Cosmetic procedures are on the rise, but will improving the outside make you feel better on the inside?

It seems everywhere we look there is a new one-stop clinic offering a solution for ageing, fat deposits, uneven skin tone, wrinkles, sun damage and more. Rates of cosmetic procedures from lunchtime fixes to more extensive surgery have risen significantly over the past decade in the UK, US and Australia and we seem to be increasingly pressured to fulfil an ideal. Instead of allowing ourselves to gracefully step into the ageing process, we are encouraged to make comparisons to others and to feel that ‘good enough’ is now ‘not enough’.

Appearance versus our well-being

We are often sold the idea that improving our appearance will not only make us feel good about ourselves, but our relationships, work and friendships will also significantly improve.

While some people do experience an improvement in self-esteem, some studies have shown that most will return to their previous level of dissatisfaction or those who have undergone more extensive procedures are more likely to have a poor adjustment.

Body Dysmorphic Disorder or BDD

With the increase in cosmetic procedures, individuals with a long history of low self esteem who are more susceptible may become anxious or depressed. A particular sub-group is those who suffer from Body Dysmorphic Disorder or BDD.

Sufferers are preoccupied by a perceived flaw which distresses them, stops them from functioning as normal and they find themselves constantly seeking reassurance. Sometimes, they believe it is so noticeable that they either avoid going out into public or conceal themselves. To you and me, the defect may be non-existent or only slight but despite reassurance they do not feel convinced. Often they seek cosmetic procedures and then need psychological assistance when the outcome was not as they desired.

Making the right choice

So, how do you know if you are making the right choice? Consider this:
• What are the risks associated with the procedure — is it invasive or relatively non-invasive?
• Do you suffer from anxiety, depression or long standing self-esteem issues that you may need to seek assistance with first?
• Are you frequently reassured by other people that your perceived defect is non-existent or minor but you are preoccupied with it and you don’t want to be seen?

If you answered yes to some or all of these questions, then this may be an indicator of BDD and it would be beneficial to speak to a psychologist before undergoing any procedures.

As Brene Brown, a famous American scholar in social work aptly said … “imperfections are not inadequacies, they are reminders that we’re all in this together”.

If you would like to know more, you can contact Kathryn Smith at Psychology Consultants.