'Snapchat Dysmorphia': Doctors warn against social media influence on body image

Snapchat dysmorphia

Snapchat dysmorphia

The researchers cite that the demand among today's youth for plastic surgery to look better in selfies is only growing.

Researchers from the Boston Medical Center (BMC) claim the filters popularised by Instagram and others can prompt users to "lose touch with reality". The results are instant: smoother skin, plumper lips, wider eyes, and more defined contours on the face and body.

The "Snapchat dysmorphia" is an offshoot of Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD), a preoccupation with perceived flaws in appearance. A person with BDD obsesses over what they believe are physical flaws, even if those flaws are invisible to others.

"A new phenomenon called Snapchat dysmorphia has popped up", said Neelam Vashi with Boston University School of Medicine, "where patients are seeking out surgery to help them appear like the filtered versions of themselves".

Approximately two percent of the general population have BDD, which psychologists say is on the obsessive-compulsive spectrum.

It can lead to depression and self harm and affects people of all ages and genders, but is most prevalent among teenagers and young adults. "A quick share on Instagram and the likes and comments start rolling in", Dr Vashi added.

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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.

In the past, patients seeking plastic surgery heavily relied on the looks of celebrities for inspiration, not photo filters.

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. They recommend psychological interventions such as cognitive behavioral therapy and management of the disorder in an empathetic and non-judgmental way.

"The danger is when this is not just a reference point, but it becomes how the patient sees themselves, or the patient wants to look exactly like that image".

According to the article, a recent study analyzed the effect of edited selfies on body dissatisfaction among adolescent girls and found that those who tweaked their photos much more using social media apps like Snapchat and Facetune, reported a higher level of concern with their bodies, and an overestimation of body shape and weight.

This can include engaging in repetitive behaviours like skin picking, and visiting dermatologists or plastic surgeons hoping to change their appearance.

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