Rise Of ‘Snapchat Dysmorphia’ Alarming Medical Professionals
Medical professionals are expressing alarm at the rising number of people requesting surgical procedures to make them look more like their social media photos. The vast array of filters and editing options available today are helping people change their appearance to a more idealized version of themselves and then they want to also look that way in real life. A new article published in JAMA Facial Plastic Surgery written by doctors from Boston University School of Medicine’s Department of Dermatology examines the issue.
According to the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, a survey conducted in 2017 found that 55 percent of surgeons reported patients seeking surgery so they could look better in selfies. That was 13 percent higher than the previous year. The article says, “This is an alarming trend because those filtered selfies often present an unattainable look and are blurring the line of reality and fantasy for these patients.”
British cosmetic doctor Tijion Esho coined a new term, “Snapchat dysmorphia,” to describe the psychology of patients who seek cosmetic surgery procedures to look more like the filtered versions of themselves. The condition is a type of body dysmorphic disorder (BDD), a diagnosable mental illness classified on the obsessive-compulsive spectrum.
BDD is characterized by obsession over one’s perceived physical flaws, causing extreme distress and anxiety. A 2007 study published in Primary Psychiatry found that roughly a quarter of people suffering from body dysmorphic disorder have attempted suicide and about 80 percent experience lifetime suicidal ideation. BDD can be treated with therapy and medication.
The widespread availability of photo-editing software is having an effect on patients’ expectations of what they can and should look like. The article noted that “The pervasiveness of these filtered images can take a toll on one’s self esteem, make one feel inadequate for not looking a certain way in the real world, and may even act as a trigger and lead to body dysmorphic disorder,”
Unfortunately, surgery is unlikely to fix the issues these patients are having with their appearance. Neelam Vashi, an assistant professor of dermatology at the Boston University School of Medicine and one of the article’s authors, said traditional cosmetic procedures are largely unable to reproduce the “instant fix” people see in their edited photos.