Emotions And Cosmetic Surgery
According to the American Society of Plastic Surgery, 1.6 million cosmetic procedures were performed in 2012. Plastic surgery, or cosmetic procedures in general, can bring many positive psychological benefits to patients who are looking to improve their self-image or restore certain features to a more aesthetically pleasing state.
A range of emotions are experienced from the moment of desire to final results and beyond. We see many faces at Scott Thompson Facial Plastic Surgery here in Utah and take genuine concern in how they are doing, not just physically, but emotionally throughout the entire process. Inquiring patients are often asking questions about experiences of previous patients which we love to share and have many patients willing to talk personally with anyone. There is a lot of information online about any given procedure with videos to watch but not much on the emotional process that comes with them. So, as a long-time employee, I thought it would be helpful to focus this post on the emotional process involved so you can accurately prepare for your procedure or decide if cosmetic surgery is right for you.
When coming in for their initial consultation, patients often express feelings of insecurity and embarrassment about a certain aspect of their facial appearance. Some feel unhappy about how they are viewed by others and are misinterpreted as being angry and/or tired due to their aging appearance though they may feel just fine on the inside. Younger patients express feelings of worry for their future facial aging after seeing how their parents and grandparents have aged and look for more preventative procedures such as botox and fillers. Children experiencing bullying and teasing for protruding ears reports strong feelings of sadness. A large or disproportionate nose can leave anyone of any age feeling insecure and many of those patients talk about the anxiety they feel about pictures – especially with the popularity of social media – and will only present themselves at certain angles. Essentially, nobody wants to feel that a certain physical feature distracts from who they are on the inside and just want to convey their true and best self to the world!
When patients come in to visit with Dr. Thompson he asks what their concerns are and what they hope to achieve. He makes sure they are there because they want to be and not because someone else is pressuring them. He is very honest in discussing realistic expectations and making sure patients are not looking for a result that is unnatural or will look overdone, which is actually what most patients are worried about. No one wants to look like Joan Rivers! Dr. Thompson is known for natural results so we are easily able to put that concern to rest.
Patients often report feelings of trust in Dr. Thompson and feel his genuine concern for their outcome after meeting with him and choosing him as their surgeon. This is important to have confidence in not only the training and credentials of your plastic surgeon but in your connection with him or her as well!
Everyone feels a mix of excitement and nervousness prior to their procedure. One feeling may be stronger than the other at any given time! Patients who have done their research, have realistic expectations, and have made arrangements for time off (if needed) typically do better. Many report the appreciation they felt from all the information provided and preparation process in general. Jessica, Dr. Thompson’s Patient Care Coordinator, is noted for the great comfort she provides with her knowledge and concern. She works hard to make the process as smooth as possible and is always willing to answer questions.
The full emotional process does vary depending on the procedure and person. Minor procedures that involve minimal to no down-time generally come with positive emotions with little variation. Emotions with larger operative surgeries seem to evolve over time that I’ll describe in phases. During the first phase directly following the procedure, emotions tend to be lower and somewhat up and down. Some patients are coming out of anesthesia and/or are on pain medication that leaves them tired and even emotional (yes…we’ve all seen those funny videos of people coming out of anesthesia!). Any bruising and swelling that occurs will peak around 48 hours so this time period is generally most uncomfortable. We provide a lot of information on ways to help but your body is still undergoing some amount of trauma that it is reacting to. Facelift patients generally experience tightness in the face that provokes some anxiety when looking in the mirror but that does loosen up over the days following. During the second phase, energy levels are up but there may be feelings of restlessness in wanting the recovery to be over. The third phase, which is typically 4-10 days following a procedure, is when a patient is feeling back to normal and ready to show off their results. The last phase is when everything has settled, patients are back to their normal routines now experiencing greater self-confidence and satisfaction in their appearance. This is due to how they now see themselves when they look in the mirror as well as from the reactions and comments they may receive from others.
Psychologist Dr. Jurgen Margraf of Ruhr University in Germany, along with colleagues from Switzerland, conducted the largest independent study to date on the emotional and psychological effects of plastic surgery. They noted improved mental health, positive attitude, self-confidence, and feelings of attractiveness in those that had undergone plastic surgery versus those with similar concerns who had not.
Actual Patient Experiences:
We had one patient come in after noticing that a woman in her book club not only looked better physically but carried herself differently. She was more charismatic, self-confident and outgoing amongst her peers. It was noticeable enough that this patient asked her about it and learned she had recently had a facelift from Dr. Thompson.
Other patients have cried over the sense of rejuvenation for life that they feel with their improved appearance and do things such as running for committees and taking on new roles that they didn’t feel confident in pursuing prior to their procedure. Many mention a greater emphasis they now put on their health and general well-being. And a great majority feel a sense of relief that they still look like themselves … just better!