Does Heidi Montag have a plastic surgery addiction?

This week’s People magazine’s cover story is about reality celebrity/singer Heidi Montag’s claim that she is addicted to plastic surgery. The 23 year old The Hills star told People magazine:

“For the past three years, I’ve thought about what to have done. I’m beyond obsessed.

I was made fun of when I was younger, and so I had insecurities, especially after I moved to L.A. People said I had a “Jay Leno chin”; they’d circle it on blogs and say nasty things. It bothered me. And when I watched myself on The Hills, my ears would be sticking out like Dumbo! I just wanted to feel more confident and look in the mirror and be like, “Whoa! That’s me!” I was an ugly duckling before.”

On November 20th, Montag underwent 10 cosmetic procedures in a single day. This included revisions of a previous rhinoplasty (“nose job”) and further expansion of a breast enhancement procedure. She also had liposuction, a mini brow lift, botox, fat injections and a buttock augmentation.

Source: People

Most of us can name people that seem to have overboard with cosmetic plastic surgery procedures. Some of the most notable include Michael Jackson, Swiss socialite Jocelyn Wildenstein (the “Bride of Wildenstein”), and Jackie Stallone.

Whether Heidi Montag or any of these others have an actual plastic surgery “addiction” is impossible to say without having seen or spoken to these people ourselves. However, plastic surgery addiction/obsession seems to be a real entity, with the following characteristics:

* Countless cosmetic surgeries, either on the same body part or on different body parts.
* Obsession with a very minor defect not noticeable to others.
* Obsession with a specific body part or parts of an admired celebrity or model.
* Extremely unrealistic expectations (very difficult to please as patients).
* Refusal to listen to the advice of a cosmetic surgeon when he/she advises them that further plastic surgery is unnecessary and will not help – or will do more harm than good.

Many of these people have a psychiatric disorder called Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD).  BDD is a severe condition that involves a preoccupation with a perceived defect in appearance. Individuals with BDD experience excessive shame, anxiety, and often depression about their appearance. BDD suffers often seek dermatologic or cosmetic surgical procedures and frequently use or avoid mirrors. Much of their self-worth is related to how they feel about their appearance.

The best treatment for an addiction to cosmetic surgery – especially if it’s a result of BDD – is cognitive behavioral  therapy. Although research on effective treatment is still limited, serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SRIs) (which increase the amount of serotonin in the brain) are currently considered the medication treatment of choice.

For more information:

Plastic Surgery Addiction
Mark Boguski, M.D., Ph.D. is on the faculty of Harvard Medical School and is a member of the Society for Participatory Medicine, "a movement in which networked patients shift from being mere passengers to responsible drivers of their health" and in which professional health care providers encourage "empowered patients" and value them as full partners in managing their health and wellness.

1 Comment

  1. Rachel Zimmerman

    November 18, 2014 at 9:12 am

    It is well known that many Hollywood stars undergo surgical or noninvasive cosmetic procedures. While in the past, reports of celebrities’ plastic surgeries were only detailed and circulated in supermarket tabloids and celebrity gossip websites, now more and more celebrities are openly speaking out about and sometimes even documenting the surgeries or procedures that they have received. Heidi Montag, as shown above, is one of those celebrities. I think the reasons why Heidi’s transformation garnered so much attention were that firstly, she was only in her twenties; secondly, she drastically had ten surgeries done at once; and thirdly, she is featured prominently on a reality television program. What are the implications of the representation of cosmetic surgery in mass media forms such as reality television? Furthermore, how does the portrayal of celebrities receiving these procedures influence the public?
    I would assume that most people watch reality television for entertainment purposes. However, one article that we discussed in class1 shows that there is a relationship between viewership of plastic surgery reality television shows and how patients perceive their knowledge of plastic surgery. While the show Heidi was in was not a plastic surgery reality television program, it is still a reality television show. Perhaps reality television programs seem to have a different influence on viewers than a scripted drama, for example, because storylines in reality television are more accessible and relatable to someone’s everyday life. A viewer interested in plastic surgery, would likely view a reality star’s experience with plastic surgery as much more realistic and reliable than that of a character in a television drama. It cannot be said, however, that reality television necessarily directly causes someone to have plastic surgery, but undoubtedly, any form of media can influence viewers. Additionally, it is important to keep in mind that in a time when documenting thoughts and “selfies” on social media is a part of daily life, and self-esteem is quantified by numbers of likes and followers, physical appearance is more important than ever. This article states that Heidi may have body dysmorphic disorder (BDD). Obviously, a mental health issue is much more serious than insecurity about a specific body part, but the two go hand in hand. If celebrities, who are already revered for their beauty, publicly admit, as Heidi did, to feeling unsatisfied with their looks, then members of the public likely also feel these same pressures. The growing multi-billion dollar plastic surgery industry obviously reflects these trends.
    I find it interesting that about a year or so later, Heidi gave many interviews and appeared on magazine covers stating that she regretted her many plastic surgeries and thought she looked even worse than before. As technology progresses, the types of procedures that cosmetic surgeons can do are expanding, and surgeons can make these changes “more natural” looking. Although I feel that people should be able to do whatever they please with their bodies, I hope that society can shift away from an obsession with outward physical appearance and focus more on overall health and emotional wellbeing. Perhaps through more positive stories of plastic surgery in the media as well as accurate medical information about the realities of plastic surgery and the risks involved can we slowly make this change.

    1“The Influence of Plastic Surgery ‘Reality TV’ on Cosmetic Surgery Patient Expectations and Decision Making,” J. of Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery vol. 120, no. 1 (2007): 316-24

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