Everything You Need to Know About Plastic Surgery Addiction

signs of plastic surgery addiction

Verywell / Laura Porter

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Plastic surgery is the remodeling, repairing, or restoring of the appearance and sometimes the function of body parts. It includes reconstructive surgery such as skin grafts and repair of congenital defects as well as cosmetic surgery.

Not all plastic surgery is cosmetic surgery. Cosmetic surgery is a type of plastic surgery performed for the sake of aesthetics rather than health. While there are some exceptions to that, such as the fixing of a cleft palate, usually cosmetic surgery is a choice a person makes when they want a part of their body to look different.

There's no contesting that plastic surgery can improve quality of life; studies have shown that cosmetic medical procedures have a positive impact on the emotional well-being of recipients. However, it can be a slippery slope, and a person can become addicted to it.

Ahead, learn what plastic surgery addiction is, the signs of it, how to prevent it, and what to do if the addiction has passed the point of prevention.

What Is Plastic Surgery Addiction?

Plastic surgery addiction is definedas a behavioral disorder that leads a person to want to change their appearance via plastic surgery on an ongoing basis.

Like all forms of addiction, plastic surgery addiction may appear to first be something perfectly healthy. It can begin with just one surgery that a person has a positive experience from. That surgery can increase a person's sense of well-being, and it can also make them view their body differently.

Once someone has experienced the positive effects of plastic surgery firsthand, they might start thinking about what they want to have altered next. They might schedule more surgeries right away, or take time to.

There is no hard and fast rule about how it progresses. The basic idea is that, at some point, the positive outcome is no longer the focus. Instead, a person is focused on what to do next. This is similar to any other addiction: plastic surgery becomes something unending, with a constant need for more.

Signs of Plastic Surgery Addiction

If you or someone you know may be dealing with plastic surgery addiction, these are the signs to look out for.

Multiple Procedures At Once or in a Row

Someone who has become addicted to plastic surgery might have a laundry list of procedures they want to get done. They may schedule many at once, or one at a time as often as possible on an ongoing basis.

This is different from going under the knife once to address multiple issues and then being done; it is more about seeing plastic surgery as a journey you're always on, with a never-ending list of things to get done.

Going to Different Surgeons

Surgeons can, and should, quickly become hesitant to perform too many surgeries on one person. To avoid this, someone addicted to plastic surgery might go to several different surgeons. They could do that in rotation, or they could move on to a new surgeon when a previous one refuses to do any more work on them.

If you think of your primary care physician, chances are you have at least a casual relationship with them. The longer you see them, the more trust you place in them with your health. So, when someone is in a space where they are seeing multiple different practitioners who do the same work, it's may be a sign that something is wrong.

Constant Fixation on the Next Surgery

Someone who is addicted to plastic surgery is likely to be unsatisfied with a new procedure. Someone who isn't addicted to plastic surgery is more likely to get something done and be happy, whereas the person with a plastic surgery addiction sees the surgeries as an ongoing affair.

They may express no happiness at all about new procedures, and instead, be purely focused on what they'll have done next.

Thinking of Body Parts as in Need of Fixing

Bodies are not inherently perfect, any more than human behavior is. Most of us are full of lumps and bumps, and as we age, those amplify—and gravity drags them down, too. But just because your body doesn't look like a magazine cover doesn't mean there is anything wrong with it!

It's emotionally healthy to accept our bodies as they are. Changing something via a procedure to feel better about yourself isn't a problem, but seeing your physical self as something that needs professional fixing is.

When you view your body through the lens of how it looks compared to a "perfect" version, you can easily lose sight of your own uniqueness and instead think you need to be fixed.

Unrealistic Expectations

Some people use plastic surgery as a quest to look like a celebrity, or a Barbie doll, or someone else they know. They may be highly disappointed when surgery is unable to make them look more like someone else.

Even if a person isn't trying to look like someone specific, once addicted to plastic surgery they still might lose sight of what it can and cannot actually accomplish.

Rather than be satisfied with procedures, they may feel the surgeon didn't do enough to get them the results they wanted.

The Role of Body Dysmorphia

Studies have shown that body dysmorphia is usually the root cause of plastic surgery addiction. 2.2% of men and 2.5% of women are believed to suffer from body dysmorphic disorder (BDD).

BDD is a behavioral issue that is about focusing on perceived physical flaws. People with BDD may spend a lot of time scrutinizing their bodies and may see them completely differently than others do.

Often, they think they have a major problem in need of fixing that no one else can even recognize. BDD can be diagnosed by a mental health practitioner and can be treated with therapy and/or medication.

How to Prevent Plastic Surgery Addiction

For anyone who has had cosmetic surgery procedures and wants to make sure they don't develop an addiction, it's important to first discern whether or not you have BDD. If you do, the best thing to do is seek help for it.

If you do not have BDD but you find yourself wanting more surgeries after having had one, talking to a therapist is still an excellent way to go. They can steer you onto a path where you can be sure to not fall down the rabbit hole of endless cosmetic surgeries.

You can also reach out to friends and loved ones for the sake of being open with your emotions. They can also help keep you accountable.

How to Deal With Plastic Surgery Addiction

The first way to know for sure that you are dealing with plastic surgery addiction is if your surgeon doesn't want to perform any more procedures on you.

Another way to know is if your loved ones express concern over your habit of having cosmetic surgery. Lastly, you might just know on your own that things have gotten out of hand.

If you become aware that you have plastic surgery addiction, you'll want to seek professional treatment. Finding a therapist that deals with this might seem like a challenge, but it doesn't have to be: because BDD is the root cause of plastic surgery addiction. So, you need to find a therapist who works with that.

BDD is a recognized behavioral disorder in the DSM 5, and there is no shortage of psychologists, psychiatrists, and marriage and family therapists who know how to treat it. Ideally, therapy will help you with your BDD, and from there, you won't feel the need to have more surgeries.

A Word From Verywell

Plastic surgery addiction is very different from simply having a cosmetic procedure done and moving on with your life. Now that you know the signs of it, you're in a more empowered place to handle it should it arise in your life, whether on your own wellness journey or that of someone you care about.

3 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Ariane Resnick, CNC
Ariane Resnick, CNC is a mental health writer, certified nutritionist, and wellness author who advocates for accessibility and inclusivity.