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Tuesday, May 28, 2024
The independent student publication of The University at Buffalo, since 1950

Superficially Speaking

Jennifer Harb

More than 13 million cosmetic plastic surgeries were performed in the U.S. in 2010, which is a 5 percent jump from 2009, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS).

It's shocking to think that 13 million surgeries were performed in a country on individuals who, very likely, had them done for aesthetic reasons. Nonsurgical methods of appearance-improvement grew, too – even more so than surgical methods – with injectables up 12 percent and fillers up 14 percent from last year, according to the ASPS.

Personally, I think it's deplorable that our society has fallen to such standards. If there is no medical need for body alteration via plastic surgery, it shouldn't be performed. This would include rhinoplasties performed for no medical need; plumping, thinning, or adjusting of any body part that was previously not grossly asymmetrical or altered due to a medical condition; and most liposuctions; among many other procedures.

The obvious argument against this would be that many feel better or experience higher levels of self-esteem following these surgeries. However, does this argument really hold water? Too often, individuals blame their problems on various perceived flaws – if only I were thinner, had fuller lips, a straighter nose or fewer wrinkles, I would have been able to keep my job. I would have the confidence to approach situations differently. I wouldn't be afraid to try something new.

If people are expecting cosmetic plastic surgery to solve intrapersonal and interpersonal problems, perhaps they should look elsewhere. A study published in the April 2004 issue of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery found that patients who hold unrealistic expectations or have histories of depression and anxiety are more likely to experience a poor outcome.

The study found that individuals suffering from a poor outcome are associated with a number of additional social issues, such as depression and adjustment problems, social isolation, family problems, self-destructive behaviors and anger toward the surgeon and his or her staff, which are summarized in an article entitled "Plastic Surgery – Beauty or Beast?" by the American Psychological Association.

Regardless of whether or not the person was experiencing these problems prior to the surgery, the results support the idea that surgery did not solve the pre-existing problems and may have even created them.

Additionally, several studies show that 7 to 12 percent of plastic surgery patients have some form of Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD). Furthermore, most BDD patients who undergo cosmetic surgery do not experience a reduction of BDD symptoms and actually request for additional procedures, sometimes on the same body part.

Obviously, not all men and women that undergo cosmetic plastic surgery are attempting to find an answer to their problems or looking for that boost in self-esteem. However, when individuals request plastic surgeries for purely aesthetic and seemingly unnecessary reasons, perhaps it would be beneficial to ask whether or not he or she is trying to fix something more than his or her wrinkles or nose.

Email: jennifer.harb@ubspectrum.com


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