Summary: When a person first starts thinking about moving forward with cosmetic surgery, the focus is typically on the physical aspects: the new look they’ll enjoy or new styles of clothing they can wear. Even when preparing for recovery, the emphasis tends toward the tangible; patients prepare take-out menus or have ibuprofen handy just in case, and may even set up a recovery area with everything they could need within easy reach. And yet, the psychological impact of cosmetic surgery should not be overlooked, as there are often significant changes in a person’s emotional state throughout recovery and patients can benefit by preparing for these as well.
Preparation is really the most important factor for success in any venture. After all, there’s a reason why so many surgeons offer their patients comprehensive guides on what to expect and how to prepare. Although these are often quite detailed, right down to the stages of wound healing and scheduling dates for follow-up appointments, they often neglect a critical detail: emotional recovery.
The best cosmetic surgeons let their patients know what they should expect emotionally during recovery as well as physically:
- Depression: Many patients will have periods when they feel very down after surgery, often as a side effect following anesthesia but for other reasons as well. These “post-op blues” are often exacerbated by any physical restrictions or discomfort they’re facing as well as any other emotional stress.
- Exhaustion: The process of deciding to commit to cosmetic surgery and then go through with it can be very emotionally intense. When that journey is over and recovery begins, patients may feel mentally drained on top of not being back up to par physically.
- Mood Swings: It’s not uncommon for patients to swing wildly between ecstatic about their results and feeling very emotional. Like depression, sometimes mood swings are due to the lingering effects of anesthesia, which affects everyone a little bit differently.
- Uncertainty: No matter how long a major life change is planned for and anticipated, or how committed the patient was before surgery, uncertainty after the fact is often one of the emotions that surfaces afterwards. This includes not only cosmetic procedures but other benchmark moments as well, like weddings, graduations or even the birth of a child. Sometimes this is overlaid by a sense of “What now?”—especially for an event that’s been years in the making.
How to Help
Letting patients know that all of the above is a normal and expected part of the emotional aspect of recovery may help alleviate much of the stress surrounding these reactions. It’s also important to offer patients suggestions for how they can mitigate these effects, or at least be more prepared ahead of time.
Before surgery, I’ve found that it is important to encourage patients to have a positive support network in place to help them during recovery. This may be having someone bring over dinner one night, or just being available for a phone call. Online resources such as cosmetic surgery forums can also act as a good source of emotional support. It makes a world of difference for patients just to have someone to talk to if they’re feeling frustrated, unhappy or otherwise stressed by their recovery. Making sure that patients are giving their bodies all the necessary physical support they need is also important for feeling better emotionally.
By eating the right foods and drinking plenty of fluids to aid in the physical recovery process and having the emotional support they need, patients can enjoy a positive recovery both inside and out.