Wednesday, August 15, 2018
Health

Patients are desperate to look like their doctored selfies. Plastic surgeons alarmed by ‘Snapchat Dysmorphia.’

Remember the days when people would bring photos of celebrities to the plastic surgeon’s office and ask for Angelina Jolie’s lips or Brad Pitt’s jawline? That’s not the case anymore.

Now, people want to look like themselves — heavily edited or filtered versions of themselves, that is.

Doctors have spotted a trend of people bringing in their own selfies, usually edited with a smartphone application, and asking to look more like their photos, according to an article recently published in JAMA Facial Plastic Surgery by researchers from the Boston University School of Medicine’s department of dermatology.

The phenomenon is known as "Snapchat dysmorphia," and it’s causing widespread concern among experts who are worried about its negative effect on people’s self-esteem and its potential to trigger body dysmorphic disorder, a serious mental illness classified on the obsessive-compulsive spectrum.

"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," the article states.

Neelam Vashi, an assistant professor of dermatology at the Boston University School of Medicine and one of the article’s authors, told the Washington Post that Snapchat dysmorphia is a result of people now being able to edit away any imperfections with ease.

"It’s remarkable," said Vashi, who is also a board-certified dermatologist. "What used to lie in the hands of . . . celebrities and beautiful people who were innately beautiful made to look more beautiful, now it’s in the hands of anyone."

On Snapchat, for example, the picture messaging application features upward of 20 different filters that users can toggle through by simply swiping across their phone screens. Aside from adding flower crowns or puppy ears, filters can give a person freckles, longer eyelashes, wider eyes and flawless skin, among other augmentations. Facebook, Instagram and Twitter also allow people to edit their photos in the application before uploading.

Other applications, such as Facetune, take things even a step further. For the low price of $3.99, users can have access to a host of editing tools that can do everything from teeth whitening to making a person’s forehead, nose or waist smaller. The application has been lauded as "a Photoshop editing job in the palm of your hand" and even called "magical."

While people most often use filters or editing software for minor fixes such as clearing blemishes or plumping lips, Vashi said traditional cosmetics procedures largely can’t reproduce the "instant fix" people see in their edited photos.

"Sometimes I have patients who say, ‘I want every single spot gone and I want it gone by this week or I want it gone tomorrow’ because that’s what this filtered photograph gave them," she said. "They check off one thing, and it’s gone. That’s not realistic. I can’t do that. I can make people a lot better, but it will take me a lot more time than a week and it won’t be 100 percent."

Of course, people have long obsessed about their looks, comparing themselves to the idealized images in the media, said Northwestern University psychology professor Renee Engeln during a 2013 TEDx Talk.

"Our sense of what’s real, what’s possible when it comes to beauty is warped by our overexposure to these images," Engeln said. "Instead of seeing them for what they are, which is extraordinarily rare, we start to see them as typical or average."

Engeln described people who spend too much time worrying about their appearance as "beauty sick."

"When you are beauty sick, you cannot engage with the world," she said, "because between you and the world is a mirror. It’s a mirror that travels with you everywhere. You can’t seem to put it down."

However, the term "Snapchat dysmorphia" was just coined this year by British cosmetic doctor Tijion Esho.

"Today’s generation can’t escape ‘the Truman effect’ because from birth they are born into an age of social platforms where their feelings of self-worth can be based purely on the number of likes and followers that they have, which is linked to how good they look or how great these images are," Esho told the Independent.

Until recently, only models and celebrities could take flawless, envy-inducing photos. However, given the accessibility of editing applications, once seemingly unattainable beauty standards now flood social media feeds daily and the "perfect" people in the photos are your friends, classmates and family members, the JAMA article said.

"Our society is becoming more and more preoccupied, obsessed with social media and images and photographs and what we look like," Vashi said. "Now, everywhere you go people are taking selfies and then going on social media."

According to the annual American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery survey, selfies continue to be a major driving force behind people who wish to get plastic surgery done.

In 2017, the survey found that 55 percent of surgeons reported seeing patients who requested surgery to look better in selfies — a 13 percent increase from the previous year’s results.

Being inundated by these edited images on a regular basis can take a toll on people, Vashi said, adding that looking at a photo of yourself and not seeing the same thing reflected in the mirror or an unedited photo can make people unhappy. In some cases, it can even lead to developing body dysmorphic disorder, she said.

