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Depression and Cosmetic Surgery

A marketing consultant I know designed a brochure for a psychologist named Dr. Jefferies, who was building a unique counseling practice in Beverly Hills working exclusively with women who'd had cosmetic surgery. The headline on Dr. Jefferies' brochure read, "Now That I'm Beautiful, Why Do I Still Feel So Sad?"

That was in 1989, when many of the procedures discussed in this book were performed less frequently, and cosmetic surgery was often viewed as an option for only the very rich or the very vain. The women who came to Dr. Jefferies had one thing in common. They'd approached their cosmetic surgeries at the time when annihilating events, like being dumped by their husbands for younger women, led them to take what in those days was considered a desperate measure. Many of the women in failing marriages were convinced that slimming their bodies with liposuction or erasing some of their wrinkles would make things better. They were half right. It did make their bodies better. But it didn't always keep their husbands at home. It didn't necessarily alleviate their depression.

The modern cosmetic surgeon has the chance during the initial consultation to recognize and treat these patients. He ideally looks at the patient's psyche along with the physique, and will recognize depression when present. Depression is a real medical condition. There can be physical problems lasting months to years which include sadness, sleep disturbance, difficulty feeling pleasure, and sometimes other signs such as stomach problems or diarrhea. Fully 20 percent of the population will experience depression at some time in their lives. In our practice, if appropriate and if the patient wishes, we treat these patients with modern antidepressants. Your cosmetic surgeon should be prepared to suggest this and refer you for treatment if he isn't comfortable prescribing. The cosmetic procedure and the medication can be used together, and when this happens, the transformations can often be profound. Given the right candidates, the medications work well in many cases and even miraculously in a few. People who are somewhat dysfunctional find their lives turned around, and people who are very functional often become even more so. Between the medication and the body improvement, a "moth" may change into a "butterfly" in just a few weeks, although in more severe cases of depression, surgery might not be recommended until the depression is treated.

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