Leliana Valentina Parvulescu

Zoom Dysmorphia, a new psychological disorder

Psychology Hour
Psychologist, Joc Responsabil program within Joc Responsabil Association

Lately, aesthetic medicine interventions continue to grow steadily, especially among young people. The reason why they use more and more aesthetic medicine is to look better on social networks and thus capture more likes. According to a 2017 survey conducted by the American Academy of Plastic and Reconstructive Facial Surgery, more than half of the cosmetic and plastic surgeons interviewed said that most of their patients feel the need for retouching because they are dissatisfied with their image posted on social networks. In fact, a survey conducted by Sicpre (Italian Society of Reconstructive and Aesthetic Plastic Surgery) indicated that patients who resort to cosmetic surgery due to dissatisfaction caused by their selfies are 83% women and 17% men. In Romania, according to a study conducted by the Zivac behavioral research center, the number of people who turn to aesthetic medicine has also increased, especially among young people, who want to “be as perfect as possible”.

The aspects I want to emphasize in this article are those that show that in addition to the very young age of patients, as stated by many psychologists and doctors, they do not start from the real analysis of their image, but from the analysis of a self-timer. , from a virtual element that, in addition, does not reproduce reality in a totally objective way, does not refer to external aesthetic models. In an attempt to stop this drift, defined as a public health problem, both specialists in psychology and those in aesthetic medicine, sociology, etc., are collaborating intensively. For example, the surgeon Paskhover, in collaboration with a team of computer scientists from the Department of Computer Science at Stanford University, built a model of a male and a female face, through which he could calculate the distortion of the face created by the virtual interaction. His intention was to make young people understand that when they take selfies, what is reflected in the image is distorted. The Rutgers-Stanford model, published in JAMA Facial Plastic Surgery, Nasal Distortion in Short-Distance Photographs: The Selfie Effect / in March 2018, shows that if the camera is only 30 cm away from the face, what is the average distance of a selfie, the nose will be 30% bigger if it is male and 29% if it is female. The tip of the nose will appear 7% larger than it actually is.

Zoom Dysmorphia, a new psychological disorder
Leliana Parvulescu

Well, to this phenomenon, which is already worrying enough, has now been added another, determined by the substantial changes that the pandemic has brought to our habits of life, our behavior, our way of being and our relationship. with others and with ourselves. Following the pandemic, the most visible changes have taken place in the way people work, from a way of working face to face at a distance. Our socializing behavior has changed radically, and in order to stay connected to others and avoid isolation, we have increasingly used the video calling system, creating a continuous and increasingly intimate connection with the computer or phone screen. Zoom, one of the most widely used online dating platforms, estimates that video conferencing attendance increased from nearly 10 million in December 2019 to more than 300 million in April 2020. According to a survey conducted in the US by The American Academy of Dermatology, the increasing use of computers and telephones seems to have had a significant impact on many people who, continuously observing their own image reflected on a screen, expressed negative self-perceptions about their appearance. People are, in fact, forced to confront their own image on video sometimes for hours every day, notice unseen flaws, and are troubled by how their image may appear to others. As a result of this phenomenon defined as Zoom Dysmorphia, there has been an increase in requests for cosmetic medicine interventions from those who, as I mentioned, want to solve the imperfections they began to see only by looking through the screen, and not in the mirror. Zoom Dysmorphia is defined as a modified or distorted negative perception of the body image transmitted by your computer or phone and caused by spending too much time in front of these devices. The researchers also sought to point out that people’s perception of their image through a screen is distorted due to the inherent properties of the technology used, pointing out that a front camera used in different devices can change the proportions of the face, worsening the perception of the user. these devices.

Dermatologists also reported an increase in consultations for cosmetic treatments, 86% of treatment requests were motivated by a negative perception of their own image transmitted by a camera during a video conference. It was also highlighted that 40% of the interviewees stated that, although they had never undergone cosmetic treatment, they planned to perform them in the near future, worried about their own appearance, perceived as inappropriate, during the meetings on digital platforms. Aesthetic doctors also reported that patients especially notice some imperfections such as wrinkles on the upper face (forehead and eyes) in 77% of cases, dark circles in 64.4%, blemishes on the face in 53%, double chin in 50% . Consequently, since the beginning of the pandemic, the most requested cosmetic procedures were those with botulinum toxin (94%), hyaluronic acid, fillers, filling treatments (82.3%), laser treatments (65.4%). In addition, 82.7% of doctors found that their patients, compared to the period before the pandemic, are much more dissatisfied with their appearance since they started using the technology. Various studies (Shome et al., 2020, Woods and Scott, 2016) have shown that subjects, especially young people, with higher levels of involvement in social media, have higher levels of bodily dissatisfaction and depression. Most of the subjects who were asked to post photos on social networks showed a decrease in self-confidence and an increase in the desire to perform cosmetic surgery. Although the Zoom platform cannot be considered a social network, it is important that those who use this type of platform are aware of the advantages, but also of the limitations of technology. The nearby camera magnifies and distorts certain defects, causing a person to notice some imperfections that he never paid attention to when looking in the mirror. In addition, on many platforms, the image of the person is displayed alongside other participants in the meeting, resulting in an easy comparison and self-judgment. It is clear that Zoom, although a very useful tool, has introduced many people to an unknown virtual environment. This increased self-exposure and distorted image of the device’s screens can cause people to develop or worsen the symptoms of body dysmorphic disorder (dysmorphophobia), ie a tendency to amplify concerns about physical, real or imagined defects and cause damage in daily life. by day. Among other things, those who suffer from dysmorphophobia, despite the constant search for procedures and treatments designed to improve their appearance perceived as inappropriate, are rarely satisfied with the results, reaching a vicious circle of self-dissatisfaction. Worryingly, many young people may have a distorted idea of their own image that they have seen continuously reflected on a screen in these two long years of pandemic. They are the ones who need to be protected. And to whom doctors must pay special attention. In fact, I believe that the medical community in general and beauticians in particular should be aware of this trend and be ready to deal with Zoom Dysmorphia by investigating and evaluating the motivation that leads the patient to seek cosmetic treatment and where they see no imperfections which must be corrected to propose to the patient to seek psychological support to avoid maintaining a vicious circle of dissatisfaction.

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