"It can bring feelings of sadness and then if one really develops this disorder, that sadness clearly progresses to something that can be dangerous and alarming," she said.

A 2007 study published in Primary Psychiatry found that about 80 percent of people suffering from body dysmorphic disorder "experience lifetime suicidal ideation and 24% to 28% have attempted suicide."

While various experts ranging from plastic surgeons to psychologists have cautioned against Snapchat dysmorphia, Vashi said it is unlikely people will change their behavior in the near future.

"It sounds like people are still going to do it because they like it. They like the way look," she said. "I’m just one small person in a big world, I can’t change everything, but I can make people aware and recognize and know that it’s not the real world. It’s like living in a fantasy."

Comments
The hardest part: actually choosing the day of his death. ‘No one is ever really ready.’

The hardest part: actually choosing the day of his death. ‘No one is ever really ready.’

In the end, it wasn’t easy for Aaron McQ to decide when to die.The 50-year-old Seattle man — a former world traveler, triathlete and cyclist — learned he had leukemia five years ago, followed by an even grimmer diagnosis in 2016: a rare form of amyot...
Published: 08/15/18
Tampa General ranked Florida’s second-best hospital in U.S. News study

Tampa General ranked Florida’s second-best hospital in U.S. News study

Tampa General Hospital was ranked as Florida’s second-best hospital in the U.S. News and World Report’s 2018 Hospital Rankings released Tuesday, while Moffitt Cancer Center was named the country’s eighth-best cancer hospital.The rankings, which analy...
Updated: 12 hours ago
Florida Hospital to change its name to AdventHealth

Florida Hospital to change its name to AdventHealth

Beginning next year, the Florida Hospital brand will be known as AdventHealth.The Central Florida-based health care chain, which has nearly 50 hospital campuses and more than 80,000 employees, including seven hospitals around Tampa Bay, announced the...
Published: 08/14/18
Life skills, love shared at GiGi’s

Life skills, love shared at GiGi’s

TAMPA — Learning, life skills and love are offered unconditionally at GiGi’s Playhouse Tampa, a Down syndrome achievement center opening Saturday.Specially-designed therapeutic, educational and career development programs are provided for all ages, a...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Pinellas health officials report measles in an unvaccinated child

Pinellas health officials report measles in an unvaccinated child

An unvaccinated child has contracted the contagious measles virus in Pinellas County, according to the Florida Department of Health, which said Monday it is investigating the case. It was unclear how the child contracted the virus, according to the h...
Published: 08/13/18
CVS offering 24-hour ‘virtual care’ on its app to treat minor illnesses

CVS offering 24-hour ‘virtual care’ on its app to treat minor illnesses

Florida residents seeking treatment for minor health problems can now take advantage of a new, quick, virtual service from CVS Health’s MinuteClinic.The new service, called MinuteClinic Video Visits, will provide patients with video access to health-...
Published: 08/09/18
Lyme disease is on the rise in Florida, but experts don’t know why

Lyme disease is on the rise in Florida, but experts don’t know why

When Jackie Dube found circular rashes with bullseye points on her stomach, she went to the hospital. Doctors told her she had an allergic reaction to flea bites. A year later, she became seriously ill. Flu-like symptoms and chronic joint pain would ...
Published: 08/08/18
Updated: 08/09/18
Next generation: Many younger doctors like the idea of universal health care

Next generation: Many younger doctors like the idea of universal health care

When the American Medical Association — one of the nation’s most powerful health care groups — met in Chicago this June, its medical student caucus seized an opportunity for change.Though they had tried for years to advance a resolution calling on th...
Published: 08/08/18
Plant City therapy dog brightens days for kids

Plant City therapy dog brightens days for kids

PLANT CITY — When Kaleb French first visited therapy dog Bonnie at the library, he was too shy to read aloud to her. Instead, his mother read to the dog. Eventually, he began whispering the words to her.Now, the 7-year-old’s voice echoes through the ...
Published: 08/07/18
Updated: 08/09/18
Popular blood pressure medicine made in China is recalled

Popular blood pressure medicine made in China is recalled

The Food and Drug Administration has announced a voluntary recall of a widely prescribed blood pressure medication made in China, reviving fears about the safety of imported drugs.Three companies that sell the generic drug, valsartan, in the United S...
Published: 08/07/18