Plastic surgery is all over the media these days, touted by top stars as their means of attaining physical "perfection". It has become accepted and indeed commonplace in today's society, especially with the advent on non-invasive procedures such as Botox. In fact, in 2007 the American Society of Aesthic Surgery reported that almost 13.2 billion dollars was spent on plastic surgery, a 17% increase over the previous year. The total number of people undergoing cosmetic procedures has skyrocketed by 457% and growing since the statistics began to be recorded, and nearly 11.7 million surgical and non surgical procedures were performed in the year 2007. Statistics are unavailable for the year 2010, but the media coverage and public awareness keep growing at astronomical rates. Plastic surgery can be extremely addictive; people get hooked on the rush or high of being "beautiful" or being just like popular celebrities, often at their own detriment. But how and why does this happen?
Cosmetic surgery addiction can be caused by a condition called body dysmorphic disorder, wherein an individual is preoccupied with a slight or imagined "abnormality' in their appearance, which a person without the disorder might interpret as a quirk, individualistic, or perfectly acceptable. This obsession often causes significant social or occupational impairment, as well as emotional problems. People with body dysmorphic disorder will often seek plastic surgery in order to alleviate their distress, but since they have a mental disorder and not a physical one, they will always find something new that is perceived to be "wrong" with them. Body dysmorphic disorder cannot be alleviated by plastic surgery, and can only be addressed by mentally coming to terms with reality.
Social factors also play a large role in plastic surgery addiction. There are several reality television shows that document the process of plastic surgery, generally in a positive light, and whenever a new star gets plastic surgery one can be sure that all the celebrity rags will toot their horns about it. We have a cult of celebrity here in America; so many people are obsessed or at least highly interested in the doings and superficial feelings of a tiny minority of people who are only famous because they are famous. And, for example, when someone such as Heidi Montag, who was already popular and deemed attractive, gets ten cosmetic operations, how must the average girl, who may be beautiful in her own way (probably more attractive than Heidi, truth be told), feel? Many girls already have image problems due to the media, so when they hear that famous, beautiful women are not, in fact, beautiful enough, they are hearing an extremely negative message about their self image. This may lead women to chase a dream of airbrushed beauty which is impossible, and thus turn to plastic surgery when the real solution is acceptance of self.
At the root of it all, it is possible to explain addiction to plastic surgery through semiology, which is the study of signs and symbols. A sign is theoretically composed of two elements - the signifier, which is the actual object, thing, or person, and the signified, which is what that object, thing, or person means to others e.g. the image as opposed to reality. For example what is signified by plastic surgery is wealth, beauty, class, and the condition of being famous. But the signifier of plastic surgery, or what it actually is, is people with poor self image seeking to gain acceptance in a society where they do not feel that they can be themselves or be liked by others unless they change. And this general problem endemic in our society today - that the image is more important than the thing which projects the image - has been well documented by famous semiologists like Umberto Eco and Jean Broulliard. If people really saw plastic surgery and the addiction to it for what it was, which is people with body dysmorphia, poor self image and the like taking the chance of mutilation in order to chase the dream of imaginary perfection, the numbers of people taking that chance would not have gone up drastically every year.
The only real cure for plastic surgery addiction
is for people to realize that it is not the nose but the look in the eyes, not the appearance but the accomplishments, not the fake but the real that actually makes us all who we are. If you or someone you know has an addiction problem please call (866) 206-8656 for immediate assistance in finding a Los Angeles Treatment Center