Why Psychological Evaluations are Necessary for Cosmetic Surgery

How Psychological Evaluations Work

So, how exactly do surgeons and mental health professionals evaluate patients for plastic surgery? What do they look for? And how do they know whether plastic surgery is right or wrong for a particular patient or condition?

In any social meeting, first impressions are extremely important; the same is true in meeting with a plastic surgeon. Surgeons are encouraged to look for signs in demeanor, dress, and speech. For example, a cosmetic practitioner will look for the way a patient carries themselves. Are they confident with only reasonable levels of nervousness about the procedure? Do they seem anxious? Are they making eye contact when talking, or looking around the room or at the ground? Are they easily excitable or overly shy? How are they dressed? Are they dressed in an extremely revealing manner, or overly conservative (Sclafini, 2010). Each of these things can give the doctor a good view of who this person is, and whether they may have underlying social and psychological issues that they may be seeking to fix through plastic surgery.

While it is impossible for a plastic surgeon to properly diagnose an individual with a psychological issue, the previously mentioned cues can clue them in to whether a deeper evaluation is needed. For example, body dimorphic disorder is a serious concern for responsible cosmetic surgeons. Individuals with this disorder find fault with their bodies in many ways, even when there is nothing wrong. Individuals like this have a preoccupation with body image, and are at risk for cosmetic surgery addiction as they are always seeking to improve upon their body image in hopes to finally satisfy their expectations. As previously mentioned, there are very few instances in which this need will ever actually be met, as plastic surgery cannot solve psychological issues. It would seem entirely unethical to perform the surgery on an individual like this since the expectations associated with the surgery are unrealistic and unattainable. The truth is, bodies are flawed. We can have procedures done to improve them, but those seeking cosmetic procedures also have to understand that no one is ever perfect, and surgery cannot make them attain perfection. This is especially true in those with mental illnesses that prevent them from ever being satisfied with their body image, or those that refuse to address deeper psychological anxieties, depression, etc.

Another area of concern comes in with gender differences in cosmetic surgery procedures and expectations. In contrast to popular belief, males tend to present more risk than females when performing plastic surgery. Sclafini (2010) notes that men are generally less specific about what they are looking for when discussing a cosmetic procedure, and they are more likely to want to undergo plastic surgery because of psychological issues. While males do tend to seek cosmetic procedures less often, it is important to properly conduct evaluations when dealing with men in order to avoid a barrage of problems.

Whether male or female, proper motivation for the procedure is essential. WebMD and the Cleveland Clinic (2011) noted that good reasons for plastic surgery include: doing it for yourself, not others in your life; the desire to feel younger due to discord with the way one feels and the way one looks; and dissatisfaction with aging (although with the realization that aging is natural). Furthermore, the same source advises that individuals consider the surgery for a decent amount of time, noting that most successful cosmetic surgery patients have considered having the procedure done for "5 years of more" (WebMD & Cleveland Clinic, 2011).

Poor reasons for surgery are doing it for another person, doing it in order to make oneself feel better after a break-up or death, and doing it in order to boost one's professional or career outlook (Sclafini, 2010). Even patients who seek plastic surgery to correct scars, burns, or other accident injuries have to pass these evaluations showing that they understand what sort of realistic results they can expect. For example, an individual with PTSD will not be able to correct their psychological trauma by eliminating the scar; however, with realistic expectations and proper psychiatric treatment, these individuals may be prime candidates for positive cosmetic surgery.


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