Cosmetic surgery by definition includes surgical and nonsurgical procedures that enhance and reshape structures of the body to improve appearance and confidence, (American Society of Plastic Surgeons, 2018). The demand for plastic and cosmetic surgeries increases each year. These invasive procedures are voluntary and many factors affect why a patient chooses to subject their self to surgery. Some reasons can be related to one’s mental health. This includes those trying to achieve an ideal image, suffering from insecurities, or an obsession with the idea of perfection. Often these motivations suggest an obsessive disorder with being a perfect mold. Many patients decide to undergo surgery without considering the aftermath of painful physical and emotional recovery. Considering the physical pain endured during recovery, the amount of money it costs, and the stress that medications prescribed post-surgery inflict on the body, why do so many people still voluntarily go under the knife?
According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), a sample of 204 British participants completed a questionnaire that assessed their attitude toward cosmetic surgery. It also assessed measures of self-esteem, life satisfaction, self-rated physical attractiveness, and media consumption, (Furnham and Levitas, 2012). Females with low self-esteem, low satisfaction, and low self-rated attractiveness who spent more hours consumed in watching television were more likely to undergo cosmetic surgery than those who were not. The pressure of people to be attractive in Western society has been examined by evolutionary and social psychologists, which concluded that people were treated differently based on how physically attractive they are perceived to be, (Furnham and Levitas, 2012). With such enormous push to be attractive within media and the technology-driven society we have become, the need to be perceived as flawless and extremely attractive is now an all-consuming aspect of our culture. It is no secret that individuals that are deemed attractive are treated better than those that are not. It is not a comforting concept to consider, but it is the truth. Personally, if a female wants to alter her body it is her decision. Women have been prejudiced for so many years on their appearance and also how they dress. Cosmetic surgery has made so many advances during this century as well. It has ultimately become safer, allowing women to alter their bodies to meet cultural standards. At the end of the day, it is entirely up to the individual to decide upon undergoing surgery to alter their appearance, as well as if they are in the right state of mind.
These elective surgeries are more than just skin deep; they are rooted to the state of one’s mental well-being. These procedures are so impactful that they can have either a positive or negative psychological effect on patients. In a long-term study that was conducted by Professor Dr. Jurgen Margraf and Alxander Von Humboldt from the Ruhr-Universitaet-Bochum in Germany as well as the University of Basel in Switzerland, these negative and positive effects were investigated on 550 patients, (Kim, 2017). This study highlighted and concluded that some patients displayed more enjoyment in life and a higher self-esteem after their physical appearance was surgically altered. This study was conducted immediately after surgery. It was also repeated after several months post-surgery in which patients were given additional follow up questions for their study. The majority continued to express feeling better mentally and developing a higher self-confidence. These patients credited this to the procedures they underwent. One’s self-confidence and self-attractiveness play a vital role in how they carry themselves, how they interact with others, and their overall success in life. Not only did these patients have an increase in self-esteem, but they also found their overall appearance and body far more attractive. Some people who are eager to undergo surgery believe that in some cases it will solve dissatisfaction within their lives. It is in these instances that plastic surgeons are trained to identify such patients and require a psychiatric screening before any surgery is initiated.
There is always a negative aspect to any surgical procedure. Not only are mental health repercussions a risk if something was to go wrong, but there is risk of side effects and complications to any procedure. For example, if a patient undergoes a rhinoplasty they expect perfect results. However, it is often that some individuals are ultimately disappointed with the results and now their face is permanently altered. A solution to this issue would be to raise awareness that surgery is permanent and is never perfect.
In an article that was posted on DailyMail UK, Laura Pillarella gave her candor. She stated that after getting her first cosmetic surgery, to which included the removal of her eye bags as well as a chin implant, that when the bandages came off, I was disappointed. I wasn’t beautiful- just different. It wasn’t enough, (Naish, 2011). She went on to say that with her high dissatisfaction it led to a toxic cycle of getting more procedures and even stated that she considered committing suicide after becoming profoundly depressed by her appearance. The reason in which she underwent these surgeries was to improve her self-esteem. As a society how has it become almost to the point of obsession to be extremely attractive. Media plays a vital role in how we view our appearances. With an influx in mobile device usage on applications like Instagram and Facebook, all demographics have become susceptible to being scrutinized if not socially deemed attractive. In some ways it is inevitable to combat such scrutiny because electronics has become so embedded into our daily lives. In order to change how we see ourselves in a positive light, I believe that we must advocate for self-love. Self-love has the power to change how we view ourselves, to change our love for our appearance, and how we can emulate self-confidence.
