How to identify plastic surgery addiction?

At what point should someone be worried that they are addicted to changing their looks with surgery?

Doctor Answers 3

It's not an addiction until someone gets hurt. But...

{{ voteCount >= 0 ? '+' + (voteCount + 1) : (voteCount + 1) }}

It’s not an addiction until someone gets hurt. But seriously, addiction can be thought of by both its physical and social consequences. Excessive cosmetic surgery can have both. Social consequences include financial consequences such as spending rent, grocery or tuition money on cosmetic surgery or services, alienation of loved ones, and loss of a job. These are serious and significant signs of psychological trouble. Intervention by a mental health professional may be needed. As far as I know, there are no 12-step programs for cosmetic surgery junkies yet, but there are mental health professionals who specialize in treating addictive behaviors and represent an important resource. Like many addictions, affected individuals can only seek help once they have hit bottom and are forced to admit they have a problem. At this point, the face and body may have sustained irreparable surgical trauma and harm.

There are specific psychological disturbances that cause people to seek cosmetic surgery. The best recognized is a condition known as Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD). This condition was only formally recognized by the American Psychiatric Association in 1987. It is characterized by a preoccupation with minor or imagined flaws in appearance that causes severe distress. Individuals report that they avoid social circumstances because they are convinced that people are staring or talking about the perceived flaw. Individuals spend many hours a day thinking about the issue. They may excessively rub the area. These individuals often have multiple surgeries to address the problem with little satisfaction. The condition is associated with very high suicide rates. There appears to be an overlap with BDD and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. Cognitive behavioral therapy and treatment with serotonin reuptake inhibitors used to treat depression can be effective in this condition. Often the multiple surgeries can result in complications and fixing these problems superimposed on the BDD is especially difficult.

Clinical depression is seen in up to 20% of all patients seeking medical help. However, the proportion among individuals seeking cosmetic surgery may be even higher. Cosmetic surgery is not a treatment for depression. Having a cosmetic surgery will not fix how you feel after the loss of a job or a significant relationship. One does not have to be suicidal to be depressed. Feeling sad, worthless, lacking the energy to do the things you once enjoyed, disturbance in sleep, loss of appetite can all be signs of depression. Talk with a mental health professional or your primary care physician. Many clergy have training in counseling and can be a resource for help. Generally, treatment with the right antidepressant is needed. If you have a history of depression, recognize that recovering from surgery can be stressful and bring out feelings of depression. Cosmetic surgery can be a wonderful thing when done responsibly and for the right reasons.

Beverly Hills Oculoplastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 26 reviews

It is important for anyone who believes that they are...

{{ voteCount >= 0 ? '+' + (voteCount + 1) : (voteCount + 1) }}
  • It is important for anyone who believes that they are addicted to plastic surgery to seek an evaluation by a psychotherapist specializing in Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD). These professionals can help you work through your motivations for repeated cosmetic surgery.
  • A qualified facial plastic surgery Board Certified by the American Board of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery ( can also help you identify if you have realistic goals for your appearance and if your expectations are unrealistic.

Andrew Jacono, MD
Manhattan Facial Plastic Surgeon
4.7 out of 5 stars 215 reviews

Addicted to Plastic Surgery?

{{ voteCount >= 0 ? '+' + (voteCount + 1) : (voteCount + 1) }}

As other posters have noted, the concept of Body Dysmorphic Disorder has come to the forefront in recent years.  This is a real condition that I have seen anecdotally and which is widely recognized in the cosmetic surgical literature.  Obviously, this condition is far better treated with therapy than potentially made worse with surgery.  I would definitely recommend an evaluation by a Psychologist or Psychiatrist for further guidance on this issue.

Stephen Prendiville, MD
Fort Myers Facial Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 104 reviews

You might also like...

These answers are for educational purposes and should not be relied upon as a substitute for medical advice you may receive from your physician. If you have a medical emergency, please call 911. These answers do not constitute or initiate a patient/doctor relationship.