Cosmetic Readiness Assessments
So, you’ve decided that you would like to have cosmetic/plastic surgery done. Maybe you don’t like the shape of your nose or perhaps you would like fuller lips or finer cheekbones. But are you actually ready? “What do I mean?” you might be asking. Well, remember that any plastic surgery is lifelong and cannot be undone very easily or quickly. Plastic surgery may also come with many emotional and self-image concerns as well as potentially greater cultural concerns that need to be taken into consideration.
What do I mean “Are you ready?”
The psychological, emotional and self-image concerns related to cosmetic surgery can be broad and more deeply etched into our sense of self than we might be aware of. If these concerns are potentially problematic, cosmetic surgery is not the answer and will only provide short term relief. Thus, it is important to undergo a full psychological evaluation prior to cosmetic surgery. In addition, plastic surgeons now require clients to be psychologically screened prior to plastic surgery, due to possible underlying mental health conditions.
A psychological assessment will assess your emotional and mental health to determine if you qualify for cosmetic surgery or not. You may have an underlying psychiatric condition that would need treatment prior to cosmetic surgery. But what may be the underlying psychological condition? One of the most important conditions to screen for is body dysmorphic disorder (BDD).
Body Dysmorphic Disorder
What is body dysmorphic disorder?
This is a mental health disorder where the individual intensely focuses on any perceived defects or flaws in their appearance. The individual may intensely focus on their body and body image by repeatedly checking the mirror for flaws, grooming, or seeking reassurance from others for many hours a day (Mayo Clinic, 2023). Furthermore, their perceived flaw can cause significant distress and may even impair their functioning on a day-to-day basis. Individuals that struggle with body dysmorphic disorder may seek out cosmetic surgery to assist them – however this will only provide temporary relief, often resulting in seeking out more and more surgery as their anxiety around their perceived flaw(s) returns.
The most common body parts that individuals fixate over include nose, jaw and cheeks, face complexion (tone and acne), breasts and other genitalia, veins as well as muscle size and tone.
Unfortunately, people tend to feel ashamed or embarrassed about their feelings towards their body and rarely seek help. It is also common to have suicidal thoughts or feelings associated with these thoughts and thus important to seek professional help.
Symptoms of BDD
The DSM 5 lists the following symptoms of Body Dysmorphic Disorder:
- Being preoccupied with a perceived flaw that is minor or others cannot see,
- A strong belief that this flaw makes you ugly or even deformed,
- A belief that others take special notice of your appearance in a very negative way and even mock you,
- Frequently engaging in behaviours that are aimed at fixing or hiding the perceived flaw that are difficult to resist, such as continuously looking in the mirror,
- Attempts to hide the flaw with makeup, clothing, or special accessories,
- Constantly comparing your appearance to others and seeking reassurance from others about your appearance,
- Perfectionistic tendencies,
- Seeking out cosmetic procedures with little to no satisfaction,
- Avoidance of social situations.
If you identify with any of the above-mentioned symptoms, please don’t self-diagnose, but rather make an appointment with a health care professional.
What causes Body Dysmorphic Disorder?
Once again there is the whole nature vs nurture debate. There is very little literature on the causes of BDD, but we do know that individuals that have another family member with BDD are at an increased risk of developing it.
Other mental health concerns with regards to body dysmorphic disorder and cosmetic surgery:
It is also important to note that there are other disorders that may overlap with body dysmorphic disorder, and it can be misdiagnosed as these. These include obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), eating disorders, schizophrenia, and other psychotic disorders.
Dr Pauline Baleta offers cosmetic readiness assessments to screen for any psychological difficulties and can provide a report for your surgeon.
This assessment entails:
- A full psychiatric evaluation and background history, which is an initial 2-hour session
- The administration of a few evidence-based questionnaires
- A report for your plastic surgeon and a feedback session
Treatment of BDD
Treatment is possible and would entail the use of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and possibly medication (if indicated).
Dr Pauline Baleta can assist you if you or a loved one are considering a psychological assessment for cosmetic purposes. She can provide you with a thorough assessment to assist you with your decision.
Author: Dr Pauline Baleta, MA Psychology (UJ) Cum Laude, PhD Psychology (UP)
Dr Pauline Baleta is from South Africa where she was a fully registered senior clinical psychologist for the past 15 years.
To make an appointment with Dr Pauline Baleta try Online Booking. Alternatively, you can call Vision Psychology Wishart on (07) 3088 5422 .
American Psychiatric Association, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual 5th Ed.
Mayo Clinic (2023), Body Dysmorphic Disorder obtained from the World Wide Web: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/body-dysmorphic-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20353938