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The vast majority of people choose to have plastic surgery in a bid to feel better about their appearance. However, undergoing a procedure - and the long recovery time after the surgery has been carried out - should not be taken lightly. While the positive side of cosmetic surgery is featured regularly on before and after pictures and through advertising put out by clinics, the risks to a person’s mental health are rarely discussed.

What’s more, the increasing prevalence of non-surgical cosmetic procedures - such as botox and dermal fillers - has had a significant impact on attitudes to such beauty treatments, making them more accessible and increasing the chances of sub-standard procedures.

All too often, prospective plastic surgery patients fail to consider the emotional aspects of cosmetic surgery. People with pre-existing mental health or self-esteem problems are particularly vulnerable to the lasting impact of problems associated with cosmetic surgery.

We investigate this important issue below.

Do mental health issues worsen after surgery?

When someone does not like a specific aspect of their appearance, it can influence how they feel about themselves in general. Therefore, many people choose to take proactive steps to change their appearance in order to enjoy the emotional benefits that come along with it. However, is this always the case?

Research published in Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery found that in some circumstances, the psychological and psychosocial outcomes of plastic surgery were not positive. While most people in the study reported improvements to their mental wellbeing following surgery, certain groups did not - even when the surgery presented their desired results.

Specifically, individuals who had unrealistic expectations about the outcome of their surgery, had previously undergone unsatisfactory plastic surgeries, and those with a history of some mental disorders - including body dysmorphic disorder - did not enjoy the same psychological benefits that others did.

Many people who suffer with body dysmorphic disorder make attempts to alter the physical attributes they are insecure about with frequent and repetitive cosmetic surgery. However, fewer than 10% of body dysmorphic disorder patients will be satisfied with the results of the surgery, with their anxieties often transferring to another aspect of their appearance. Researchers believe that around 15% of people seeking plastic surgery have body dysmorphic disorder.

A separate study carried out by researchers in Norway - which periodically surveyed a group of female students over several years - revealed that women with psychological problems were more likely to opt for surgery. The female participants who had cosmetic surgery were more likely to have a history of poorer mental health - including depression and anxiety.

Safeguarding mental health

With the increasing popularity and accessibility of non-surgical procedures, which are particularly difficult to regulate, many campaigners have called for more to be done to safeguard people’s mental health when it comes to those procedures available on the high street.

Earlier this year, Superdrug announced it would introduce new mental health checks for customers who want to undergo cosmetic procedures, amid calls to do more to protect impressionable people against body image pressures. The demands came after NHS medical director Professor Stephen Powis wrote to Superdrug to raise concerns over the company’s decision to offer Botox and fillers in its high street stores.

While the move from Superdrug is certainly a step in the right direction, there is still a long way to go before mental health is considered of equal importance to physical health when it comes to cosmetic procedures.

All beauty treatments and surgery come with their own set of risks, and many people look to a cosmetic procedure to solve other problems they are having in their lives. However, if you are disappointed with the outcome of your surgery, this can also have a significant impact on your emotional wellbeing.

It is dangerous to assume that a cosmetic procedure will make everything better in your life, and the emotional side effects can be long-lasting. This is why it is vital that people considering undergoing cosmetic surgery carefully consider the consequences.

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