Beauty Matters: Psychological Features of Surgical and Nonsurgical Cosmetic Procedures

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Abstract

Cosmetic surgery and minimally invasive techniques have recently become popular. Noting the compulsive way in which many people approach these procedures, psychoanalytic scholars have conducted several studies to evaluate the possible presence of mental disorders. In this regard, Alessandra Lemma (2009, 2010a, 2010b) argued that the craving for beauty may hide narcissistic disturbances akin to those identified in Rosenfeld’s theory of narcissism (Rosenfeld, 1971, 1987), which described 2 types of narcissists: 1 thin skinned, characterized by a sense of inferiority, and the other thick skinned, characterized by a sense of grandiosity. The aim of this study was to test this hypothesis in an empirical trial by exploring the personality characteristics of people seeking both surgical and nonsurgical cosmetic procedures with a particular emphasis on narcissism. The research sample consisted of 48 participants who were divided into 3 groups: cosmetic surgery patients (Group 1), individuals who had undergone nonsurgical cosmetic treatments (Group 2), and people who had never undergone any cosmetic treatment (Group 3). The Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory—2 (MMPI–2) and Structured Clinical Interview for DSM–IV Axis II Personality Disorders (SCID–II) were administered to all of the participants. The results confirmed the presence of 2 narcissistic profiles—1 grandiose and 1 vulnerable—in both those who had undergone cosmetic surgery and those who had undergone nonsurgical cosmetic procedures; there were differences between the 2 profiles in terms of whether they were personality disorders or traits. The results also showed that individuals who had undergone cosmetic procedures reported more personality pathology and were more distressed than those who had not.

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