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The Burden of Wanting to Stay Beautiful

A naturally-attractive Laura Pillarella was enormously disappointed with her plastic surgery baptism of fire. The quite insecure young woman had hoped the procedures to eliminate the bags under her eyes and insert a chin implant would improve not only her looks, but also her way of living. She was wrong.

?When the bandages came off, I was disappointed,? she narrates. ?I wasn?t beautiful ? just different. It wasn?t enough.?

To cut the story short, Laura planned and went through a series of surgeries. For the next ten years she became trapped in a vicious cycle of cosmetic surgery, discontent, and more corrective surgeries.

Enduringly, after going through her 15th procedure, a plastic surgeon revealed to her the problem with her looks was that she went through excessive amounts of surgery. A quite revealing news too much for Laura to carry.

Through the years she has spent more than £40,000 trying to be beautiful. And in a wink of an eye, she seriously thought about ending her life.

?I had my suicide all worked out. I was going to rent a room in a hotel, get some sleeping tablets and wash them down with red wine,? recounts the American ­personal trainer and author.

?I wasn?t going to leave a suicide note. People would know why I?d killed myself. One look at my face said it all ? I?d made myself look ­hideously ugly. My face was lopsided, my nose was too skinny, my lips were ­distorted and my chin was crooked.?

Laura?s case is ordinary of the many cosmetic ­surgery patients who are left deeply depressed by their appearance ­afterwards. 

New research reveals that behind the ?easy glamour? of nip?n?tuck exists a creeping epidemic of ­frustration, leading to a wave of suicides.

Experts in the journal, Current Psychiatry Reports, say Women who go through cosmetic ­surgery procedures are more prone to taking their own lives.

Their findings were established on five large-scale, independent ­studies, which discovered that the suicide rate is up to three times higher in women who have had breast implants.

The losses is not only limited to ­suicides ? cosmetic surgery patients had a three-times higher rate of death on account of self-destructive acts, such as binge-drinking, drug ?overdoses, and reckless driving.

According to researchers from the International Epidemiology Institute in the U.S., psychological damage connected to cosmetic surgery is ?a critically neglected area.?

At the same time, another study discovered that in eight out of ten plastic surgery practices, former patients had experienced post-traumatic stress.

Surgeons were witnessing at least as many psychological repercussions as physical complications.

According to the report, published in the journal, Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, depression, disappointment, and anxiety were the most commonly seen psychological problems.

?The next frontier for the specialty is to improve patients? emotional and psychological results.?

Researchers revealed that men are thought more probably to be perturbed at the result of their cosmetic surgery, even if the outcome was ?technically good.? It?s a problem not just limited to women.

In journal Annals of Plastic Surgery in 2010, Melbourne University researchers supported increased psychological screening before surgery and support for patients ensuingly.

Such measure was unfortunately never provided to 62-year-old Collin Phillips. In 2009, an inquest in Cadiff found out how he committed suicide by hanging himself in a wood, distressed at the result of his third facelift.

Infatuated with his looks he had undergone more than one plastic surgery on his face; Phillips was a retired managing director.

After a third procedure by a Harley Street surgeon, he felt his appearance had been butchered, which made him refuse to leave his £600,000 home.

According to his wife 62-year-old wife Janice, ?After the first facelift he felt tremendous.?

However her husband?s original ­surgeon declined to operate on him a third time, so he went online to search for a Harley Street doctor who would.

Janice, a mother-of-two said: ?He was pinning his hopes on having a ­maxi-facelift. But after the operation he would look in the mirror shaking.?

After a month, Mr Phillips, a ­grandfather, took an ­overdose of drugs and was admitted to a hospital. He survived and was discharged from the hospital, but made two more failed suicide attempts after that.

He was successful with his plans to take his life eight months after the operation. Mr. Phillips finally killed himself through hanging.

