Much has been written over the summer about the increasing numbers of younger people seeking plastic surgery. This is not something I have experienced in my London practice, however if true, this is a very worrying trend and these young people need to be handled carefully.
Social media and peer pressure seem to put added burdens on the young to ‘match up’ to others – especially celebrities of the moment. One must remember that plastic surgery procedures are surgical interventions requiring a general anaesthetic and must be taken seriously.
There are very few procedures that can be ethically undertaken in the under 18’s – ear pinning for bat ears is the most common and is a very successful operation to help avoid school ground ridicule.
The body doesn’t fully mature until 18 years of age and often the breasts continue developing for a little longer. Even if the body appears mature, is an 18year old mentally mature enough to make an informed and clear decision about undergoing a non-emergency surgical procedure? I believe not…
Often when a young person comes to see me they are reassured when I spend time talking with them. They soon realise that surgery is not the ideal solution for the concerns they have, and many even come to understand that they don’t actually have a ‘problem’ after all.
As plastic surgeons, we need to be alert for signs of Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) as this a very real psychological problem and notoriously difficult to treat with the young being particularly vulnerable.
I feel sad that so many teens have body issues at such a young age. If they remain determined to seek surgery then I encourage them to wait a few more years. Sadly there will always be a surgeon prepared to operate on those we turn away…
What is BDD?
The term Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) describes a disabling preoccupation with perceived defects or flaws in appearance. It can affect both men and women, and makes sufferers excessively self-conscious. They tend to check their appearance repeatedly and try to camouflage or alter the defects they see, often undergoing needless cosmetic treatments. Onlookers are frequently perplexed because they can see nothing out of the ordinary, but BDD causes devastating distress and interferes substantially with the ability to function socially.
Those concerned about a loved one please seek help.
The BDD foundation can offer support: http://bddfoundation.org