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Snapchat dysmorphia

Contributor(s): Ivy Wigmore

Snapchat dysmorphia is a body-image disorder characterized by the need to heavily edit one's own digital image. At its most severe, the disorder may cause people to seek out cosmetic procedures in order to replicate the altered images they present online.

Dr. Tijion Esho, a British physician known for performing cosmetic procedures, coined the term Snapchat dysmorphia after becoming aware that an increasing number of patients were bringing heavily-edited selfies to their consultation appointments instead of celebrity photos, as was generally the practice in the past. Doctors have reported that patients who bring in heavily-edited selfies are often surprised to learn that their altered photographic results cannot be replicated in real life.

Digital self portraits, which are commonly referred to as selfies, tend to be a bit like studio portraits. Before photographing themselves, subjects are likely to adjust hair, clothing, lighting and camera angles to capture a flattering self image and then use digital filters to optimize the photo.

Mobile apps for Snapchat, Instagram and Facebook allow members to edit digital images in real time. In just a few steps, it's possible to  emphasize desired features and minimize aspects of the photo the selfie-taker doesn't like. The problem is that while digitally removing a double chin may be quick and pleasing to the eye, the resulting photo may not bear a great deal of resemblance to the person’s real-life appearance, and that disconnect can leave the selfie-taker feeling insecure.  

Dysmorphia explained

Dysmorphia itself is defined as an inability to view one's own physical attributes objectively. This typically manifests as a conviction that there is something unacceptable about one's appearance to others. That belief can evolve into an obsessive preoccupation with physical appearance and perceived flaws, a condition known as body dysmorphic disorder (BDD).

Unlike Snapchat dysmorphia, BDD is included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). As of the psychological standard’s most recent edition in 2013, BDD is thought to affect 2.4 percent of the population, although incidence is thought to be rapidly rising.

This was last updated in February 2019

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