Cosmetic surgery can be an amazing tool when used for those who are truly in need of it – such as the US firefighter who last week underwent a full facial transplant after receiving severe facial burns during a rescue operation in 2001 – but it can be used as an attempt to paper over ongoing mental struggles. Following on from International Men’s Day yesterday and numerous conversations about mental health, a story this morning proves that problems with physical appearance are a universal one, particularly for men and women in the entertainment and fashion industries.
Reid Ewing, better known as Haley’s dopey yet endearing boyfriend Dylan on Modern Family has opened up about his struggles with depression and body dysmorphia, resulting in a disgust in his own appearance so severe that he felt his only option was repeated plastic surgeries. In an op-ed in The Huffington Post Ewing now regrets the decisions he made as a teenager and through his twenties and questions the professionalism of his surgeons and the lack of mental health screening that ought to have been a prerequisite to surgery.
Following a move to L.A. as a teenager to become an actor, Ewing embarked on an unhealthy obsession over his appearance sparking him, at the age of only 19, to have plastic surgery. “No one should look this ugly” he thought to himself, “it’s unacceptable”. His consultant agreed that in order to succeed in the entertainment business Ewing would need surgery and settled on large cheek plants to “address the issue”. The severe swelling of the botched cheek implants forced Ewing to isolate himself from everyone and relied on heavy pain killers to get through the days. He felt even more unsightly than before, convinced that people on the street were staring at him with horror and became even more reclusive.
“Before seeking to change your face, you should question whether it is your mind that needs fixing”.
Over the next three years Ewing underwent a series of disastrous and excruciating operations by three other doctors, each one requiring a second surgery to repair the mistakes of the other, as well as experiments with fillers and fat transfers. The loneliness and pain of these repeated botched surgeries only served to intensify his self-hatred and obliterate his self-esteem. Finally in 2012 Ewing forced himself to end his addiction to changing his appearance and now regrets ever changing his face.
He now realises that the psychological issues that underpinned his body dysmorphia were the real threat that needed to be tackled not his appearance and hopes to encourage people to consider this before choosing to go under the knife. “Before seeking to change your face, you should question whether it is your mind that needs fixing” Ewing asks of anyone considering the plastic surgery route.