Getting Used to a New You (How to Emotionally Recover from Cosmetic Surgery)

Post-Plastic Surgery Depression

If a certain part of your body is making you unhappy, and you have that body part surgically altered to improve its appearance, you should feel better, right? You should, but don't count on it: Research has found that about 87 percent of people are happy with the results of their surgery and have improved self-esteem afterward, but a smaller percentage are still dissatisfied after their procedure [source: Aesthetic Surgery Journal].

Some people have to contend with sadness, difficulty sleeping, appetite loss, and an inability to concentrate after their surgery. This phenomenon is known as post-surgical depression [source: PRIME]. Many factors can contribute to post-surgical depression, including:

  • Anesthesia and pain medications
  • Side effects of the surgery
  • An inability to get back to normal life and activities
  • Needing to depend on others for help
  • A lack of support from family or friends after surgery
  • Disappointment over the surgery outcome (this is often temporary, and improves as the scars fade)

Even after a successful surgery, you may feel tired and uncomfortable during the healing process. Both the anesthesia you were given during the procedure, and the medicines you take afterward to control pain can cause some of the effects of depression -- including fatigue, disorientation, and difficulty concentrating.

When you're expecting physical improvement, it can be hard to look at a swollen face covered in bandages. Once the bandages come off, you may not like what you see right away. It can take weeks -- or even months -- for the swelling to subside and the wounds to heal enough for you to see the real results. During that time you might wonder, "Will I ever look good again?" Even if the surgery was technically a success, the end results may not be what you had expected.

When personal trainer and author Laura Pillarella had a chin implant and eye procedure, her response when the bandages came off was disappointment. "I wasn't beautiful -- just different. It wasn't enough," she told the Daily Mail. Fifteen procedures later, Pillarella had become so disheartened that she considered ending her life [source: Mail Online].

Some women, like Pillarella, sink so far into the depths of despair after plastic surgery that they consider suicide. Studies have found that the suicide risk is three times higher among women who have undergone breast augmentation than in the general population [source: Annals of Plastic Surgery]. Researchers don't know exactly why this is, but it may be that the women who undergo plastic surgery already have emotional conditions that predispose them to suicidal thoughts.

Who's at greatest risk for depression after plastic surgery? Click to the next page to find out.