It starts simple: a nip here, a tuck there, cosmetic enhancements performed for an individual’s personal fulfillment. But when cosmetic procedures are met with little satisfaction, and fuel the desire for more surgical enhancements, an underlying psychological cause may be to blame.

Body Dysmorphic Disorder, known as BDD, is a condition that can lead to cosmetic surgery addiction. This chronic mental illness often causes people to intensely obsess over their appearance and body image — and it doesn’t only affect women. BDD usually starts in adolescence, and affects both men and women equally.

An unhealthy obsession

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To a person with BDD, happiness is linked to beauty. Even though this person may look beautiful to others, they are often overcome by negative feelings about their body image. A person with BDD will typically focus on a minor, sometimes imagined, flaw in their appearance and will spend hours every day trying to hide it. Low self-esteem, depression, and anxiety are commonly associated with BDD. Thus, to feel better about themselves, these people seek out numerous cosmetic procedures to try to “fix” their perceived imperfection.

Cosmetic surgery addiction

According to a recent review, two-thirds of plastic surgery patients are repeat patients. While not every one of these patients is addicted to plastic surgery, those who are can be easily detected.

Aside from their countless surgeries, addicts of cosmetic surgery are commonly obsessed with a particular feature or body part of a celebrity. Angelina Jolie’s lips, Naomi Campbell’s cheekbones, and Jennifer Lopez’s backside all top the list of desired results. To a plastic surgery addict, these women are the epitome of beauty, and they’ll do anything to obtain these features for themselves. 

When BDD is behind cosmetic surgery addiction

Patients with BDD often exhibit unrealistic expectations about surgery. A person with BDD may think that the procedure will lead to a better relationship or a higher paying career.

Patients with BDD are also unlikely to be satisfied with their cosmetic surgery results. For example, a person may begin with a simple face lift procedure. Then, they begin to imagine other features on their face that need readjusting – brow lift, ear pinning, cheek implants, changing the shape of their nose … then their chin.

People with BDD will return for more and more surgeries in desperation to achieve that perfect image. However, in their quest for perfection, they end up diminishing rather than enhancing their natural beauty.


  1. Body dysmorphic disorder. Mayo Clinic Web site.
  2. Higuera VC. Plastic surgery addiction-a body image problem with our society. Yahoo! Web site. Published August 18, 2006.
  3. Plastic surgery addiction: Dangers and risks. Plastic Surgery Addiction Web site. Published April 1, 2010.
  4. Stresing D. When cosmetic surgery becomes an addiction. Everyday Health Web site.