on mental health: is it really that easy to wake up in the morning with a totally different face and body to the one you’ve known your whole life?
According to psychologist and author Dr Vivian Driller, many patients come to realise that their former imperfections actually played an important role in shaping their identities. After surgery, they begin to realise that their so called ‘imperfections’ set them apart from other people and made them unique. Once these features were altered, that sense of individuality disappeared, resulting in an identity crisis.
Author Dr. Z. Paul Lorenc writes that one ‘red flag’ symptom is people who ask to look like certain celebrities:
“They have this glorified picture of this perfect identity,’ he explained, “which can have deep psychological effects when the patient discards their sense of self by changing their face, only to realise the identity they were seeking isn’t perfect after all.”
Certain underlying psychological disorders, such as body dysmorphic disorder, can increase an individual’s desire to have cosmetic surgery. According to Dr Lorenc, few surgeons screen their patients for mental health problems before going ahead with surgery.
Daniela Schreier, a therapist who works with cosmetic surgery patients (many of whom come to regret their procedures), believes that a lot of surgeons are more concerned about business and money than the welfare of their patients.
Many people go into cosmetic surgery believing that their lives will dramatically improve if they can just get rid of that bumpy nose, or be a little thinner, or have slightly bigger breasts, or look more like Jennifer Lopez. The truth is- an insecure nature and low self-esteem isn’t easily cured by surgery. More often than not, we need to address the underlying reasons for our insecurities and learn to love our bodies and faces for what they are – our own.
If you would like to find out how counselling can help with identity issues, please take a look at our Types of Distress pages where you will find lots of useful information.
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