Wednesday, December 29, 2010


The term addiction has become applicable to numerous habits and vices these days. Sex addiction, Internet addiction, plastic surgery addiction. But how can you define addiction when applied to a behavior that in moderation is acceptable, even encouraged? As Marcel Daniels, MD, a Long Beach, Calif-based board-certified plastic surgeon, says, “Calling any repetitive behavior an ‘addiction’ has become fashionable. Notice how we suddenly have all these sexual addicts when previously it was merely felt to be an expression of Darwinian behavior.” Sex, as opposed to, say, heroin, is a normal, healthy practice—in fact, if you’re not having sex, people tend to think there’s something amok. So, when is someone addicted to sex? The same goes for the Internet. The only people not spending many, many hours on the Internet in our society are considered backwards. How much is too much?

This question is particularly apropos when considering plastic surgery. Daniels says, “The subject of addiction in and of itself and with regards to plastic surgery is controversial.”
With celebrities like Heidi Montag, Joan Rivers, Cher, and Jocelyn Wildenstein making headlines by eliminating fine lines and wrinkles (and maybe getting a breast augmentation, some lipo…and some other nips and tucks), it’s easy to believe that Botox and boob jobs have some seriously addictive properties. After all, why else would an already attractive person like Montag go through so much to change herself into some kind of distorted Barbie? Then again, what if Heidi were totally happy with her new self? Would the media and her family be so quick to condemn her surgical alterations if she herself weren’t so clearly dissatisfied? Can you classify a habit as an addiction if it genuinely results in self-improvement? Take, for instance, someone like Cher. She’s had some plastic surgery, which nobody can deny. But, she still looks pretty darn good for her age, and nobody’s really calling her an addict. Maybe part of what makes Montag "an addict" is that she’s young and she had so many procedures in such a short time. But why does age have an impact on addiction? And for that matter, why does someone who crams all their doses into one day have any more of a problem that somebody who has the same amount of surgery over a span of years? Shervin Naderi, MD, a Washington, DC-area facial plastic surgeon, suggests, “There is no ‘number’ that signifies a threshold for becoming addicted to plastic surgery. A person who has never had a single procedure but constantly obsesses about his or her face and is constantly on chat rooms and spends an excessive amount of daily time thinking about his or her face is more concerning than the person who has had four successful cosmetic surgeries with nice and natural results.”

With this in mind, it would seem that the psychological concerns associated with plastic surgery are not so much its potential addictiveness, but rather insecurities with body image that go far below the surface. Excessive amounts of plastic surgery might just be a manifestation of a mental disease such as Body Dysmorphic Disorder. In this case, it seems that the procedures themselves have no addictive quality. (by Chelsea Mize).