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People seeking surgery to look like 'filtered versions of themselves'

There’s a new phenomenon called ‘Snapchat dysmorphia’, researchers have said.

Image: Shutterstock/Diana Indiana

SOME PEOPLE ARE getting plastic surgery in a bid to look like a filtered version of themselves, according to researchers in the US.

The wide use of filters and photo-editing technology used via applications like Snapchat and Facetune can take its toll on a person’s self-esteem and body image.

As such images become the norm, people’s perceptions of beauty are changing – something which can trigger body dysmorphic disorder (BDD), researchers from the Boston Medical Center (BMC) argue in a new paper.

BDD is an excessive preoccupation with a perceived flaw in appearance, often characterised by people going to great – and at times unhealthy – lengths to hide their so-called imperfections.

The researchers note that this can include engaging in repetitive behaviour such as skin picking, and visiting dermatologists or plastic surgeons hoping to change their appearance. BDD affects around 2% of the general population, and is classified on the obsessive-compulsive spectrum.

The paper, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, references studies that show teen girls who manipulated their photos were more concerned with their body appearance, and those with dysmorphic body image seek out social media as a means of validation.

Additional research has shown that 55% of plastic surgeons report seeing patients who want to improve their appearance in selfies.

Snapchat dysmorphia

“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,” Neelam Vashi, MD and director of the Ethnic Skin Center at BMC and Boston University School of Medicine, said.

According to the authors, surgery is not the best course of action in these cases because it will not improve, and may worsen, underlying BDD. They recommend psychological interventions such as cognitive behavioral therapy and management of the disorder in an empathetic and non-judgemental way.

“Filtered selfies can make people lose touch with reality, creating the expectation that we are supposed to look perfectly primped all the time,” Vashi said.

“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.”

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Órla Ryan

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