Obsessed with Perfection
Jenny was just 25 years old when she had a brow lift. She's also had Botox, cheek implants, three nose jobs, veneers on her teeth, three lip implants, two boob jobs, three breast lifts, and liposuction on her arms, stomach, hips, thighs, and knees. Jenny says that the total cost of her plastic surgeries is about $80,000.
"I still see a lot of things that are wrong," Jenny says. "I still want other things done. I'm unhappy with stretch marks left from pregnancy, and I would like a tummy tuck. I still see imperfections in my nose and wrinkles around my eyes and all kinds of stuff. I mean, it just depends on the day. It's been a battle that I've had with my poor self-esteem that started a long time ago and the continuous need to feel like I should fit in somehow, and I never can fit in. …I'm obsessed with it, I don't know what an addict is. I've never been addicted to drugs. I've never been addicted to alcohol. I've never been an alcoholic. So if this is what addiction is, then, yes, I'm addicted to it. I think about it all the time."
At the same time, Lauren is disturbed by her sister's radically altered appearance.
"Honestly, I don't think she looks as good as she would if she had never had plastic surgery," she says. "I think that she looks plastic. I think fake almost, and materialistic. When we walk down the street, it's noticeable. It's almost kind of like a circus clown. I think she cut herself short. She was beautiful even before she had her surgery. … It hurts to know that my sister has changed her face so much that we don't look alike."
"We're a nation obsessed with beauty pursuing it at all costs," Dr. Etcoff says. "We see images of perfect beauty everywhere. We see extreme makeovers now. People will do so much to be beautiful. When I'm listening to [Jenny], what I hear is a profound lack of self-acceptance, contentment, even a self-loathing that fuels all this."
Dr. Etcoff says that Jenny likely suffers from a common condition now known as Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD). BDD often strikes people in their teens."
It's a psychiatric problem where people are pre-occupied with an imagined or very slight defect," Dr. Etcoff says. "They can't stop thinking about it. They've checked the mirror all day. They spend hours thinking about it. They'll ask people, 'How do I look?' And what happens is, everyone says, 'Sure, I think about my looks.' But it becomes so preoccupying that it's torturous. It becomes an obsession."
"It wasn't an argument," Brad says. "You get it done, and I'm leaving. I mean, it's over. I'm prepared to get a divorce and take our kids. I've had enough with the plastic surgery. Our household can't take it anymore. It doesn't benefit me and it doesn't benefit my children. It's not only a financial thing. It's hard to live in a house where somebody is always so unhappy about themselves. I have an 11-year-old daughter and a 9-year-old son. I don't need them growing up to be obsessive about their weight or their looks."
Cheryl says, "He's tired of it all. We can't afford it. I mean, we refinanced our house to do this. So I need to stop."
Jenny's words hit home for Cheryl. "I'm done," Cheryl says. "I can't. I don't want to roll the dice. A light bulb went off. I have two children. And my husband. To roll the dice with my life, to lose my kids, lose my husband…I'll stick with my legs [the way they are]."
Horrified by what she was doing to herself, her parents had cut off her allowance and Hope was stealing to pay for her plastic surgery. Desperate, this former debutante began posing nude to support her addiction.
"I was so broke and so desperate for money and attention that I ended up in a bondage photographer's studio," says Hope. "That was horrifying but that was the moment where I realized what I was doing. I did hit bottom that day. … I walked out of the studio and I called a therapist and started therapy."
Hope had her last surgery 10 years ago to remove her breast implants but confesses she has since "fallen off the wagon" and had "procedures" such as Botox and collagen injections. Each time, Hope says, it felt like "I had failed."
Hope says recovery has been a constant struggle. "I've booked and then cancelled prior to surgery four nose jobs," admits Hope. "I can't fool myself anymore. I cannot fool myself into thinking that a smaller nose is going to equal a happier me. I know that doesn't work anymore because I tried that."