Video calls create rise in cosmetic procedures, so called ‘Zoom dysmorphia’

Health

BOSTON (NewsNation Now) — New research published in the International Journal of Women’s Dermatology reveals hours in front of video calls is leading some people to get cosmetic procedures. A team of dermatologists has coined the phrase “Zoom Dysmorphia.”

Dermatologist A. Shadi Kourosh, who works at Harvard Medical School and the Massachusetts General Hospital Department of Dermatology, created the study with her peers.

Doctors say the images that we see of ourselves are often distorted and not a true reflection of what we really look like.  “Zoom Dysmorphia” is used to describe people wanting to cosmetically change their features because of how they look on a video call.  Kourosh says all those hours in front of the camera are prompting many people to get cosmetic procedures. 

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“With zoom dysmorphia, it’s different because it’s subconscious. We realize that with this obsessive video conferencing and a shift to remote work and remote social activities; basically life becoming remote during the pandemic. People were spending excessive amounts of time video conferencing and confronting their own reflections in a way that wasn’t natural,” said Kourosh.

She worked with a team of medical professionals to create “Zooming into Cosmetic Procedures During the COVID-19 Pandemic: The Provider’s Perspective.”

Dr. Kourosh and her peers surveyed more than 100 board-certified dermatologists across the nation. They asked them if patients are seeking cosmetic procedures in order to improve their appearance on video conferencing calls.

The study revealed 50% of doctors surveyed indicated a relative rise in cosmetic consultations despite the pandemic. Also, about 86% of respondents report their patients are referencing video-conferencing as a reason for their new cosmetic concerns.

She says often times, the image we see in a lens is distorted and not a true reflection of ourselves.

“It was important to raise awareness about this. Because as a physician, especially aesthetic physicians, we have the tools to alter and improve a person’s appearance. But those need to be used wisely and in the correct circumstance,” said Kourosh.

However, the term “Zoom Dysmorphia” is stirring some varying opinions in the medical world because of its similarity to a psychiatric condition Body Dysmorphic Disorder known as BDD.

“In writing about the phenomenon, where people may have a different perception of their appearance. We are not seeking to diagnose with body dysmorphic disorder. I would turn to my colleagues in psychology to make a formal diagnosis of body dysmorphic disorder,” said Kourosh.

The Anxiety and Depression Association of America define BDD as “a body-image disorder characterized by persistent and intrusive preoccupations with an imagined or slight defect in one’s appearance.”

For someone with BDD, the flaw is so significant it causes severe emotional distress. Robyn Stern and Scott Granet both have the condition.

“When I was at my worse, I couldn’t even leave my house. So I get that people have a hard time seeing their appearance; I get that they might not like how they look. I couldn’t even leave my house. I couldn’t go back to college. I missed the entire semester of school. I didn’t even feel like I was worth it to be in this world. I couldn’t imagine someone loving me. I hated how I felt about myself,” said Stern.

For Granet, his BDD focused on fearing losing his hair at 19.

“Nobody likes it. I suppose. But at the same time, only people with BDD think about killing themselves as a result of that, and that’s where I was. I mean, fortunately, I never made a suicide attempt; but I certainly had some very, very dark thoughts about this, and it severely impacted school and relationships,” said Scott Granet.

After going through recovery, they now both work as Licensed Clinical Social Workers (LCSW) and spend more time online with clients than ever before.

They say conferencing calls overall can be a trigger. Plus isolation during the pandemic can have a negative impact on people’s coping skills.

“I’ll have a session with my client let’s say at 12:00. I don’t really spend so much time with myself … that’s my BDD,” explained Stern.

“I don’t particularly like having to look at myself all day long, and I try to keep my focus on my clients. I try to keep my eyes on them. You know with my image right there all day long. It is hard to ignore it,” said Granet.

Both therapists say the term “Zoom Dysmorphia” can be misleading and minimize what they and their patients go through.

“I think that unfortunately this whole dysmorphia thing and zoom dysmorphia really has actually nothing to do with the true diagnoses of body dysmorphic disorder,“ explained Stern.  

Granet says if your feelings start to interfere with your everyday life please get help. In addition to being a therapist helping other with BDD; he’s also written a book on it.

Whether mentally or cosmetically all three of these health professionals say zoom is having an effect on users’ lives.

For more information about BDD, click here.

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