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Surgery sought as teens obsess over body image

Published: 12:20PM Monday May 17, 2010 Source: ONE News

As plastic surgery becomes more common place, the worrying trend of teenagers wanting cosmetic enhancement has emerged.

Doctor Frances Pitsillis told TVNZ's Breakfast that, in this day and age, more and more people are considering plastic surgery as an option, and for teens, a combination of peer and media pressure to look a certain way can often push them towards procedures.

Pitsillis points to a condition that can develop in teens or young adults, known as Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD), which then leads to excessive worry over tiny or non-existent flaws. This becomes an obsession until something, like surgery, is done.

This is dangerous on several fronts, says Pitsillis.

"Bodies change - girls will keep growing until after the age of 18-years-old, so waiting to see what your body does is a good idea."

She also says that young people often don't understand the risks involved with such procedures.

"Kids don't tend to understand risks or surgical risks before the age of 25-years-old. They don't realise that there are a lot of things that can go wrong."

Teenagers can also fixate on surgery when masking a deeper internal issue.

"I met one young woman who was actually depressed. She wanted something done and I had to convince her that we needed to deal with her depression first," she says.

However, Pitsillis does agree that there are some occassions when cosmetic surgery can be "appropriate".

Breast reductions are more appropriate, as they are often done due to health issues, such as back pain.

"Once you're about 16-years-old you're allowed to sign your own consent forms. But I think it's important to think about it," she says.