Snapchat Filters Trigger New Mental Disorder

by Brynn Smith ‘19

For as long as people have had the tools, they have had the desire to change the way they look. It began with procedures like piercings, scarification, and tattooing and has evolved into the multi-billion dollar cosmetic surgery industry many people know today. Since the early 19th century, augmentation procedures have been used to enhance or correct physical appearances. With the explosion of editing apps and filters, another branch of cosmetic surgery has erupted.

According to researchers from Boston University’s School of Medicine, no longer do people bring pictures of celebrities to a plastic surgeon. Instead doctors have seen an increase in patients bringing in heavily edited photos of themselves. Deemed “Snapchat dysmorphia” by experts, this offshoot of body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) is cause for concern. BDD, a psychological disorder in which a person becomes obsessed with imaginary defects in their appearance, is potentially triggered by “Snapchat dysmorphia”.

This particular version of dysmorphic disorder is only going to get worse. With the increase in popularity of apps like Snapchat and Facetune, people can now edit out their flaws, whiten their teeth, clear up their skin, or even make their nose smaller. When people have the ability to enhance their features in the palm of their hand, they desire to do it in real life, as well. Hence the trend of patients coming in with photoshopped pictures of themselves. These apps not only give their users a false sense of faith in the abilities of plastic surgeons, but they change the overall standard for beauty worldwide.

The people who are most impacted by this new disorder are those who use the apps the most often. Teenagers who grow up with this impactful technology, who use it everyday to achieve “physical perfection,” are the ones seeking out the procedures that give the appearance of contoured cheekbones or bigger lips. Instead of going under the knife to resolve what is seen as physical imperfections, which can actually worsen underlying BDD, people need to seek out psychological help.

“Filtered selfies can make people lose touch with reality, creating the expectation we are supposed to look perfectly primped all the time,” said Dr Neelam Vashim, director of the

Boston University Cosmetic and Laser Centre, in an interview with the Washington Post. “This can be especially harmful for teens and those with BDD, and it is important for providers to understand the implications of social media on body image to better treat and counsel our patients.”

Plastic surgery, whether it is based off of a picture of a specific model or a heavily edited selfie, is not the way to cope with severe mental disorders or the self-esteem issues that can come with them. Apps similar to Snapchat just worsen the already overwhelming issues today’s teenagers and adolescents come to experience on a daily basis.