Plastic surgery addiction: causes and treatments

02 October 2015

By Plastic Surgeon Dr Dirk Kremer

Plastic Surgery by madelineyoki on flickrWhen most people think of addiction, they typically think of cigarettes, alcohol, or drugs such as heroin or methamphetamine. However, addiction can manifest itself in other ways, both mentally and physically. Substance addiction is well documented in the media, and rightly so, but behavioural addiction can be just as destructive on a person's life, and the lives of their friends and family.

Behavioural addiction is when a person is addicted to a specific action that gives them pleasure, this could be anything from playing video games to undergoing multiple, unnecessary cosmetic procedures.

What is plastic surgery addiction and what are the causes?

It's fair to say that most people have one or two bits of their body that they are dissatisfied with, whether it's something as simple as a bent toe or something more noticeable like protruding ears or asymmetric breasts. Most of the patients I see here at Harley Street Aesthetics have just one cosmetic procedure and are happy with the results, but if you find yourself constantly looking for blemishes on your body and requesting more plastic surgery, you may be suffering from Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) and plastic surgery addiction.

Body Dysmorphic Disorder

Patients who display symptoms of BDD and compulsively undergo aesthetic surgery suffer from underlying mental and emotional issues which they believe can be resolved by plastic surgery. However, this is far from the truth, plastic surgery should never be the answer to psychological issues! Patients with BDD perceive themselves as being ugly, when in fact, others might view them as beautiful or attractive, this leads them to continually look for flaws on their body so that they can justify having further cosmetic surgery; in the end though, the results they're after are unobtainable.

Social factors

Social factors also play a major role in plastic surgery addiction, and, in previous blogs, I've discussed many of these topics, including plastic surgery's portrayal on television and society's view of beauty. Unfortunately, in today's ever connected world, young children and vulnerable adults are increasingly being exposed to extreme views of beauty, whether that be through films, magazines, music videos, sexualised adverts, or even the news. These media outlets have, whether intentionally or not, portrayed plastic surgery as a necessity, and it’s hardly surprising that young people (especially girls) are growing up thinking they’re ugly if celebrities such as the Kardashian family are constantly in the news discussing their latest nose job, facelift and breast augmentation or reduction.

While social factors may warp our perceptions of beauty, they don't necessarily lead to plastic surgery addiction, rather they lead to the psychological issues such as BDD, which, in turn, cause people to become addicted to cosmetic surgery in an attempt to fix perceived faults with their appearance.

Dangers of cosmetic surgery addiction

If you're addicted to anything, whether that's drugs or cosmetic surgery, the results can be extremely harmful to your health. The dangers of plastic surgery addiction are very serious: you might find yourself constantly depressed, which can lead to severe hardships in your social and work life; when you're feeling scared or frightened, you may also lash out at friends and family when they're trying to help.

The biggest danger however is the effect numerous cosmetic procedures can have on your body. People who have extreme amounts of cosmetic surgery could be left with permanent damage to their skin and muscles, including collapsed muscles and excessive scar tissue.

Treatment for plastic surgery addiction

There is no specific cure for plastic surgery addiction, rather, people with BDD need to visit their doctor to receive special mental health treatment which may include anti-depressants or behavioural techniques such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.

Here at Harley Street Aesthetics, I put the health of my patients at the forefront of any decision I make. I will not perform cosmetic surgery on anyone who I believe is having it unnecessarily, whether that's through addiction or force. I believe that everyone is beautiful just the way they are, and that cosmetic surgery should be used to complement a person's natural beauty. If you would like to discuss a cosmetic procedure, please contact me on 0845 519 7232 or email:


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