This is How Cosmetic Surgery Affects Psychological Well-Being

Are you aware of the positive and negative effects of cosmetic surgery on psychological well-being? Let's see what experts have to say.
This is How Cosmetic Surgery Affects Psychological Well-Being

Last update: 31 December, 2022

During the last few years, an increasing number of men and women resort to cosmetic procedures. Most people perform surgical modifications to their physical appearance in order to enhance their social and psychological well-being. Regardless of the physical results, does cosmetic surgery really improve psychological well-being? We’ll show you what the experts have to say.

Many of the things that you’ll find in the following lines will seem revealing to you. We’ve focused not only on the positive impact of cosmetic surgery on psychological well-being but also on how previous psychological health conditions the effects of cosmetic surgery. Our objective is for you to know all the variables that affect the psychological consequences of undergoing an aesthetic intervention.

Positive psychological well-being and cosmetic surgery

A study published in Clinical Psychological Science in 2013 evaluated the long-term impact of cosmetic surgery on psychological well-being. The researchers evaluated a total of 544 patients who had previously undergone surgery and 264 who were interested in it but didn’t ultimately undergo it. Follow-up was done at 3, 6, and 12 months after the intervention.

Overall, the researchers found positive results from receiving cosmetic surgery in all areas. For example, the diverse group that underwent the intervention reported lower levels of anxiety, social phobia, and depression. Similarly, they reported greater goal achievement, quality of life, life satisfaction, attractiveness, mental and physical health, well-being, self-efficacy, and self-esteem.

Let’s review other studies that support the positive impact of cosmetic surgery on psychological well-being. A meta-analysis published in The Medical Journal of Australia in 2007 reviewed 36 previous studies related to improving psychosocial well-being after surgery.

Specifically, 12 of them focused on rhinoplasty, 7 on breast augmentation, 5 on breast reduction, and 3 on facelifts. The others covered various interventions.

In general, the studies concluded that most patients were satisfied with the result and felt better about themselves. The positive effect was greater in women undergoing reduction mammoplasty. The effects were felt in terms of self-esteem, security, anxiety and shyness, self-worth, and psychosocial well-being.

Negative psychological impact and cosmetic surgery

Although the evidence suggests that the majority of patients experience positive psychological experiences after the aesthetic intervention, there are also those who experience just the opposite. Certainly, there are many variables that affect positive psychological well-being after cosmetic surgery. In essence, there are two particularly interesting variables: Expectations and the result of the intervention.

Hundreds of studies focused on the long-term risk of suicide as a consequence of cosmetic surgery have been carried out for several decades. For example, a study published in Epidemiology in 2001 found that, 14 years after the procedure, the risk of suicide in women who underwent breast implant surgery was 1.54%.

Similar results, and even with higher percentages, have been found in studies in Finland, Sweden, Denmark, and Canada (among others). On average, and specifically in breast augmentation surgery, women have twice the risk of suicide compared to the general population after the cosmetic intervention.

But this isn’t all. There’s evidence of episodes of depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and illicit drug use in a percentage of people who’ve undergone cosmetic surgery.

As we’ve already warned, the combination between the person’s expectations and the final result of the surgery is an incentive for the development of these mental health complications.

Previous mental disorders and cosmetic surgery

A woman looking sadly out the window at a gray winter landscape.
Many people who undergo cosmetic procedures have psychological problems that should be resolved (or begin to be treated) before considering procedures.

A study published in Eplasty in 2019 found that the prevalence of psychiatric disorders among elective plastic surgery patients is significantly higher than in the general population.

Specifically, researchers found that generalized anxiety disorder (32.9 %), major depressive disorder (22.3 %), attention deficit disorder with and without hyperactivity (3.1 %), panic disorder (1.1 %), post-traumatic stress disorder (1.1 %), and bipolar disorder (1.0 %) are the most common.

It’s also pertinent to consider the presence of body dysmorphic disorder in patients who come to a cosmetic surgeon’s office. In fact, the American Psychological Association warns that many of those who resort to this type of intervention suffer from this disorder.

However, as noted by the American Psychological Association, up to 90% of people with body dysmorphic disorder who undergo these procedures report that their symptoms remain unchanged, or even worsen.

According to some estimates, up to 10% of the cosmetic surgery population suffers from it. This far exceeds its prevalence in the general population, which ranges from 2.4%. The disorder can either precede surgery or present as a sequel to it. Again, outcomes and expectations govern this manifestation.

A woman talking to a nurse prior to surgery.
It’s important to have the advice of a good professional who not only takes into account the aspects related to the procedure, but also the psychological health of the patient.

Final reflections

We’ve presented the pros and cons of cosmetic surgeries in terms of their impact on psychosocial well-being. While most people report positive results, a considerable percentage of them develop negative effects.

In addition, a significant number of candidates already have an existing psychological condition. This may not resolve after the intervention, and in many cases, tends to worsen.

The solution sometimes doesn’t lie in undergoing cosmetic surgery, but in consulting with a psychological professional. Certainly, those who suffer from depression, anxiety, and body dysmorphic disorder should receive psychotherapy before opting for surgery as the first option. Psychotherapy is also an alternative for many people after surgery.

Since the outcome has a bearing on the impact of cosmetic surgery on emotional well-being, it’s always advisable to choose competent professionals. Unofficial clinics can offer you the same intervention for a lower price, but they can’t guarantee the same in terms of the result.

In case you wish to opt for cosmetic surgery, always do it in the hands of certified professionals who work in sites endorsed for this purpose, and also keep in mind the above reflections.

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