Model Jesinta Campbell made headlines for admitting to breast augmentation as a teenager, a decision she now regrets. And she's not alone, Campbell is just one of a number of people who end up regretting their cosmetic or plastic surgery procedure.
A 2011 report from the International Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ISAPS) ranked Australia 22nd in the world for the total number of cosmetic enhancement procedures (New Zealand did not make the list). In that year, 40,427 people went under the knife and 67,698 people had less invasive non-surgical procedures such as Botox.
Cosmetic surgeon Ashley Granot, of The Me Clinic, says that liposuction and breast augmentation are performed most regularly in Australia, with patients commonly citing increased self-esteem and confidence as their reasons for surgery.
For some, reality doesn't live up to fantasy and with swollen and painful new features, the enormity of what they have undertaken can abruptly hit home.
"Immediately after surgery I was horrified at how massive my breasts were," says Lynne Hayes, recipient of four plastic surgery procedures and now founder of The Aesthetics Network.
Hayes went from a 10C to a 10E in her initial procedure and consequently endured an additional three surgeries only to have her implants removed completely to return to her natural form.
Granot says that Hayes' story is unfortunately common, especially in circumstances when a thorough pre-operative consultation is not performed. He performs about 20 breast implant revisions each year on patients who are unhappy with their initial surgery.
Hayes began The Aesthetics Network to help women who have undergone disappointing procedures. It's an online support and information group that is designed to offer information on cosmetic and plastic surgery within a supportive community environment.
The site also offers a directory of surgeons and therapists around Australia. But Hayes says it's the community aspect of the network that is of the most value.
"We have women from all walks of life sharing experiences, their fears and asking lots of questions," she says.
"My own experience forced me to realise that bigger breasts weren't going to save my unhappy relationship and no amount of surgery was going to fix my shattered self-esteem. There was no real physical pain, but the emotional pain was huge and real. There was a need for someone to talk to, someone to hold me while I cried and someone to tell me it will get better and that I would come out the other side of it all," she says.
Psychologist Sarah Jayne McCormick agrees that any kind of elective surgery, particularly of the cosmetic variety, needs to be carefully considered. She says professional counselling is a way to prepare for the emotional and mental journey.
"Although you might be able to change your face or your body, what is more difficult to change is how your mind works. It's helpful in these situations to practise some self-compassion and learn to develop a different relationship with negative self-sabotaging thoughts," she advises.
Granot said that while counselling is not offered through his clinic, he advises patients to seek a second opinion and conduct extensive research at home.
"Our doctors provide a thorough consultation and interview prior to surgery to assess the patient's expectations and suitability for the procedure. If after that we feel they are not a good candidate from a physical or psychological point of view, we would not proceed with surgery," he says.
Despite her own personal setbacks, Hayes does not discourage others from going down the path of plastic surgery.
"I encourage everyone to be informed, ask questions and take some time to look at their own personal motivation for surgery."
That's wise advice, says McCormick: "If we can develop greater acceptance of ourselves, we can turn our focus outward and concentrate on our relationships with others which will exponentially increase our sense of wellbeing, meaning and overall happiness."
- Sydney Morning Herald
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