|Bu Ren, a facial reconstruction specialist at the Plastic Surgery Hospital under the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences, conducts eyelid surgery. (Photo/China Daily)|
When most people think of addiction, they think of substance abuse - not plastic surgery.
But a growing number of Chinese are discovering cosmetic procedures' potential to become habit-forming as more people in the country surgically alter their appearances.
Experts agree cosmetic surgery addiction is unhealthy but struggle to define it. It's not an officially recognized mental illness, although likely stems from diagnosable disorders, such as obsessive compulsive disorder, body dysmorphic disorder and depression.
People with obsessions with altering their appearances that seem unstoppable, even though they create significant distress and social impairment, should seek professional help, Beijing Huilongguan Hospital psychiatrist Li Binbin says.
Beijing Tongren Hospital's Plastic Surgery and Beauty Center director Zheng Yongsheng explains cosmetic procedures are more psychological than physical.
"They change self-perceived physical defects, and are personal and potentially addictive, especially to people who're never satisfied with their looks," Zheng says.
He has met many patients who want to change their lives by changing their appearances. Many get confidence boosts after surgeries and return for more.
Huang Wei, who covered the industry as a journalist in Fujian province before co-founding a private clinic in Beijing, agrees it's about confidence.
But Li, the psychiatrist, says there's more to it. The source is usually deeper underlying psychological issues.
"As with any obsessive or addictive behavior, cosmetic surgery addiction stems from distorted reasoning and perceptions of relationships," Li says.