The Emotional Side of Plastic Surgery

By Dr. Glenn Davis

Having a physical trait that makes you feel self-conscious can be very detrimental to your self-esteem, and plastic surgery can offer a way to correct these concerns and contribute to a better body image. Yet, even if you desperately want to feel better about your appearance, you should realize that the changes won't just be physical and will have emotional implications as well. Here's a look into some of the psychological effects that often accompany plastic surgery and how you can prepare yourself for them.

Social Media and Self-Image

A decade or two ago, no one worried about having high-def photos of themselves posted online for the entire world to see. In fact, any photo used to be something you were groomed, posed and prepared for. Today, the ubiquitous nature of social media means everyone has their lives constantly documented with candid photographs that aren't always the most flattering. Thanks to smart phones, almost everyone has a camera on them at all times, as well as the ability to instantly publish photos to their 500 closest friends and family members...with or without your permission.

Many are concerned that this constant flow of photos to the huge audiences of the virtual world is leading to a systematic decline in self-confidence and an unhealthy obsession with appearances. As a result, most would agree this fascination over profile pics and taking good “selfies” is leading to more cosmetic procedures than occurred in pre-Facebook days.

Cosmetic Surgery for the Right Reasons

Although cosmetic procedures can undoubtedly improve your appearance, you shouldn't have unrealistic expectations about how your surgery can improve your life. Altering your body as an attempt to advance your career, have more friends or fix a broken relationship is setting yourself up for disappointment when your new surgery isn't able to deliver.

As long as your motivations are healthy and you simply want to improve a physical aspect of your body and have realistic expectations about your results, you're more likely to be satisfied with the outcome than if you expect miracles as a result of your new appearance.

How to Prepare for Your Procedure

Once you're certain you are having plastic surgery for the right reasons, there are a few things you can do to prepare yourself mentally and emotionally for what will happen after your procedure:

  1. Be Aware of the Effects of Anesthesia. Traces of anesthesia can remain in your body tissues for several weeks after surgery. Being aware that the residual effects of the medicine can cause lethargy and sometimes depression can help you recognize the source of some of your emotional and physical reactions.

  2. Understand Your Pain Medications. The use of prescription pain killers may be necessary after surgery to ensure your comfort. These drugs are very helpful but are also considered “downers,” meaning they slow you down and, in some cases, cause feelings of depression. Pay attention to how your medications make you feel and communicate with your doctor about how they're affecting you.

  3. Be Patient. You'll likely be anxious to see your new and improved self after surgery, but peeking too soon or being impatient can leave you frustrated and upset. Try to relax and realize that your body needs time to heal and recover before your final results will be visible. Allow your body plenty of time to recuperate and keep the end result in mind as a motivation to be patient.

Healing after cosmetic surgery involves the emotional just as much as the physical, so it’s important to prepare equally for both.