Some patients become so obsessed with cosmetic and plastic surgeries that they are diagnosed with a condition called Body Dysmorphic Disorder, also known as BDD. The diagnosis is a combination of an anxiety disorder and mental illness, in which one becomes obsessed with altering their body image. Exponential awareness of these procedures in our society as well as more people seeking to go under the knife, an estimated 7 to 12 percent of patients are diagnosed with BDD (Kim, 2017). Society has created this overwhelming need to be physically attractive because it is synonymously seen as being youthful, healthy and full of energy. Being youthful means being ample, having a great figure with lusty breasts, tight skin, full lips, and a firm buttock. This subconscious way of thinking starts at a young age with media to blame, advertising youthful physical features and imprinting the idea of perfection. With this need to be all of those things, the need to look perfect can directly affect one’s psychological well being causing them to think less of themselves.
Cosmetic/plastic surgery is a billion dollar industry. In 2013, America spent more than $7 billion on cosmetic surgery, (Schaefer, 2015). Deciding to go under the knife to permanently alter your image is more than just changing your image, it can also come with some pretty dangerous side effects. Some negative side effects of undergoing this type of surgery include hematoma, nerve damage, infection, embolism, scarring, anesthetic complications, and of course unhappiness with the results. One of the most popular surgeries among women these days is breast augmentation. An article written by Claire Lampen in Women’s Health magazine can back this up. In this article Lampen states that 2017 saw a total of 300,378 breast augmentations, (2018). With so many breast augmentations it hardly seems like a daunting procedure. I can attest to this, as well as several friends and family members whom have gone through this specific surgery and have had no complications. One family member has had implants for nearly thirty years. While plastic surgeons deem such surgeries like breast augmentations, rhinoplasty, or a tummy tuck safe, surgeons do ensure patients are aware of harmful side effects. Bear in mind that these side effects are also inclusive of general surgery as well.
Surgeons are bound to moral and legal ethics. Depending on the surgeon a patient decides to choose to do the desired operation, one can be very lenient and push medical limits or can be strict. Personally speaking, I chose to undergo plastic surgery in 2017. I chose my surgeon because he made me see the reality of the operation to which I desired. I went into a consultation with the hopes of receiving a large bust size, but with the surgeons strong ethics on what would medically be best for me as well as ascetically, I am more than pleased with my results. My surgeon, like many others, has ethics that are tied to what is best for the patient, and if the patient does not agree they can seek a surgeon elsewhere. Medical ethics enforce what should be publicized to keep the public aware. Physicians and surgeons alike are entrusted with a vast amount of responsibility. Though surgeons vary in personal perspective ethically, patients do have a right. If one is considering surgery, they should research the surgeons reviews, is they are board-certified, if their ethics and views match, as well as being presented with realistic results and not selling a fix-all shop. Surgeons as well as doctors should steer clear of selling unrealistic goals; by selling such it falsely attracts people that could lack self-esteem and fall into such a trap.
Combating these societal views can be extremely difficult, but it needs to start young. Teaching young girls and boys when they are becoming self-aware can combat this need to be perfect and help teach them that they as individuals are unique. Uniqueness is defined as being the only one, having no like or equal, unparalleled, incomparable, being unique is one of a kind, (Dictionary, 2018). Being one of a kind is such an amazing thing. They themselves are beautiful, they are imperfectly perfect just the way they are. Surgery can be a positive concept when it comes to medical necessities like correcting a deviated septum with a rhinoplasty. However, the societal impedance of perfection and the availability of these body modifications or alterations have created such negative discourse in some but have created positive outcomes for many others. It is hard to say whether plastic surgery is a good thing or not. Simply put, all that can be said is it is up to an individual to make this decision.
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