For teens who endure bullying because of their looks, parents, educators and experts are often at a loss as to the best way to handle the issue. However a recent report on Good Morning America suggests that a small but growing number of teens (and their parents) are turning to plastic surgery as a solution to the problem of teen bullying.
“I do see a fair amount of parents coming in with their child because of bullying and teasing and feelings of self-consciousness,” says cosmetic surgeon Dr. Michael Fiorillo.
Erica Morgo was one such child, who sought a nose job at 15 after being taunted for years by her classmates because of her large nose.
“I felt helpless. I felt like a loser,” said Morgo about the effects of the bullying. “I tried breaking my nose once. I was so fed up with the bullying that I tried banging my face against the door.”
In addition to acting in self-harm, Erica Morgo also reported missing about a month of school in an effort to avoid facing her tormentors, and finally her mother, Dana Manzella, decided enough was enough and allowed her daughter to have plastic surgery.
“I think that was definitely a good decision, because it brought her back — her self-esteem back up to be able to do activities that she did before, with comfort,” Manzella said.
Manzella also allowed her younger daughter, Breanna Morgo, to start having Botox injections a few times a year to correct her droopy smile at age 5.
“We only do it twice a year — in September for school pictures, and then again in June for her birthday,” Manzella said of Breanna Morgo’s Botox regimen.
Although Manzella has no qualms about her daughters’ cosmetic procedures, child psychiatrist Dr. Ned Hallowell thinks that Manzella and parents like her may be putting their children at unnecessary physical and psychological risk.
“The idea of someone getting plastic surgery to avoid bullying seems to me as crazy and worrisome as if a black person were to go to a doctor and say, ‘I wanna become white to avoid racism,’” Dr. Hallowell said. “The problem is clearly with the phenomenon of bullying, and not with the person’s nose.”
Still, despite the objections of Hallowell and other teen plastic surgery critics, nearly 90,000 teenagers had cosmetic surgery in 2007. The procedures most commonly sought were rhinoplasty, breast reduction, breast augmentation, ear surgery and Botox.
While many plastic surgeons will decline to operate on teens unless they present a serious or pronounced physical deformity, other surgeons believe that some teens are mature enough to make the decision to undergo cosmetic procedures (with parental consent).
“My preference is, of course, to work out the issues first, the bullying, the teasing. But there are certain situations where people are mature enough. And surgery is a final resort,” said Dr. Fiorillo.
In general, the issue of whether to operate on a particular patient, regardless of age or emotional maturity, is a decision left entirely up to each individual surgeon, so it is important to consult with a Houston plastic surgeon whose ethics and judgment you trust before you (or your teen) pursue elective surgery.