Are Women Going to Extremes to Appeal to That “Perfect” Man?

Posted by on 11 23 11 in Love Addiction News | Comments Off on Are Women Going to Extremes to Appeal to That “Perfect” Man?

By Suzanne Kane

The competition for male affection and/or attention may be leading some women today to go to extremes in order to appeal to that “perfect” man they seek. This isn’t something that is a joke, nor is it that openly admitted. But the incidents of women trying to radically change themselves by resorting to plastic surgery or engaging in dangerously unhealthy eating patterns are escalating.

There’s obviously something behind this phenomenon, and it isn’t all what it appears to be on the surface.

Plastic Surgery: When More is Not Necessarily Better

Let’s take the issue of plastic surgery first.

There was a series that aired on the cable channel FX for a while called “Nip and Tuck.” The lead characters were two male plastic surgeons, partners in business who dealt with, you guessed it, catering to the whims and wishes of those clientele seeking to fix what they felt needed fixing. In many cases, and, if you watched regularly, you’d come to believe a great deal of the cases, what needed to be fixed wasn’t really necessary at all. Vanity or some deep-seated emotional void was what really required help, but these were plastic surgeons, after all, and their business was using the scalpel.

Of course, they did go through the interview process with the prospective client or patient, trying to determine if the individual was looking to go under the knife for reasons other than those that were psychologically based. In some of the episodes, even if the person did suffer from some form of anxiety or depression, if the doctors felt they could “help” the person by doing the requested plastic surgery, they went ahead with it anyway.

The results didn’t always turn out to be as beneficial as the patients thought they’d be, leading to perhaps a conclusion that what should have been “fixed” first was the underlying psychological condition.

Nowadays, it would be virtually impossible to pick up a magazine or a newspaper without seeing advertisements for various cosmetic surgery options, all designed to make you appear more perfect for that perfect someone. There are ads to increase or decrease your bust size, to give you that perfect nose, to reshape your proportions to suit you, to smooth away cellulite and unwanted fatty deposits, to carve out that sagging belly and restore you to a sexy, flat stomach. Get rid of acne scars, warts, scars or other facial or bodily imperfections. Fix elongated or protruding ears.

Even dental procedures are touted in ads to reclaim your beautiful smile with promises to fix and reshape and realign all manner of teeth and lighten teeth to a dazzling white. Almost all of the ads feature before and after photos of women.

There’s a good reason behind that. Statistically speaking, women account for the bulk of these cosmetic procedures.

Searching for an easy fix, a way to appeal to that perfect man? Perhaps so, in fact, you might come to believe most assuredly so. It may not be right there on the surface, as visible as a protruding nose, but it’s there nonetheless. What the prospective patient tells the plastic surgeon may be one thing, but what’s really going on in their minds may be something quite different indeed.

This is not unlike the addict telling his or her family or doctor or therapist that everything’s under control. I don’t do drugs. I swear I haven’t had a drink and I don’t even think about it anymore.

The ability to deny what is the truth is the hallmark of the addict.

It may be close to what some women tell themselves about why they feel they absolutely have to have this or that cosmetic procedure. They’re not happy with themselves, and only something radical can make a difference. They need the surgery, sometimes to the point of multiple repetitive surgeries. More is better. One time is not enough. Some women even become addicted to having plastic surgeries.

Think this is outrageous? It isn’t. There have been well-documented cases of women who have demanded and sought out plastic surgeons willing to do repeat and multiple surgeries on them with the result that they wind up looking like cartoon creatures. The sad truth is that many of these same women tell themselves that the surgeries are worth it. They can’t see how their addiction to perfection has led them down a path of self-destruction.

Treatment for An Unrealistic Reliance on Plastic Surgery

Is there such a thing as treatment for an unrealistic reliance on plastic surgery? There is, and it’s called psychological counseling or therapy. In this regard, treatment for a person’s feelings of inadequacy, depression, anxiety and/or loneliness that propel that individual to seek multiple and repetitive plastic surgery operations must involve addressing the underlying reasons for such emotional turmoil.

This is likely a long-term (more than 30 days) effort, although it doesn’t necessarily require residential treatment. Many women can experience benefit from individual, group and possibly family counseling on an outpatient basis.

While therapy won’t make all that plastic surgery that’s already been done go away, it may very well result in the woman’s being able to learn how to live with herself and her appearance as it currently is and, more importantly, to learn how to be happy with herself as she is for who she is, not what she looks like. In any desire to attract a member of the opposite sex, it isn’t chasing after someone or some ideal that produces a result. It’s more about being yourself and allowing the attraction to develop based upon mutual interests and shared communication.

In any event, a therapist can help a woman who’s been fixated on fixing herself in order to appeal to that perfect man so that she begins to value herself first and foremost. Changing self-perception from one that’s devoid of self-esteem to one that’s self-confident and self-assured takes time. But it can be done. And it’s a lot more enduring than any round of plastic surgery.

Bingeing and Purging

Now, let’s look at another extreme behavior pattern, that of bingeing and purging. The fact is that in the United States, as many as 10 million females and one million men are engaged in a life and death battle with an eating disorder such as anorexia or bulimia. And millions more struggle with binge eating disorder. These statistics come from the National Eating Disorder Association, NEDA.

