Selfies Are Apparently Driving Cosmetic Surgery Requests

Henrietta Strickland
August 6, 2018

According to writings of three dermatologists from the Boston University School of Medicine, an increasing number of patients are seeking out Snapchat-inspired plastic surgery.

Beauty standards have changed significantly over the past couple of decades.

The "Snapchat dysmorphia" is an offshoot of Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD), a preoccupation with perceived flaws in appearance. This new technology has gone beyond the digital screen - psychologists have dubbed this obsession with looking like a filter "Snapchat dysmorphia".

People with BDD may spend a lot of time comparing their looks with others', looking in or avoiding mirrors and going to great lengths to hide perceived flaws.

The disorder affects around two per cent of the population, and is classified on the obsessive-compulsive spectrum. Though he says that it can be ok if a patient uses a filtered photo of themselves "as a reference point", he believes it can become a danger when "becomes how the patient sees themselves, or the patient wants to look exactly like that image".

The authors referenced studies that showed teenage girls who manipulated their photographs were excessively anxious about their body appearance.

A survey found 55 per cent of plastic surgeons in the U.S. had patients who requested surgery to improve appearance in selfies in 2017 - up from 42 per cent in 2015 and 13 per cent in 2013.

Medical professionals are warning against a growing phenomenon of "Snapchat dysmorphia", teenagers seeking plastic surgery in the hopes of achieving the look of the airbrushed images they post online.

The authors, part of BU's Department of Dermatology, cited an earlier study that found adolescent girls who spent a significant amount of time manipulating their photos reported higher levels of concern about their bodies and overestimated their weight.

While Snapchat dysmorphia is not a clinically diagnosable condition, the authors write that pursuing surgery for unrealistic facial changes could contribute to or exacerbate BDD. Cognitive behavioral therapy, for example, with an empathic and non-judgmental therapist is often effective.

"Filtered selfies can make people lose touch with reality, creating the expectation that we are supposed to look perfectly primped all the time", she added, in the paper published in the journal JAMA Facial Plastic Surgery Viewpoint.

"This can be especially harmful for teens and those with BDD, and it is important for providers to understand the implications of social media on body image to better treat and counsel our patients".

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