Can You Get Addicted to Surgery?

Cosmetic surgery is enjoying something of a post-lockdown boom. A range of factors are driving the surge in interest. We’ve spent a lot of time looking at our own faces on Zoom, and at the (more attractive) faces of Instagram influencers, YouTube personalities, and Hollywood actors. Many of us have put on weight during the first and second lockdown, and might seek a tummy-tuck to correct the problem. And then there’s the availability of low-level interventions like lip-fillers, and digital gateways to the world of cosmetic surgery, like Instagram’s now-banned surgery features.

What makes surgery addictive?

Most of the people who undergo cosmetic surgery have a single procedure and are happy with it. They have a specific aim in mind, and they have a conversation with a reputable practitioner who apprises them of the benefits and limitations of any intervention.

A minority of those seeking surgery are motivated by a deeper psychological dissatisfaction. A common example of this is Body Dysmorphic Disorder – a term used to describe chronic and obsessive worry about perceived physical flaws. While people suffering from BDD might seek surgery as an answer, the actual answer is therapy and other mental-health interventions.

Understanding surgery

One of the best reasons to hold a full and frank discussion with your cosmetic surgeon is to establish what’s motivating you. If you aren’t honest with yourself about your reasons, then it’s unlikely that the surgery will make you happy – in fact, it might make you more unhappy.

The BBC commissioned a poll from Comres, which found that more than half of those going under the knife don’t seek psychological help before the procedure. This is a recipe for dissatisfaction and depression in the long-term.

The British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons offers a fourteen-point list of questions that would-be patients might ask before undergoing the procedure. Among the most important of these is the first one: to make your own decisions, rather than thinking about what other people’s opinion might be. If you’re trying to satisfy your partner rather than yourself, then you might end up disappointed.

Recovering from surgery

Surgery can also take a physical toll in the short term. To facilitate recovery from surgery, strong painkillers are often prescribed. Where this happens often, there’s a risk of the patient developing an opioid addiction – especially if they have an addictive personality to begin with. Be aware of this risk before you start along this path.

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