Granted, not every women (or young girl) who binges and purges does so out of a misguided belief that doing so will help her attract Mr. Perfect. In many cases, there is an underlying psychological basis for why the individual feels the need to stuff herself to the point of overcapacity and then induce vomiting to get rid of what she’s just consumed. Often, the tendency toward unhealthy eating patterns leading to a full-blown eating disorder runs in families. Current research seems to indicate that there are significant genetic contributions to eating disorders. Scientists are also researching possible biochemical causes of eating disorders, having found that in some individuals with eating disorders, certain chemicals in the brain that control appetite, hunger and digestion have been found to be out of balance.

There are also a number of social factors that contribute to eating disorders, including cultural pressure that still highlights the beautiful people as those that are pencil-thin and other portrayals in popular media of how to obtain the “perfect body.” Placing value on a person’s physical appearance in place of or out of proportion to their strengths and inner qualities just adds to some women’s belief that they need to drastically monitor their food intake and do something extreme about their overall food consumption. The result: quite possibly an eating disorder.

Troubled personal relationships, difficulty expressing emotions and feelings, a history of being teased or ridiculed because of their size or weight, and a history of physical or sexual abuse are other factors of an interpersonal nature that can contribute to eating disorders – and lead to some women going to extremes to appeal to that perfect man, the man of their dreams who would surely be theirs if they just lost 100 pounds or transformed their shape via radical dietary changes.

Naturally, a huge contributing factor to eating disorders is considered to be of psychological nature. Women, and girls, with low self-esteem, feelings of inadequacy or a lack of control in their lives, and those suffering with depression, anger, anxiety or loneliness are prime candidates for the risk of developing an eating disorder. They’re “not right,” and, therefore, how could they ever hope to attract Mr. Right – unless they do something drastic? So goes the misguided logic.

According to information from the NEDA, people with eating disorders often use food and the control of food in hopes of compensating for their feelings and emotions that otherwise may overwhelm them. They may diet, binge and purge – at least, in the beginning – in an effort to cope with these painful feelings and experiences. But what happens over time is that these behaviors ultimately damage the person’s physical and emotional health, their self-esteem, and their sense of competence and self-control.

In the case of women going to extremes to appeal to that perfect man, the dieting and bingeing and purging may not yield the desired results at all. Even if they do, the women may not be able to stop their dangerously unhealthy patterns of behavior without professional treatment. The sad reality is that if not identified and treated early, eating disorders can become chronic, debilitating and life-threatening conditions. Early diagnosis and intervention can significantly enhance recovery.

Treatment for Eating Disorder

Women who have an eating disorder, just as patients with any other kind of addictive behavior, require a treatment plan that is tailored to fit their specific condition and circumstance. There is no single treatment program for eating disorder that works for every person.

There are two simultaneous concerns that need to be addressed in any treatment for eating disorder: physiological and psychological. In the case of life-threatening eating disorders, the woman’s physical health needs to be restored. This involves hospital-based care (including inpatient, partial hospitalization), intensive outpatient and/or residential care in a facility that specializes in treating eating disorders).

The psychological aspect of treatment is also crucial to a woman’s recovery from an eating disorder. What needs to be explored and addressed during psychological counseling are the symptoms of the eating disorder and the underlying psychological, interpersonal and cultural forces that may have contributed to the development of the woman’s eating disorder.

Many women with eating disorders respond well to outpatient therapy. This includes individual, group and family therapy as well as medical management by their primary care provider. If psychiatric medications are warranted, they must be prescribed and monitored under careful supervision. Support groups and nutritional counseling may also prove helpful for women in overcoming their eating disorders.

Getting better and returning to a healthy lifestyle after suffering with an eating disorder won’t happen overnight. To think that it will is just as misguided as belief that being pencil-thin will attract that perfect man or result in instant friends and success. It takes time to overcome a disorder of the magnitude of anorexia or bulimia or binge eating disorder. It takes a lot of self-reflection with the help of a professional therapist to help undo some outdated perceptions and develop a healthier outlook and belief in oneself.

What to Do If You’re Concerned About Another

Do you know someone who’s fixated on either plastic surgery or is going to dietary extremes in an effort to appeal to that perfect man? If you’re concerned about this individual, arrange to sit down at a quiet location at a time when you won’t be interrupted and have a frank discussion about your concerns. Tell your friend or loved one how you feel and express your support and encouragement for the individual to get help.

If the situation involves an eating disorder that is chronic and debilitating, you may wish to enlist the support of others such as your friend’s family members, loved ones or other friends. The idea is to convey your concerns and get your friend to act, to get professional help. Offer to take your friend to the doctor to talk about what’s going on. Be patient and expect some resistance. Definitely be supportive and as loving as you can with your friend. Expect that there may be some resistance. After all, denial is right up there at the top of the kinds of statements you are likely to hear.

Bottom line: Remind your friend that you care. Say that you will be there and willing to help when they’re ready. And mean it. Check in on them often. Repeat your concern and your offer to help. This may mean all the difference between your friend’s continuing with her extreme behavior or getting the professional help she ultimately needs in order to begin the healing process.