Girl with a snapchat filter on

Snapchat Dysmorphia: people are desperate to look like their own selfies

August 29, 2018

You’ve probably seen Snapchat pictures before – maybe of people with animal ears, wearing flower crowns, and strangely enough puking a rainbow.

While this might seem fun (and at times it can be!), doctors have suggested apps like Snapchat could be contributing to mental illness, which a recent study coins ‘Snapchat Dysmorphia’.

The rise of ‘Snapchat Dysmorphia’

Body dysmorphic disorder is a mental illness where someone constantly worries about the way they look. They become preoccupied with imagined or tiny ‘defects’ about features such as their skin, hair or facial features.

They sometimes even think of themselves as ‘ugly’. This is not vanity and is not something a person can just ‘forget about’ or ‘get over’.

While apps like Snapchat or Facetune let you add fun animal ears to your photos, they can also make your skin look flawless, cheekbones more defined, teeth whiter, eyes bigger, nose smaller, or even change the shape of your face.

Being able to edit photos to such an extent and share these across social media, is setting unrealistic standards.


💜 Lord, Thank You for giving me the health and strength I need to overcome every stronghold in my life and for loving me unconditionally in the times that I may fail you. Amen 💜

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As people edit and filter their photos to look ‘perfect’, they then look in the mirror and are shocked and disappointed to see their true reflection. They were instead expecting to see their own edited selfie looking back at them.

What also adds to the problem is, before digital cameras and smartphones, we used to all look at photos of ourselves only occasionally. But, now some people are seeing photos of themselves 1000s of times a year.

Doctors are beginning to see people with body dysmorphic disorder developing an obsession with looking the same as they do in their filtered selfies.

They can then go to great lengths to hide or change their ‘imperfections’, and it is not uncommon for someone with the disorder to turn to plastic surgery to try and change their appearance.

While it also used to be common for plastic surgeons to have patients asking for Angelina Jolie’s lips or Nicole Kidman’s nose, patients are now bringing in pictures of their own selfies – edited to look like perfect versions of themselves.

It is important to know that at this stage, Snapchat Dysmorphia is a term researchers are using to describe people who seek plastic surgery to look like their own selfies, there isn’t yet evidence to say selfies and photo-editing technology are causing body dysmorphia.

It is, however, an important message about what is considered ‘perfect’, what is real, and that there is treatment available for those who need help.


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Treating body dysmphoric disorder

Body dysmorphic disorder can be a serious mental illness. A person’s preoccupation with ‘defects’ often leads to behaviors such as constantly looking in a mirror, picking at their skin, trying to hide or cover up, and constantly asking for reassurance.

The person may begin to isolate themselves if they become too self-conscious to go out, and they are also at a higher risk for depression and suicide.

It can however be treated. Treatment often involves a combination of cognitive behavioural therapy, coping and managing skills such as relaxation, and medication.

If you (or someone you know) are concerned about any symptoms of body dysmorphic disorder or mental illness, talk to a GP or medical professional.

If you need to talk to someone about mental illness or a crisis in your life, please consider calling Lifeline on 13 11 14, or for advice and support contact beyondblue on 1300 22 4636 or the Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800.

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