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Is Cosmetic Surgery Addictive?

As cosmetic surgery has become more accessible in recent years and grown in popularity due to social media, concerns about whether or not it can be addictive have also arisen. With many people wanting additional surgeries and often finding themselves underwhelmed with the results of their first procedures, one could make a case that body dysmorphia is fuelling this dependence on plastic surgery. There is no denying that cosmetic surgery addiction is becoming an increasingly relevant issue that requires further research and discussion.

Examining the underlying reasons for cosmetic surgery's ever-growing popularity, we look at how these factors may affect people of all ages and walks of life both mentally and physically, and consider the question of whether people can become addicted to surgery or non-surgical cosmetic procedures.

How can people become addicted to cosmetic surgery?

There is significant debate within the medical community as to whether people can become addicted to cosmetic surgery. However, it is thought that there are two primary factors encouraging people to choose it that have contributed to its rise in popularity.

These factors are:

  • Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD)
  • Social media

Body dysmorphic disorder

People can struggle with body dysmorphia, a mental health disorder. This leads them to wish for and seek out ever-increasing treatments that promise to remove any perceived imperfections they have. Unfortunately, this quest for improved aesthetics can morph into an addiction - both to the pursuit of cosmetic surgery, and to the pathological fixation that people with BDD have on the physical features they deem undesirable about themselves. As a result, even slight physical imperfections become magnified and amplify feelings of unhappiness that people with BDD have about their physical appearance.

Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) can vary from minor to more serious cases, and the outcomes may be devastating. BDD can lead to an addiction to cosmetic surgery, in which people make permanent modifications to their body and spend large sums of money that they later regret. In the most serious cases, undergoing too many cosmetic procedures can even cause health problems.

People suffering from BDD often become consumed by obsession over minute details of their body. These obsessions are subconsciously manifested and often arise when people with BDD compare their physical features to those of celebrities and internet personalities. In many cases, these perceived flaws are not visible to others. Despite potential medical complications as a result, people seek out cosmetic procedures in an attempt to correct these "flaws". Social media can heavily impact people with BDD, influencing them to believe they need cosmetic procedures to alter their appearance. 

After undergoing surgery, some individuals are not satisfied with their results and continue to seek even more extreme procedures in a desperate attempt to achieve what they believe is an ideal look. Consequently, many find themselves becoming dependent on pursuing these surgical means as they struggle to 'perfect' their bodies - something that can lead them further into insecurity due to the altering of their natural features. These changes can often be so drastic that people become difficult to recognise compared to how they looked before.

The influence of social media

Social media has a massive impact on our lives, including the way we perceive attractiveness. In the UK, cosmetic surgery ads are prohibited for those under 18 years old; however, influencers who have surgically enhanced their bodies can still be seen and easily glamorised by young, impressionable individuals. This may leave them with an idea that they must opt for cosmetic procedures in order to appear attractive and conform to a fashionable aesthetic.

Social media has created an artificial beauty standard that is impossible to achieve, leading many to feel inferior and develop body dysmorphia. To meet the desired looks, people are turning to cosmetic surgeries. This demand for plastic surgery is largely due to the unrealistic depictions of beauty presented on social networks; people expect more than ever before from their physical appearance. The reality behind these images is often photo editing techniques known as 'airbrushing', which change a person's physical attributes, or dieting and surgery that can have unhealthy consequences.

In some cases, models and influencers are held to standards that can be difficult to attain, leading them to suffer from physical and mental health issues. The media we consume online rarely depicts unhealthy dieting or shows vulnerable consumers what goes into achieving the 'ideal' body. 

For these reasons, it is clear that social media plays a significant role in enticing people into getting cosmetic surgery. A single procedure is rarely enough to attain the physical attributes of professional models and influencers who may undergo much more than cosmetic surgery, and this can lead people to desire more and more procedures over time.

How to manage a cosmetic surgery addiction

While cosmetic surgery carries many adverse effects, there are proactive ways to break the addiction cycle and alleviate the feeling of being trapped. Addiction to cosmetic surgery can be a serious issue with severe consequences. 

For those grappling with a potential addiction to cosmetic surgery, there are paths to take towards improving psychological and physical well-being. Bear in mind that every person is different, therefore, these tactics may not be as effective for some people compared to others.

Cognitive behavioural therapy can be incredibly useful in helping people who are addicted to cosmetic surgery. It allows them to target the root cause of their need for surgical procedures, such as desiring a certain physical appearance or feeling inadequate about themselves. By doing so, they have a better chance at overcoming their condition and finding more balanced coping strategies that do not involve going under the knife.

If you are trying to overcome a dependence on elective cosmetic procedures, consider reaching out for support within your community. There are many organisations available that specialise in helping people address their addiction and recover from it. 

Additionally, professional counselling can be an effective way of finding healthy coping strategies which will help address any underlying emotions or situations contributing to the addiction.

Contact us

If you have experienced negligent treatment from a cosmetic surgeon, or the results of your surgery are not as you expected, you may be entitled to compensation. Call us on 0808 271 9083 or fill out our online contact form to receive a call back at a time convenient to you to discuss your problem with a member of our expert team.





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Mike Saul


Michael Saul is a partner at Cosmetic Surgery Solicitors, where he brings his extensive specialist legal expertise and passion for helping people to the forefront of his work. With a proven track record of success in cosmetic surgery negligence cases, Michael has dedicated his career to providing clients with the highest level of representation and achieving favourable outcomes.

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