Body dysmorphic disorder (or BDD) has worsened in recent years with what has been called selfie dysmorphia a phenomenon that leads those who suffer from it to compare themselves with their own retouched and modified selfies with filters, generally shared on social networks.
First described in the late 19th century, TDC is a distorted perception of the image one has of oneself, and those who suffer from it see or think they see defects in their physique that makes them develop obsessive-compulsive behaviors. It affects around 2 percent of the population, as researchers from the Boston Medical Center (BMC) pointed out in their work ‘Selfies_Living in the Era of Filtered Photographs’.
The influence of social networks, especially those more focused on images, has exacerbated the problem and generated a phenomenon that BMC called selfie dysmorphia. According to his research, more and more patients were coming to plastic surgeons asking to look like the photos they posted of themselves on social media after applying various filters.
In social networks they publish “our best photos in our best moments and best positionswhich makes us take a different dimension of our bodies”, explains Mireia Cabero Jounou, collaborating professor of the Studies of Psychology and Educational Sciences at the Open University of Catalonia (UOC), in a statement.
People with BDD often show insecure and have low self-esteem. They can alter your appearance on a day-to-day basis, with make-up or adopting angles or postures that favor them, comparing with oneself as well as with others, and compulsively looking in the mirror. They may also have excessive grooming and hygiene habits or avoidance behaviors, such as canceling appointments for example, not to be judged.
According to experts, BDD can be aggravated among those who suffer from it or it can especially affect adolescents due to that continuous exposure on social networks, what would enter into the concept of this dysmorphia of the selfie.
This search for perfection by comparing itself with faces and bodies that are not real is critical in adolescence. “In this stage, comparison with others is basic. You look for groups of equals, you look for your place. External references are very important. If in that search you have references that are not real, we are lost: you compare yourself to something that doesn’t exist and your level of demand is tremendous”, indicates Montserrat Lacalle Sisteré, collaborating professor of the UOC’s Department of Psychology and Educational Sciences.
Lacalle believes that TDC can affect more people or aggravate existing cases: “They show us as an ideal something that is not perfect and that is not reality. I’m not comparing myself to the perfect body model, but to a photoshop montage“.
BODY IMAGE PROBLEMS
Last year, a report by The Wall Street Journal revealed the existence of an internal Meta report that Instagram became aware of in March 2020, which noted the negative impact that comparisons could have on teenage users of the social network, a fact that the technology company denied and clarified as a result of its publication.
Slides summarizing the research showed data such as “32 percent of teen girls said that when they felt bad about their bodies, Instagram made them feel worse,” ” or that “We make body image issues worse for one in three teenage girls.”
From the UOC they indicate that women between 16 and 25 years old spend up to five hours a week taking selfies, retouching them and sharing them on social networks, something that carries a high risk for self-esteem and self-perception. It is also indicated that people who need to raise their self-esteem upload selfies more often. That shock with reality (see yourself in the mirror and compare yourself to the photoshopped selfies) aggravates dysmorphic disorders.
“We have a social responsibility to protect adolescents. Learning to accept yourself is vital, and social networks in this sense only bring dissatisfaction. You have to take care of your mental health and learn to manage conflicts by seeing social networks for what they are, a world of appearances,” concludes Lacalle.