Idolizing images was once reserved for the airbrushed celebrities in your magazine, but now doctors are sounding the alarm about a new trend, “Snapchat dysmorphia”. Teens and adults are flocking to plastic surgeons to resemble their favorite Snapchat filters, you know the ones, with a flower crown or puppy ears, where the face seems more slender and symmetrical.
“Now, it is not just celebrities propagating beauty standards: it is a classmate, a coworker, or a friend.”
This new phenomenon was introduced in a recent JAMA Facial Plastic Surgery report by Boston University School of Medicine’s Department of Dermatology. They reported that plastic surgeons first identified this trend in 2017. Current data shows that 55% of surgeons report seeing patients who request surgery to improve their appearance in selfies. Those same patients are also increasingly sharing their surgical procedures and results on social media.
The trend is alarming for doctors because most of the filters that patients are using often present an “unattainable look” and are “blurring the line of reality and fantasy for these patients.”
“Prior to the popularity of selfies, the most common complaint from those seeking rhinoplasty was the hump of the dorsum of the nose,” writes the medical team. “Today, nasal and facial asymmetry is the more common presenting concern. Along with rhinoplasties, hair transplants and eyelid surgical procedures are also popular requests to improve selfie appearance.”
According to the JAMA report, this obsession can trigger body dysmorphic disorder (BDD); a preoccupation with a flaw, where it is excessive enough to be classified as obsessive-compulsive. They claim the disorder is more than just a basic insecurity or lack of confidence.
When prospective plastic surgery patients are dealing with the BDD mental illness disorder, doctors recommend psychological intervention such as cognitive behavioral therapy, as well as medications to help manage the disorder. Above all, medical professionals are encouraged to take an “empathetic and nonjudgmental approach”.
Popular journalist, Katie Couric, took an empathetic approach as she weighed in on the “Snapchat dysmorphia” headlines on her Instagram account. She posted a selfie from her bed writing about the unhealthy obsession people are forced to combat and claiming, “clearly, I am bucking that trend.”
Companies like Dove, in a partnership with the YMCA, are promoting more transparency and authenticity on social media by asking users to stop editing their photos before posting. This Be Real Campaign is the latest movement by advertisers in fashion, music and media industries to help buck the BDD trend and reflect healthy role models for teens and young adults.
“Filtered selfies especially can have harmful effects on adolescents or those with BDD because these groups may more severely internalize this beauty standard,” reports the doctors in the JAMA article. “It is important for clinicians to understand the implications of social media on body image and self-esteem to better treat and counsel their patients.”
Read more on how you can closely watch your teens’ obsession with social media images or be aware of mental health disorder signs to prevent these drastic measures and BDD symptoms in these WebSafety articles.