If you have a phone, there’s a really good chance you’ve turned the camera on yourself and tried out a Snapchat or Instagram filter—or 10.
Seems like pretty harmless fun (come on, that puppy face is so cute). But now, doctors are warning of a new trend: plastic surgery patients seeking to look like those filtered versions of themselves.
Doctors are calling the trend “Snapchat dysmorphia,” according to a paper published Thursday in the journal JAMA Facial Plastic Surgery. (The term was initially coined by Tijion Esho, a British cosmetic doctor, earlier this year.) The article, written by doctors from Boston University School of Medicine’s department of dermatology notes: “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.”
Just so you’re clear: People aren’t seeking out puppy dog ears or permanent flower crowns—they’re looking for those more subtle enhancements like fuller lips, bigger eyes, or a thinner nose, according to the paper.
In fact, the authors of the paper believe that Snapchat dysmorphia is a form of body dysmorphic disorder (BDD), a body-image disorder where you can’t stop obsessing over one or more minor flaws in your appearance that you think you have, notes the article.
People with BDD have “significant distress” over their appearance and it impacts their ability to function normally. People who suffer from it often seek out several plastic surgery procedures to try to “fix” their issues.
The article’s authors point to the 2017 Annual American Academy of Facial Plastic And Reconstructive Surgery survey, which showed that 55 percent of plastic surgeons reported patients requesting surgery to improve their appearance in selfies. The most common procedures thought to improve selfies are rhinoplasties, hair transplants, and eyelid surgical procedures, per the article.
While, yes, there have been unrealistic beauty standards for quite a while (like airbrushing models and actresses in magazines) these Snapchat filters and apps like Facetune “are providing a new reality of beauty for today’s society,” write the paper’s authors. “It can be argued that these apps are making us lose touch with reality because we expect to look perfectly primped and filtered in real life as well,” the doctors add.
And surgery isn’t the answer to improving BDD—or even Snapchat dysmorphia—according to the doctors, who say it may even make those underlying feelings worse.
Instead, the paper’s authors write, people who suffer from BDD need psychological help, including cognitive behavioral therapy (which works to help patients recognize negative thoughts or patterns and replace them with positive ones) and even medication like selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), which are often used to treat depression and anxiety disorders.
Listen, if you love the way you look in a certain Snapchat filter, that’s fair (everyone looks cute in puppy ears). But if you find that you’re thinking about it all the time, and obsessing over “flaws” in your appearance that no one else can see, it may be time to check in with a licensed mental health professional to make sure you’re not venturing into BDD territory.
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