January 13, 2010
So-called lifestyle addictions are claiming a growing number of victims, especially among housewives. They are behavioral compulsions such as shopping, gambling, sex and plastic surgery, but they have in common with substance addiction that addicts develop ever greater tolerance and seek stronger and more immediate stimuli; they even show withdrawal symptoms when they find themselves restrained.
The number of housewives undergoing plastic surgery has risen significantly over the last couple of years. In Ilsan, which has a high concentration of middle class households, the number of plastic surgery clinics stood at three only just a few years ago but has mushroomed to 10, all of which record a 1.5-fold increase in the number of patients. The same is true with Bundang near Seoul. A plastic surgeon says, “Our core customer base are housewives in their mid or late 30s who are economically comfortable and start to become dissatisfied with their looks now their 20s are over.”
Plastic surgeons consider 5-10 percent of their patients addicted. A doctor owning a cosmetic surgery clinic in Ilsan recalls, “One of my patients had already undergone nose surgery as many as 6 times at another hospital but came to our clinic for her seventh.” In most cases, the addiction starts with a simple desire to look better. But after one or two operations, people find they just want to go on and on. Those who feel insecure because of their looks have a higher chance of developing a plastic surgery addiction. Oh Jong-min, a professor of neuropsychiatry at Inje University Seoul Paik Hospital, says people with a condition known as body dysmorphic disorder (BDD), who believe they are deformed when they look in the mirror even when they look perfectly pretty to others, are very hard to treat and the success rate is not high.