Until the last two years, if someone had asked me during my career what the prevalence of childhood abuse or neglect was in an elective plastic surgery practice, I would have assumed that it was very low. After all, most patients that I have met and cared for seemed “normal”, pleasant, and successful.
My research, now in 217 of my patients, show that is not the case. The prevalence of emotional abuse –– insults and berating –– is 50%. Emotional neglect –– no one caring if you are even around –– is 40%. Drug abuse in the family, alcoholism, and mental illness have prevalences much higher than in the general population. Even sexual trauma is over 20%.
These numbers will astonish a lot of surgeons, and they should. What I hope will come through in my new text is that everyone has a history, both patients and their physicians, and we as plastic surgeons must know more about our patients before we change their appearances.
What is even more wonderful is that despite trauma, many patients are so resilient that they become successful and happy despite rough beginnings. That has turned out to be the most inspiring part of this research.
You will find the details in my new text, Childhood Abuse, Body Shame, and Addictive Plastic Surgery: The Face of Trauma, out this month.