Experts warn, as the demand for cosmetic ­surgery increases, such post-operative distress can only escalate. ­

A study made for the Girl Guides currently discovered almost half of secondary school girls said they plan to have cosmetic surgery.

Nicola ­Grinstead, of Girlguiding UK, reveals, ?Girls and young women tell us they are finding it hard to accept their appearance, and it is starting at a much earlier age than we had ­previously thought.?

According to experts such as Professor Nichola Rumsey, a director of the UK Centre for Appearance Research, she is worried that the crucial psychological concerns that ignite the desire for cosmetic surgery are not being addressed.

People wanting plastic surgery frequently think that their dissatisfactions with their lives will be solved by it.

Laura ­Pillarella, the woman driven to plan suicide after 15 ­unsatisfactory procedures, said: ?I was manipulating my face to build a new self. I was lonely as a child. My ­parents split up when I was six. Mum would often say giving birth to me and my brothers had ruined her looks and body.?

She shared that she was distant from her dad and is short of emotional security that she was trying to boost her self-esteem. However, plastic surgery never satisfied her and each operation bolstered her crusade to have her fixed.

Fortunately, her suicide schemes came to an end when her brother requested her to speak at his wedding. Unexpectedly, according to her, she felt valued and started, gradually, to realize her distress came from emotional problems.

Pillarella, now at 41, has written a book detailing her experiences, Chasing Beauty: My Cosmetic ­Surgery Takeover. She said if only she can turn back the time, ?I wouldn?t have surgery. I?d have therapy.?

Pillarella?s message is what Charles Nduka, an NHS plastic surgeon, wishes many patients could hear.

?We are seeing a lot more people with ­psychological problems ­seeking plastic surgery,? says Nduka, who works at the Queen ­Victoria ­Hospital in East ­Grinstead, West Sussex.

There are two types of these patients, he says. Those who have pre-existing psychological issues with their appearance, such as body dysmorphic disorder, which should be having psychiatric help preferably than surgery; and young women who are quite ­attractive, however have been made deeply unhappy with their bodies by continually comparing themselves with airbrushed ­models.

Nduka reveals that there is a growing problem of unrealistic expectations of surgical results.

Nduka, who operates the not-for-profit ­website, says ?Ethical ­surgeons spend a lot of time ­talking to patients about their motivations for surgery and what they will achieve.? He progressively finds ­himself recommending patients to psychologists.

As a matter of fact, one survey discovered that surgeons recommend nearly 20 per cent of patients to psychologists due to unrealistic expectations ? they may think it will improve their lives dramatically by ­getting them the glamorous job or the partner they want.

However Nduka cautions that frequently patients never go to the ­psychologist and look for a less conscientious cosmetic surgeon.

Professor ­Rumsey warns, these kind of patients can get trapped in a costly and traumatic spiral of serial surgery.

Nduka claims many UK clinics do not adhere to good practice and is terribly concerned by the ?buy one get one free? (BOGOF) promos and hard sell marketing that ?plays on people?s insecurity?.

The British ­Association of Aesthetic Plastic ­Surgeons (BAAPS) initiated a ­campaign to stop bad practice, such as bonus cards and BOGOF offers three years ago,.

The problem of the association ? which represents nearly a third of ­cosmetic surgeons ? is that they are not a ­regulatory body and lacks the powers to take action.

Mr Nduka wishes to see health warnings on overseas treatment. This is also a concern in the UK, as doctors can set ­themselves up as plastic surgeons with no proper training.

President of BAAPS, Nigel Mercer, reveals: ?In Britain you can call ­yourself something ? such as a facial plastic surgeon ? and need no ­relevant qualifications or training. In this respect, we are worse than ­anywhere else in Europe. Terrible things are happening to patients.?

BAAPS and the Care Quality ­Commission (the independent health care regulator) are formulating Europe-wide standards of safe practice and regulation.

Mercer explains: ?Patients ought to be able to get referrals to good clinical psychologists after the event if someone is having problems. It is very important.?

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