Friday, November 15, 2013


8. “You’d be better off spending money on a good therapist.”

Cosmetic surgery doesn’t make you crazy, but research suggests those who have had it, both men and women, are more likely to suffer from psychological problems. Several studies in the 2000s found that women who chose to get breast implants were two to three times more likely to commit suicide than demographically similar women without cosmetic implants. And 20% of patients seeking cosmetic treatments were on some kind of psychiatric medication (versus roughly 9% of the overall population, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), including drugs to treat depression or a low-grade mood disorder, according to a 2004 study by researchers at the Center for Human Appearance at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine.

In addition, up to 15% of cosmetic plastic surgery patients suffer from “body dysmorphic disorder,” versus an estimated 1% to 2% of the of the overall population, according to UPenn’s Sarwer; the disorder is marked by obsessive and exaggerated concern over aspects of one’s appearance. It may sound like a convenient diagnosis for our beauty-obsessed culture, but it is a very real, very dangerous condition. “At the extreme, people will not leave their home, they’re so preoccupied with how they look,” Sarwer says. BDD suffers often seek plastic surgery thinking it will magically transform their lives, and when it doesn’t, they may harm themselves — or sue the surgeon, Sarwer says. Every plastic surgeon worth his or her salt asks questions to gauge patients’ motives, and concerned doctors should refer patients to a mental health professional. But to date there’s no standardized screening tool for BDD.