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Exploring the Psychological Impact of Cosmetic Surgery

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There is tremendous pressure on men and women to continue looking their best, even as they age. This social pressure can lead to dissatisfaction with one’s appearance, which can significantly affect mental health and quality of life. 

Most people will embark on cosmetic surgery treatment if there is something about their appearance that they do not like. This can be because they want to change something about their natural-born appearance, to correct the look of damage caused during an accident, or reverse some effects of the aging process. 

With so many reasons to opt for cosmetic surgeries, what is the ultimate psychological effect on participants? Here, we’ll explore some of the most common reactions to cosmetic surgery outcomes and see whether these procedures may be beneficial or harmful overall. 

What kinds of cosmetic surgery are people getting? 

When people think of cosmetic surgery, they often think of one or two popular operations. However, cosmetic surgery goes well beyond breast augmentation or rhinoplasty (changing the shape of the nose). 

There are several kinds of cosmetic surgery that one can have nowadays to help various issues. Some of these include:

  • Facelifts
  • Breast reductions
  • Ear correction surgery
  • Eyelid surgery
  • Tummy tucks
  • Hair transplants
  • Liposuction

One procedure becoming more popular is labiaplasty surgery, which is done to improve vaginal appearance. Women often go for this procedure after having children. This can be for functional or aesthetic reasons. Either way, restoring this intimate area can help women feel better about themselves and continue a healthy sex life. 

The positive psychological impact of cosmetic surgery

A study published in the journal of Clinical Psychology revealed that most people who are unhappy with an aspect of their appearance reported a positive attitude to their cosmetic surgery results. The study even showed that people who proceeded with the procedure achieved their other life goals. 

Goal attainment in these patients likely occurred as their self-esteem and confidence improved after cosmetic treatment. The patients felt better about themselves, so they had the extra confidence and drive to put themselves out there and achieve their goals. 

These results are significant, as it shows just how much having a physical defect or perceiving one can impact self-perception and confidence. Left untreated, it can ultimately hold people back. 

The negative psychological effects of a cosmetic procedure

Conversely, the same study also revealed that some people experienced negative psychological impacts after cosmetic surgery. The study suggested these people had unrealistic expectations of the surgical results or struggled with mental health conditions like body dysmorphia, anxiety, depression, social phobias, and other concerns. Many of these patients had also had previous surgeries that they were dissatisfied with. 

In these cases, it is difficult to say whether the surgery itself was unsatisfactory or if the patients’ perception of their results was the issue. It is also thus challenging to establish if having surgery in the first place was the best way to improve self-esteem for these individuals. 

The bottom line

When carried out correctly by a reputable surgeon, cosmetic surgery can positively impact psychological well-being, thereby assisting people in improving their lives overall through increased self-esteem. However, for people who have a body dysmorphic disorder or who have a perceived or actual negative surgery result, it can spiral into a psychological debacle. 

Getting cosmetic surgery, therefore, is not to be taken lightly. It can have long-term positive or negative effects, depending on the person. Before committing to a procedure, it is best to do your research, talk to family and friends, and meet with a mental health professional. This way, you can have the support you need to make the best choice for your health.

Helen Baumeister did her degree in psychology at the University of Hertfordshire. She is interested in mental health, wellness, and lifestyle.

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