Cosmetic Surgery & Your Emotions: What To Expect After Surgery

After months or even years of deliberation, comprehensive research, and saving money, you have finally made the decision to have surgery. After meeting with your doctor and your patient care coordinator you know exactly what to do before the big day. You’ve picked up your prescriptions, arranged your transportation, and taken time off from work. Your procedure day finally comes, and it goes exactly as planned. Your only job now is to rest, recover, and enjoy the results from your surgery. And then it creeps in.

Anxiety. Remorse. Guilt. Disappointment.

What should feel like a happy time is soured by negative feelings and you don’t know what’s causing them or where they are coming from. You chose to do this surgery. You saved up for it and told your friends and family about it. So now that it’s finally done, why are you feeling so terribly about the whole thing?

The “Post-Operative Blues” are very real (and very common!), so the first thing to remember is there is no reason to feel guilty for having them. We often forget that elective surgery is still surgery, and the impact it has on our body and on our emotions is just as real as an unplanned or emergency procedure.  While these emotions can occur after any cosmetic procedure, surgical or non-invasive alike, this article we will explore the fears, anxieties, and emotional roller coasters felt after the most common cosmetic procedures.

Breast Augmentation

Breast augmentation is by the far the most popular and most commonly performed cosmetic surgery around the world. According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, over a quarter of a million of these surgeries were performed in the United States alone in 2018. Given the prevalence of this procedure, one could easily assume that most people would be aware of the emotions that often well up after surgery.

Much like other things that cause us anxiety, the “blues” that women often feel after breast augmentation aren’t always talked about openly. The important thing to remember is that if you do experience them it is completely normal, and it is something you should be honest with your surgeon about.

The psychology of our breasts and the role they play in the female psyche is a deeply rooted one. Many of us tie much of our thoughts about our femininity or our sexuality to our breasts, sometimes unconsciously. Much like how a breast cancer survivor feels deeply changed after breast reconstruction or a mastectomy, many women who undergo breast augmentation find that the change in appearance of their breasts has a tremendous impact on them.

The most common emotions after augmentation are feeling tired or depressed, nitpicky or frustrated with the unhealed results, or buyer’s remorse where patients feel like they made a mistake. Many women who were careful about picking a small implant often feel that they should have gone bigger and are disappointed when the initial swelling that scared them disappears. Concerns about shape, placement, and nipple position are also incredibly common, and it is important to remember that healing times vary from woman to woman based on anatomy, the implants chosen, and other surgical factors. The results from breast augmentation can take up to 6 months or a full year to settle in, so it is critical to be patient with yourself and to trust your doctor throughout the process.

Tummy Tuck and Face Lift

While both procedures address very different parts of the body, they both involve the tightening of weakened muscles, and the removal of excess skin. Because of that, both tummy tuck and face lift patients experience longer, more involved recoveries that with other surgeries and the emotions they feel are often quite intense.

Tummy tuck patients take on average 4-5 weeks to recover, and during that time their bodies are dealing with the aftermath of a large trauma. With this comes lethargy from anesthesia, discomfort, and limited mobility. Understandably, those things often lead to frustration and emotional fatigue in the early stages of healing. As the swelling improves and mobility returns, patients begin to feel less anxious and frustrated and “more like themselves” as they return to most of their normal routine.

Unlike tummy tuck patients, face lift patients do not have the luxury of hiding that they have had surgery as easily. As with breast surgery, our sensitivities to changes in our faces are also present, making facial surgery a potentially stressful endeavor. As the newly draped skin heals and smooths down, patients may feel anxious about uneven contours or bumps in the early stages of healing. Additionally, bruising and swelling is often quite visible and can be upsetting to some. As with any other procedure this does disappear, and around the 2-3-week mark patients are back to feeling confident and are happy with their decision to have surgery even before they are fully healed.

Should you find yourself considering cosmetic surgery, make sure to ask your doctor and patient care advocate about what emotions you may experience afterwards. Being prepared for what may come will reduce the amount of stress you experience both prior to surgery and during the healing process. Keeping the lines of communication open at all times will ultimately make you feel more confident about your decision and will improve your overall experience!