WHEN LOOKS CAN KILL; Far from Making Us Happier, Disturbing New Research Shows That - for Many - Plastic Surgery Leads to Disappointment, Self-Loathing ... and Even Suicide

Daily Mail (London), January 24, 2011 | Go to article overview

WHEN LOOKS CAN KILL; Far from Making Us Happier, Disturbing New Research Shows That - for Many - Plastic Surgery Leads to Disappointment, Self-Loathing ... and Even Suicide


Byline: by John Nash

l AuRA Pillarella was hugely disappointed the first time she had plastic surgery. The naturallyattractive, but insecure, young woman had hoped the procedures to remove the bags under her eyes and insert a chin implant would improve not only her looks, but also her life. They didn't.

'When the bandages came off, I was disappointed,' she says. 'I wasn't beautiful -- just different. It wasn't enough.' So Laura planned another operation ... and then another. For the next decade she became trapped in a vicious cycle of surgery, dissatisfaction and more surgery.

Finally, after her 15th procedure, a plastic surgeon told her the real problem with her looks was that she had had excessive amounts of surgery. It was too much for Laura to bear.

After spending more than [pounds sterling]40,000 trying to be beautiful, she seriously thought about taking her own life.

'I had my suicide all worked out. I was going to rent a room in a hotel, get some sleeping tablets and wash them down with red wine,' says the American personal trainer and author.

'I wasn't going to leave a suicide note. People would know why I'd killed myself. one look at my face said it all -- I'd made myself look hideously ugly. My face was lopsided, my nose was too skinny, my lips were distorted and my chin was crooked.' Laura is typical of many cosmetic surgery patients who are left profoundly depressed by their appearance afterwards.

New research shows that behind the 'easy glamour' of nip'n'tuck lies a silent epidemic of disappointment, leading to a wave of suicides.

Women who undergo plastic surgery have a much higher risk of killing themselves, say experts in the journal, Current Psychiatry Reports.

Their conclusions were based on five large-scale, independent studies, which found that the suicide rate is up to three times higher in women who have had breast implants.

The toll is not only restricted to suicides -- cosmetic surgery patients had a three-times higher rate of death due to self-destructive acts, such as binge-drinking, drug overdoses and reckless driving.

Psychological damage related to plastic surgery is 'a critically neglected area', said researchers from the International Epidemiology Institute in the U.S..

Meanwhile, another study found that in eight out of ten cosmetic surgery practices, former patients had developed post-traumatic stress.

Surgeons were seeing at least as many psychological side effects as physical complications.

'Disappointment, anxiety and depression were the most frequently seen psychological problems,' says the report, published in the journal, Plastic And Reconstructive Surgery.

'The next frontier for the specialty is to improve patients' emotional and psychological results.' It's a problem not just confined to women -- indeed, men are thought more likely to be distraught at the outcome of their cosmetic surgery, even if they have had a 'technically good result', say researchers.

Last year, in journal Annals Of Plas t i c Surger y, Melbourne University researchers advocated increased psychological screening before surgery and support for patients afterwards.

Such help was sadly never offered to Colin Phillips, 62. In 2009, an inquest in Cardiff heard how he hanged himself in a wood, distraught at how his third facelift had gone.

Phillips, a retired managing director, was 'fanatical' about his looks and had twice before undergone plastic surgery on his face.

But he felt his appearance had been butchered after a third procedure by a Harley Street surgeon and refused to leave his [pounds sterling]600,000 home.

His wife, Janice, 62, said: 'After the first facelift he felt tremendous.' But her husband's original surgeon refused to operate on him a third time, so he searched the internet for a Harley Street doctor who would. …

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