By Michael Saul, Partner at Cosmetic Surgery Solicitors
Cosmetic surgery has become more accessible in recent years, with social media heavily influencing many people to undergo procedures. But is cosmetic surgery addictive? There are a few reasons to believe that this might be the case, as people who have cosmetic surgery often want more and more procedures and are frequently unsatisfied with the results of their initial surgeries. Due to this, it is argued that body dysmorphia is the driving force behind addiction to cosmetic surgery.
We take a look at these driving factors of cosmetic surgery popularity and aim to understand how they may be impacting the mental and physical health of people of all ages and backgrounds.
How Can People Become Addicted To Cosmetic Surgery?
While it is frequently debated as to whether people can actually become addicted to cosmetic surgery, there are two primary factors that are seen as the causes of people wanting surgery.
These factors are:
- Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD)
- Social media
Body Dysmorphic Disorder
People can develop body dysmorphia, which is a mental health disorder. This leads to a person wanting more and more treatments, with the constant assurance that any imperfections will be removed. This constant desire for perceived improvement can lead to an addiction to cosmetic surgery but also an addiction to the person’s unhappiness with their appearance, leading them to notice every tiny detail that may be perceived as unattractive.
BDD can range from mild to severe cases and often has devastating consequences, including an addiction to cosmetic surgery, which may lead to someone paying large amounts of money in return for permanent changes to their body which they later regret or that can cause health issues.
People who suffer from BDD tend to focus on perceived flaws in their bodies and seek out cosmetic procedures to fix them, disregarding the risk of complications that may occur as a result. It is key to note that these perceived flaws are not really concrete flaws – they can be minute details not visible to anyone other than the person themselves due to being manifested in their subconscious, or comparisons drawn from other people, such as online personalities or celebrities. Social media can heavily impact people with BDD, influencing them to believe they need cosmetic procedures to alter their appearance.
After surgery, these individuals may not be content with their results and continue to pursue even more extreme surgical procedures in order to reach what they believe is an ideal physical appearance. As a result, many people find themselves struggling with dependency issues as they attempt to ‘perfect’ their bodies through unrealistic surgical means. This can result in the person’s insecurities building as they change their body’s natural features, sometimes in ways that lead them to be unrecognizable from their previous appearance.
The Influence Of Social Media
The influence of social media in society today is undeniable; it affects us in many aspects of our lives, including what we find attractive. While cosmetic surgery advertising is currently banned for those under the age of 18 in the UK, cosmetically enhanced accounts or influencers can appear enticing, leading individuals to think that they must seek cosmetic surgery in order to look attractive.
Social media serves to present an unrealistic ideal of beauty and its comparison with real life causes many to feel self-conscious and may contribute to body dysmorphia. This is why cosmetic surgery is becoming so popular and accessible; the images constantly shown on social media generate increasingly higher expectations for appearance, which leads people to seek surgical procedures as a form of ‘solution’. The reality behind these images is often photo editing techniques known as ‘airbrushing’ to change a person’s physical attributes or dieting and surgery that can have unhealthy consequences.
In many cases, models and influencers are also held to increasingly unrealistic standards which cause them to have physical and mental health issues, as well as those who are consuming the media online. We rarely see unhealthy dieting and weeks spent in the gym to attain aspects of the ‘ideal’ body.
For these reasons, it is clear that social media plays a significant role in enticing people into getting cosmetic surgery, which is rarely enough to attain the physical attributes of professional models and influencers who may undergo much more than cosmetic surgery.
How can cosmetic surgery addiction be managed?
While nothing will ever make up for the side effects associated with cosmetic surgery, these methods may help provide relief from an addiction in which one feels trapped. Addiction to cosmetic surgery is a real phenomenon with dangerous consequences. If you or someone you know is struggling with an addiction to cosmetic surgery, there are ways to get help.
For those struggling with a possible addiction to cosmetic surgery, there are various approaches that can be taken to improve their mental and physical health. However, it is key to note that everyone is different and these strategies may not work the same for everyone.
In some cases, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) has been shown to help people struggling with cosmetic surgery addictions. This type of therapy encourages individuals to identify and tackle the underlying issues that lead to their reliance on cosmetic surgery, such as body dysmorphia or a lack of self-esteem.
Finding support within the community may also help; a number of organizations exist specifically for people who need advice and guidance when it comes to recovering from a dependence on any form of elective cosmetic procedure.
Professional counseling can assist individuals in developing healthy coping mechanisms which may aid them in dealing with emotions or situations that drove them towards these procedures in the first place.