Understanding the psychological impact of cosmetic surgery

psychological impact of cosmetic surgery

There has been a lot of talk in medical circles in recent years about ‘joined up services’ and multidisciplinary approaches to tackling patient care. The theory behind the concept is that with greater collaborative working of the service providers needed at the different stages of medical processes, all contributors can work together more effectively, creating better overall care for the patient. Data protection legislation, staffing and budgetary restraints have, at times, made these processes less than easy to embed effectively, but the benefits of this way of working are clear to see.

According to an article published recently by the British Psychological Society, there needs to be a greater focus of embedding psychologists into the pre- and post-operative care for those undergoing cosmetic surgery. “Psychology is to plastic surgery what physiotherapy is to orthopaedics – you wouldn’t give someone a joint replacement without being clear you had physiotherapy lined up and someone engaged in their aftercare.”

That’s absolutely right and managing patient’s expectations, before, during and after a cosmetic surgery procedure is an extremely important part of the process. Media coverage of the cosmetic surgery industry has meant that we all know a lot more about what is available, and the highs and lows will always make the best stories to report. It’s the day-to-day expectations of the healing process and how you will feel once everything is completed, that is much more of an unknown: “The media tends to sensationalise cosmetic procedures… you hear about the success stories and also the botch jobs, but we know very little about what happens in the middle.”

How to get your mind and body prepared for the changes ahead

Supporting the need for other medical contributors such as psychologists, to help patients on their cosmetic surgery journey, is the need for greater information for patients about what to expect during their recovery. At the moment, the focus can often lean towards the physical elements, whereas the emotional elements are also extremely important.

The effects of anaesthetic are not always very well-known by patients and can have detrimental side effects during recovery. Patients are not always aware that the residual anaesthetic in the body can cause negative thoughts/feelings and also can make patients feel that they have little or no energy. Some pain relief medications can also leave patients with similar depressed feelings. Understanding the reasons for these feelings makes them much easier to rationalise, and much easier for patients to feel suitably optimistic about how the will be feeling once the side effects of the surgery have worn off and they are fully healed.

There is a real shift of perspectives now, and we’re seeing more and more that cosmetic surgeons are able to collaborate with different health professionals and are in a position to choose the right patient for the right procedure. This approach ensures greater chance of patient satisfaction as the surgeons are able to look out for the warning signs of patients who might be opting for cosmetic surgery in a hurry or who are motivated by factors which may not lead to the desired outcomes. Working cooperatively with other health professionals and ensuring open dialogue between the patient and the surgeon throughout, has a much greater likelihood for a satisfactory outcome on both sides.