Plastic Surgery: Beauty or Beast?

Topics: Plastic surgery, Surgery, Breast implant Pages: 5 (1891 words) Published: January 29, 2012
Before the makeover, DeLisa Stiles--a therapist and captain in the Army Reserves--complained of looking too masculine. But on Fox's reality TV makeover show, "The Swan 2," she morphed into a beauty queen after a slew of plastic surgery procedures--a brow lift, lower eye lift, mid-face lift, fat transfer to her lips and cheek folds, laser treatments for aging skin, tummy tuck, breast lift, liposuction of her inner thighs and dental procedures. The Fox show gives contestants plastic surgery and then has them compete in a beauty pageant, which last year Stiles won. "The Swan" and other such plastic-surgery shows, including ABC's "Extreme Makeover" and MTV's "I Want a Famous Face," are gaining steam, but some psychologists are concerned about the psychological impact on those who undergo such drastic cosmetic surgery--and also on those who don't and may feel inadequate as a result. While such radical transformations are rare, some psychologists plan to investigate the surge in cosmetic procedures and whether these surgeries have any lasting psychological consequences. The number of cosmetic procedures increased by 44 percent from 2003 to 2004, according to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery. Plastic surgeons conducted a record 11.9 million procedures last year, including nonsurgical procedures like Botox and surgical procedures like breast augmentation or liposuction (see chart). How do such procedures affect patients psychologically? A recent analysis of 37 studies on patients' psychological and psychosocial functioning before and after cosmetic surgery by social worker Roberta Honigman and psychiatrists Katharine Phillips, MD, and David Castle, MD, suggests positive outcomes in patients, including improvements in body image and possibly a quality-of-life boost too. But the same research--published in the April 2004 issue of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery (Vol. 113, No. 4, pages 1,229-1,237)--also found several predictors of poor outcomes, especially for those who hold unrealistic expectations or have a history of depression and anxiety. The researchers found that patients who are dissatisfied with surgery may request repeat procedures or experience depression and adjustment problems, social isolation, family problems, self-destructive behaviors and anger toward the surgeon and his or her staff. Overall, there are more questions than answers regarding psychological effects of cosmetic surgery: There are few longitudinal studies and many contradictory findings, researchers note. Many studies also contain small sample sizes and short follow-ups with patients, says Castle, a professor and researcher at the Mental Health Research Institute of Victoria in Victoria, Australia. "We really need good, large prospective studies of representative samples of patients, using well-established research instruments," Castle says. "While most people do well in terms of psychosocial adjustment after such procedures, some do not, and the field needs to be aware of this and to arrange screening for such individuals." In particular, the extent to which cosmetic surgery affects patients' relationships, self-esteem and quality of life in the long-term offers many research opportunities for psychologists, says psychologist Diana Zuckerman, PhD, president of the National Research Center for Women and Families, a think tank that focuses on health and safety issues for women, children and families. "These are fascinating issues for psychologists to look at--from the cultural phenomena to the interpersonal phenomena to the mental health and self-esteem issues," Zuckerman says. In addition, plastic-surgery issues will increasingly affect clinician psychologists, and the area will offer new roles for them--such as conducting pre- and post-surgical patient assessments, says psychologist David Sarwer, PhD, director of the Education, Weight and Eating Disorders Program at the University of Pennsylvania. He has studied appearance-related...
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