How Selfies, Filters Affect Body Image- Trigger Dysmorphic Disorder

Henrietta Strickland
August 8, 2018

Although the dysmorphia is named after Snapchat, the condition can also be inspired by the peer-pressure photo platform of Instagram as well as the facial-flaw editing apps like Facetune.

The public has reached a new level of body dysmorphic disorder, which some health professionals have dubbed as "Snapchat dysmorphia".

The notion of 'beauty perfection' once only applied to celebrities.

Their new study was published in the journal JAMA Facial Plastic Surgery on August 2. It is based on BDD, which is marked by an excessive preoccupation with a perceived "flaw" in physical appearance and the persistent need to change the said flaw.

This means the affected person is likely to resort to compulsive behaviors to deal with what they believe are imperfections.

According to the researchers from BMC, some may end up visiting dermatologists or plastic surgeons hoping to change their appearance. People with BDD often seek out cosmetic procedures, which might provide temporary relief, but does not quell the thoughts or anxiety for long. They also encourage clinicians to tread lightly by approaching the patient with empathy, not judgment.

BDD affects around 0.5% of the United Kingdom population and is closely related to obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD).

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

"A new phenomenon called "Snapchat dysmorphia" has popped up where patients are seeking out surgery to help them appear like the filtered versions of themselves", said Neelam Vashi from Boston University School of Medicine. Around 55% of facial plastic surgeons report seeing patients who are seeking operations to look better in selfies, according to the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery - perhaps in part because research has shown that selfies make your nose look 30% bigger.

Other studies on the psychology effects of social media found that people who spend more than five hours online are more likely to be depressed and have thoughts of suicide.

Thanks to apps like Snapchat and Instagram introducing various filters that we can apply during our selfies to make ourselves look silly, look lovely, and so on, it seems to have created a side-effect which is that it is apparently driving requests from teens for cosmetic surgery that will make them look as good as their selfies.

"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". Cognitive behavioral therapy, for example, with an empathic and non-judgmental therapist is often effective.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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