The Troubling New Trend Known as ‘Snapchat Dysmorphia’

The Troubling New Trend Known as ‘Snapchat Dysmorphia' | Dr. Ali Ghahary

In today’s day and age, it’s hard to escape social media – particularly if you have a computer, tablet or smartphone. More than half of Canadians have at least one social media app on their devices or knows someone who does. There’s no escaping it. There’s also no escaping some of the health risks that are associates with today’s technology. Especially in children and youth. For example, if your child has poor grades or wakes up every morning feeling like they haven’t gotten enough sleep, chances are that computer, tablet or smartphone may be the culprit. Adults are also just as susceptible to developing health problems as a direct result of use of these devices, which can include RSIs (Repetitive Strain Injuries), muscle stiffness, vision problems, and even depression.

According to reports, a troubling new trend known as ‘Snapchat Dysmorphia’, is also on the rise. Snapchat is an app that essentially allows users to create stills, also known as “snaps”, or short video stories, while also changing their appearance through something called filters. Snapchat filters change regularly, and give individuals the opportunity to transform them into different looks – such as certain animals, while also having the option to use filters that make them look airbrushed and magazine-ready. As a result of liking their altered (and sometimes unrealistic) appearance, medical professionals say that individuals – particularly young women – are going into healthcare offices with their filtered photos in hand to point out certain facial features they want fixed, resulting in the birth of the term ‘Snapchat Dysmorphia’ – a branch off of Body Dysmorphic Disorder, a condition in which someone becomes obsessed with imaginary defects in their appearance. BDD affects 1 in 50 people, and is especially common in teenagers.

While ‘Snapchat Dysmorphia’ sounds like a silly title to give something, it can turn into a very real problem, and can even result in issues with mental health, such as depression and anxiety; and, in some cases, even suicide. Someone with ‘Snapchat Dysmorphia’ or Body Dysmorphic Disorder may visit multiple plastic surgeons over time in order to “fix” imperfections, while others may try to hide behind sunglasses and scarves when in public. Both ‘Snapchat Dysmorphia’ and BDD have also been linked to other social phobias, and even drug addiction. The good news, if there is any, is that most of the time these conditions don’t actually have anything to do with how the individual looks, as it’s more about how they’re feeling on the inside (though someone with SS or BDD won’t realize this.)

In effort to help society swing in a more accepting and realistic direction, many celebrities have turned to social media to share things like makeup-free selfies, pointing out the fact that they have just as many flaws as the “average” person. In addition, parents can also starting teaching their children at a very early age the importance of embracing themselves and others for exactly who they are instead of what society and social media apps perceive things.

If you or someone you know is suffering from Body Dysmorphia or other related disorders, you can reach out for help from a trusted medical professional, such as your family physician. He or she can refer you to a psychiatrist or clinical psychologist, as well as provide you with a list of different counselling services. Things like cognitive behavioural therapy have proven to be effective when dealing with BDD, and with the right treatment is something you can overcome.