Posted by Nelly Palmer, The Success Coach, shutterstock_28485109Plastic surgery that drastically changes a person’s appearance can have detrimental effects on their sense of identity.

According to U.S. psychologists, people tend to overlook the attachment they have to their facial characteristics.

Psychologist and author Dr Vivian Diller told BuzzFeed, after a major appearance-changing surgery patients often realise ‘that imperfection is actually part of their identity.’

For example, a slightly off nose or the size of their eyes, might be part of how someone defines themselves, without actually realising it.

When those unique characteristics are gone, a person’s self-definition can suffer.
Dr Diller said patients can feel disconnected from their new faces – faces that no longer feel like theirs.
‘That image that people see in the mirror and take for granted,’ she explained, ‘actually runs deeper.’

Dr. Z. Paul Lorenc, author of A Little Work: Behind the Doors of a Park Avenue Plastic Surgeon, said only a small number of patients stipulate that they want their eyes or smile to look the same after their surgery.
However the majority of patients say the opposite, that rather than looking like a better version of themselves, they want to look like a certain actor or model.

This indicates an inherent desire to become somebody else, a famous person who, in the patient’s mind, lives a problem free, seemingly perfect-looking life.
This, said Dr Lorenc, is ‘a red flag.’

‘They have this glorified picture of this perfect identity,’ he explained, which can have deep psychological effects when the patient discards their sense of self by changing their face, only to realise the identity they were seeking isn’t perfect after all.
There are few doctors who screen patients to make sure they’re not seeking surgery for the wrong reasons.
Dr Lorenc said if he suspects a request for cosmetic surgery comes from an underlying psychological condition like body dysmorphic disorder, he refers patients to a psychiatrist.

However Daniela Schreier, a therapist who has treated patients with plastic-surgery related issues, says this kind of screening doesn’t happen often enough.

While she often sees patients who have later regretted their surgeries, she said the plastic surgeons she’s talked to are unwilling to make psychological screening an industry requirement.

Some of them, she said, are worried this would hurt their business.
Dr Diller echoed her thoughts, saying ‘there are unscrupulous people in every field,’ with plastic surgery being no exception.
However, although surgeons have become increasingly aware of the need for psychological screening, it might not prevent all issues.

While most top surgeons seem to avoid the kind of multi-operation re-make that made Heidi Montag unrecognisable, it may be hard to predict the extent to which cosmetic procedures, especially drastic ones, will effect someone’s sense of self.
Victoria Pitts-Taylor, a sociologist and author of Surgery Junkies: Wellness and Pathology in Cosmetic Culture, noted that, ‘The transformation of one’s appearance through surgery can be radical, and the psychological effects of getting a different face or a drastically different body shape are really hard to predict.’

Surgeons like Lorenc can screen for body dysmorphic disorder, but they can’t always ascertain whether their patients will still feel like themselves when their faces are completely different.
Gradual changes over a period of time, which many celebrities opt for, such as Megan Fox, may be easier to adapt to than a single procedure that happens all at once.

But our own sense of identity, especially in relation to appearance, usually solidifies at a young age, during adolescence.
Therefore any physical changes, large or small, will require some form of mental adjustment. And when the changes are major, the adjustment may take a long time.

Women who had surgery before this ‘new wave of understanding’ among doctors, said Dr Diller, now suffer from long-term psychological problems as they enter their fifties and sixties.

So while going under the knife is usually a means to a beautiful end, enabling patients to feel better about themselves and their appearance, it turns out it might just have the opposite affect.

This article originally published in the Daily Mail at: