Plastic Surgery Remorse Linked to Deeper Issues

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"I think it's actually increasing, and I think in part it's increasing because of the drop in reimbursement by insurance companies, which is driving doctors in other specialties into the plastic surgery market," said Dr. Julius Few, director of The Few Institute for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery in Chicago.

"Maybe I've seen it a few times in my practice, but it's very rare," said Dr. Timothy Miller, chief of plastic surgery at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.

They agree, however, that plastic surgery remorse can potentially be avoided if patients and doctors alike recognize a problem exists and address it.

"I have a therapist who works in my practice," said Few. "We know in plastic surgery that if somebody has undue stress, the risk of complication is higher."

"Most plastic surgeons will tell patients to work out their problems -- go talk to a psychiatrist or confide in somebody else," said Miller.

Surgeons also agree that communication between doctors and patients is key.

"It's really important that both the patient and the physician understand what the motivation is behind the surgery," said Dr. Malcolm Roth, director of plastic surgery at Maimonides Medical Center.

While experts say it's difficult to say for sure because there are few data available, they believe certain procedures are more likely to breed buyer's remorse, including nose jobs and breast enhancements.

A recent study published in the journal Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery found an association between complex psychological factors and rhinoplasty.

"Most people feel good after a nose job, but there's a subgroup that almost experience a loss of identity," said Kearney-Cooke. "They wanted the change, but then they don't feel like themselves anymore."

Laura Pillarella said it's now her mission to help other women battle whatever psychological issues they're dealing with so they don't obsess over their appearance the way she did. She wrote a book, "Chasing Beauty," to drive home the message.

"I want to save women from my mistakes and show them how damaging it can be to have low self-esteem," she said.

It's still something she's dealing with herself - right after she turned 40 a few weeks ago, she had breast augmentation surgery.

"I feel really silly and ashamed, but it's a great reminder about my weaknesses," she said. "All I have to do is look down."

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