A common and persistent misconception about cosmetic surgery is that people do it because they’re concerned about what others think of them. I think — and I bet other plastic surgeons in the Long Island area would agree — that most patients care more about what they think of themselves.
I see that in my own practice on a daily basis, and research over the years has supported my personal observations. A recent study, in fact, gauged the psychological impact on adolescent girls who had asymmetrical breasts. The researchers concluded that the study participants suffered emotionally and socially because of the physical condition and would benefit from plastic surgery.
Unfortunately, as the study points out, correcting asymmetrical breasts is usually considered a cosmetic procedure, meaning the surgical costs are often not covered by health insurance policies. Compare that to breast reconstruction, which is often performed to relieve back and neck pain and is almost always paid for by health insurance. Even though that’s an important benefit, I’d argue that helping patients develop better confidence and self-esteem is an important, if invisible, benefit of cosmetic surgery.
The positive impacts are present for an array of procedures, but they are especially clear for breast augmentation and reduction, in addition to body contouring procedures. That’s not to say cosmetic surgery will necessarily help people suffering from emotional disorders such as depression and anxiety that are unrelated to their appearance, but patients who are self-conscious about their bodies often report higher confidence levels after plastic surgery.
Another study, published in the journal Clinical Psychological Science, found that “among those dissatisfied with a particular physical feature and considering aesthetic surgery, undergoing surgery appears to result in positive self-reported psychological changes.”
As I tell my patients during consultations, think hard about why you want to undergo cosmetic surgery. If it’s because someone else wants them to, they probably won’t be satisfied. But those who are doing it for themselves usually experience a genuine personal, as well as cosmetic, transformation.