How One Woman Nearly Lost EVERYTHING To A Plastic Surgery Addiction

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plastic surgery addiction

Join me in my office with Shannon, a 42-year-old married woman with two sons in high school as she describes a history of multiple plastic surgeries over the past fifteen years.

She had her nose done twice, surgery on her breasts two times, lips done twice, and a tummy tuck.

She said, “I look like a freak. I stay at home — I don’t want anyone to see me. I stay in bed most of the time and drink too much vodka. My husband left me two months ago and my sons spend most of their time with him.”

She showed me multiple scars from the surgeries and how she felt completely disconnected from body parts that she had surgery on, especially her breasts.

She shared pictures of herself before the plastic surgeries and admitted she looked better then.

Tearfully she told me that, “all I wanted to do was look perfect, in control, and youthful but ended up looking like a freak with irreparable damage that has permanently changed my appearance.”

Shannon suffers from plastic surgery addiction.

This is a behavioral addiction when an individual is addicted to having plastic surgeries, despite apparent negative consequences.

Many people who have a plastic surgery procedure are satisfied with the results and do not become addicted to it.

So why did Shannon become addicted to plastic surgery?

Genetically, Shannon was at risk for depression, as her mother and grandmother suffer with it. She was teased when she was younger because she was overweight.

Her uncle sexually abused her for six months when he lived with her family when she was in the fourth grade.

The sexual abuse left her feeling “dirty”, out of control, and ashamed of her body. The teasing made her hate her body and left her feeling she was not enough.

During treatment, she realized that the unresolved issues from sexual abuse and negative body image left her feeling powerless and afraid to get close to others.

She sought out plastic surgeons to alleviate the distress, but since she had a mental disorder, not a physical one, she was never satisfied with the surgery and hoped the next surgery would make her feel better.

Because her appearance was not the issue, the multiple plastic surgeries functioned as a maladaptive effort to escape feelings of depression and shame.

She realized that to avoid painful emotions she would zero in on perceived flaws and then decided another surgery would solve her problems.

She came to realize that what she believed would be the solution — plastic surgery  had become the problem in her life.

With the help of an antidepressant and weekly psychotherapy, Shannon was able to work through the underlying psychological issues that caused the plastic surgery addiction.

Marital therapy helped her to reunite with her husband and without this obsession, she was able to be more available to her husband and sons.


Ann Kearney-Cooke is a psychologist in Cincinnati, Ohio, and mother of four adult children. She is a distinguished scholar at Columbia University and a New York Times bestselling author. Catch up with her on LinkedIn.