The Effects of Cosmetic Surgery on Depression: Pros & Cons
Article by Kevin Sadati, DO
Orange County Facial Plastic Surgeon
Depression affects millions of Americans every year and can take many forms. Some just seem to feel a little down in some circumstances while others sink deep into a clinical depression that requires medical treatment. There are different types of causes and each patient is different in intensity and response to prescribed programs. While triggers for depression are wide and variegated, studies have been conducted that illustrate the correlation between depression and plastic surgery procedures.
The Positive Side: Plastic surgery is constantly touting the benefits of self-esteem. The various procedures available are customized to each patient and are designed to enhance self-esteem by correcting defects in personal appearance. Logically, enhancing self-esteem should mitigate depressive tendencies. But what does the data show? A study released by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons in 2006 demonstrated a high correlation between plastic surgery procedures and decreased usage of prescription anti-depressants. In the study, of those patients electing for plastic surgery who were taking antidepressant medication; 31% had stopped six months after the procedure. The study’s author, Dr. Bruce Freedman was quick to point out that correlation is not causation; but did assert that plastic surgery may play an important role in mitigating depression in some patients.
The Negative Side: With all the talk of plastic surgery improving one’s appearance, depression should be last on the list of concerns in recovery. Post operative depression is fairly common and can be attributed to temporary factors inherent to recovery. The after effects of general anesthesia are some causes identified with post-op depression. The medicine they administer to put you under can remain in your body for weeks, making you feel groggy and lethargic. Physical restrictions including bed-rest can also have a detrimental effect on a patient’s mental health. Lying around all day can take a lot out a person! Physical trauma can be a major reason for post-op depression as well. Despite pain medication, constant throbbing, itching, and discomfort will try anyone’s nerves leading feelings of helplessness and irritability.
The Bottom Line: Studies have shown that plastic surgery greatly enhances self-esteem (98% by some findings) and also can contribute to a decrease on dependence of anti-depressants. It is worth noting however that the upsides of plastic surgery are fairly permanent whereas the downsides of post-op depression are temporary and can be managed with a good support network and a smile!