SnapChat Might Trigger Body Dysmorphic Disorder

Parents might want to have a conversation with their teens and tweens who use SnapChat or Facetune. A Viewpoint published on JAMA Facial Plastic Surgery warns that apps that enable users to alter their selfies into something prettier can trigger body dysmorphic disorder in some people.

The Viewpoint was written by Susruthi Rajanala, BA; Mayra B. C. Mayome, MD; and Neelam A. Vashi, MD. They point out a change in patients who seek plastic surgery.

“Previously, patients would bring images of celebrities to their consultations to emulate their attractive features. A new phenomenon, dubbed “Snapchat dysmorphia,” has patients seeking out cosmetic surgery to look like filtered versions of themselves instead, with fuller lips, bigger eyes, or a thinner nose. This is an alarming trend because those filtered selfies often present an unobtainable look and are blurring the line of reality and fantasy for these patients.”

Snapchat allows users to take a selfie and alter it in ways that are probably intended to be fun. It is possible to add a flower crown to a selfie, or add features that make a person resemble an adorable puppy or kitty. These are just a few examples. Facetune can smoothen skin, make teeth look whiter, and make eyes and lips look bigger.

The Anxiety and Depression Association of America has information about Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD). It is a body-image disorder characterized by persistent and intrusive preoccupations with an imagined or slight defect in one’s appearance.

Signs and Symptoms include:

  • camouflaging (with body position, clothing, makeup, hair, hats, etc.)
  • comparing body part to others’ appearance
  • seeking surgery
  • checking in a mirror
  • avoiding mirrors
  • skin picking
  • excessive grooming
  • excessive exercise
  • changing clothes excessively

The plastic surgeons note that the desire for cosmetic surgery is an important part of BDD. Patients may seek surgery hoping to look better in selfies and social media.

They point out it can be argued that those social media apps are making people lose touch with reality because we expect to look perfectly primped and filtered in real life as well. They note that filtered selfies especially can have harmful effects on adolescents and those with BDD because these groups may more severely internalize this beauty standard.

Mental Health America has some information and advice for parents who think their tween or teen may have BDD. Some of that advice includes:

  • Be patient and supportive.
  • Encourage treatment by means of psychological therapy or psychiatric medication
  • Maintain a positive and close relationship.
  • Remember that this is not a vanity issue, even though it appears to be.
  • Remember to show unconditional love and let them talk about their struggles and experience with BDD.

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