People with an addiction to cosmetic surgery may wish to continually alter their appearance. They may undergo many cosmetic procedures, but the results will not satisfy them. Addiction to cosmetic surgery may stem from a psychological disorder, such as body dysmorphic disorder (BDD).
Plastic surgery typically refers to reconstructive surgery, which people may require for medical reasons. This may include scar revision or treating severe burns.
Cosmetic surgery focuses on aesthetics, and people may choose to have cosmetic surgery to alter their appearance.
However the term “plastic surgery” can be a broad term that covers both reconstructive and cosmetic surgery.
People may have an addiction to cosmetic surgery if they feel a continuous need to get multiple cosmetic procedures.
The results of the procedures do not give them the satisfaction they desire, and they may continue to get further cosmetic treatments.
This article discusses the signs a person may have an addiction to cosmetic surgery, why this might be the case, and how to seek help.
The American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM), defines addiction as compulsive behaviors, which may continue despite harmful results.
If people feel the need to continually get cosmetic procedures without gaining any satisfaction from them, they may have an addiction to cosmetic surgery.
Signs that a person may have an addiction to cosmetic surgery include:
- getting multiple cosmetic procedures at the same time or one after the other
- seeking multiple or different surgeons, particularly if one surgeon refuses to perform the procedure
- feeling unsatisfied with the results
- a constant fixation on the next surgery
- being unable to accept their body or appearance
- having unrealistic expectations of surgery outcomes
- continuing cosmetic surgeries despite health risks or financial issues
Addiction to cosmetic surgery may result from insecurity or dissatisfaction about the way a person looks.
According to a 2020 review examining cosmetic surgery addiction in South Korea, there is a link between seeking out cosmetic surgery and a person’s body image, self-esteem, psychologic factors, and individual tendencies.
Some research suggests there is a strong link between cosmetic surgery and self-esteem, particularly in relation to body image. Other research suggests there is little evidence to support a link between self-esteem and addiction to cosmetic surgery.
The authors suggest that social pressure to meet certain beauty standards and social media may influence cosmetic surgery addiction.
Using social media may affect how a person views themselves. According to a
- had negative self-views when looking at social media
- spent longer hours on social media platforms
- viewed material related to cosmetic surgery on social media
Although social media is not a direct cause of cosmetic surgery addiction, it
Authors of a
It can also increase the risk of developing BDD. As a result, those who experience childhood abuse or neglect may be more likely to get cosmetic surgery in young adulthood.
BDD is a psychiatric illness in which people have a preoccupation with perceived flaws in how they look or have a distorted body image.
As a result, people may continually use cosmetic surgery to treat their dissatisfaction rather than treating the underlying BDD.
Authors of a 2017 article state that people with BDD may believe that cosmetic surgery will be able to solve their problems. However, cosmetic surgery will rarely provide them with the satisfaction they seek.
Getting cosmetic surgery can then turn into an addiction, as people continually seek to resolve their BDD with cosmetic procedures.
In addition, a 2023 article notes that cosmetic surgery may worsen BDD and lead to further, unnecessary procedures and risk.
The authors suggest that frequent social media use may contribute to unrealistic ideals for body image, resulting in comparison, insecurity, and anxiety about appearance. This may lead people to get excessive cosmetic procedures to meet an unrealistic ideal.
Cosmetic surgery addiction has risks associated with surgery and multiple or repeat procedures.
These risks may include:
- excessive bleeding or bruising
- swelling or pockets of fluid
- anesthesia problems
- scarring and formation of scar tissue
- a failure to heal
- numbness or a loss of sensation
- a loss of function
- changes over time, such as implants moving out of place
- unrealistic expectations and dissatisfaction with results
Co-occurring drug misuse
A potential risk from cosmetic surgery addiction is developing a co-occurring drug addiction.
People may require pain medications following surgery to manage their postoperative pain. These may include prescription opioids after plastic surgery, which may lead to opioid addiction.
According to a
Another potential risk is people may turn to drugs to try to solve untreated mental health problems, such as depression or anxiety.
People may try to numb feelings of dissatisfaction or distress from unrealistic expectations of their cosmetic surgery or from BDD.
Treating the underlying cause of cosmetic surgery addiction, such as BDD, may help treat the addiction. Treatments may include:
- cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which teaches strategies to change negative thought patterns and behaviors
- talking therapy
- exposure and response prevention (ERP) therapy, which gradually and safely exposes a person to situations or triggers of their compulsive behavior
- support from loved ones
Medications to treat anxiety and depression may also be an option.
There is help available for people with cosmetic surgery addiction. Many organizations and healthcare professionals are able to help people manage and treat BDD and body image disorders.
People may find help by speaking with a doctor or mental health professional or seeking help from organizations and support groups that specialize in body image disorders.
The following may help people find support:
- Body Dysmorphic Disorder Foundation (BDDF), which provides resources, a helpline, and support groups for BDD
- American Psychological Association’s online tool to help find a psychologist
- Academy of Cognitive and Behavioral Therapies’s online tool to help find a certified CBT therapist
Finding out if people have BDD and treating it may help prevent cosmetic surgery addiction. Early detection of BDD may lead to people receiving the help they need sooner and improving long-term outcomes.
If people feel they may be developing an addiction to cosmetic surgery, it may help them to speak with a therapist or counselor. Speaking with people they love and trust may also help provide accountability and an outside perspective.
Surgeons may help prevent cosmetic surgery addiction by asking potential candidates to fill out a questionnaire detailing how many procedures they have had previously.
If a surgeon has any concerns about a person, they can refer them to a mental health specialist.
People may have an addiction to cosmetic surgery if they continuously seek out cosmetic surgery with no satisfaction from the results and experience continued discontent with their appearance.
Cosmetic surgery addiction may stem from body image disorders and psychological conditions, such as body dysmorphic disorder.
If people think they may have cosmetic surgery addiction, they can speak to a healthcare or mental health professional. Therapies, such as cognitive behavioral therapy, may help treat BDD and cosmetic surgery addiction.