THE PSYCHOLOGICAL STAGES OF THE ABDOMINOPLASTY EXPERIENCE
I. The Adrenaline Phase: Healthy individuals choosing to undergo elective surgery have to overcome the fear of "going under the knife." This willful act of putting oneself in harms way is only possible if rationalization ("the thinking brain") is turned off for a brief interval of time. The mechanism is relatively simple: The intense desire for an improved self-image ("The Quest") gradually floods the system with Adrenaline, a hormone that allows us to sustain the rigors of fighting. Adrenaline production will gradually rise throughout the process preceding the surgery and will reach a peak on the day of the operation. It is the most effective way to keep fear at bay.
II. The Surgical Phase: Once surgery is rendered, "The Quest" has been fulfilled. The goal that had been driving the patient throughout the process has been achieved and the production of Adrenaline tapers off. The entire stock of this hormone will typically be used within the ten days following the operation. As Adrenaline levels slowly dwindle, the "thinking brain" gradually emerges from its slumber and starts asking hard questions. This scrutinization of ones acts coincides with the period of physical hardship: Abdominal tightness; Uncomfortable posture; Visibility of the incision; Pain of surgery and the uncertainty of the outcome.
III. The Depressive Phase: This can happen between 10 days to two weeks following the operation and is short lived. The sudden realization that one has put her/himself in harms way and has paid money for such a reckless act can hit the unprepaired patient like a freight train. Common false assumptions run from: "I will never stand straight again" to "I am disfigured for life." These assumptions are mixed with questions like: "Why have I done this to myself?", "Was it worth it?" and "Will I ever be normal again?" Patients who do not have a strong support team (spouse; family; friends) can be overwhelmed by this line of thinking and rapidly sink into depression. The support network acts as the safety net for the patients, reminding them that they are loved and that they are not alone in this process.
IV. The Emergence Phase: Gradually, the veil of uncertainty lifts off and the patient regains her/his composure. The reasons that had mandated the surgery in the first place slowly come back into focus. This is helped by the regaining of an upright posture and the gradual elimination of the discomfort experienced immediately following the intervention. This is when the patient starts appreciating the fruits of the experience and finally realizes that her/his troubles have not been in vain. Typically, this happens three weeks after the operation.
V. The Excitement Phase: With the elimination of fluid retention and the resolution of swelling, body contour and weight change. Surprisingly, I see this in my practice more as a SUDDEN occurence rather than a GRADUAL one. Tales related by my patients are too similar to be dismissed as a mere coincidence: "I woke up this morning and my pants were too loose" or "I could not believe that my weight dropped by (X) pounds when I stepped on my scales." This phase is commonly seen around 6 weeks following the operation.
VI. The Ecstasy Phase: Three months following the tummy-tuck surgery, the patient is back in full control of her/his destiny. Any remorse about having had the operation in the first place is long gone by then and is replaced by "Best thing I have ever done for myself." Strange enough, this great joy and satisfaction of having had the courage to undergo such a grueling process coincides with the stage of maximal visibility of the scar.
VII. The Crying (from joy) Phase: When the scars have faded at six months following the surgery, I take the "AFTER" photographs and put them side-by-side with the "BEFORE" pictures for my patients to see. This is when everyone happily cries.
Patients travel from all over the world to have a
tummy tuck at the skilled hands of Dr. Anous. He has developed a unique technique for abdominoplasty called Mercator. View the videos on this website to learn about this procedure.