Many of us shifted big chunks of our lives online because of the COVID-19 pandemic. We have virtual visits with our clients, our doctors, our friends – even our families. Video conferencing has literally been a lifesaver, but a bad side effect has cropped up – a new disorder dubbed “Zoom Dysmorphia.”
The problem is that most video conferencing platforms automatically display all participants – including ourselves. And many of us don’t like what we see. A recent study of more than 100 board-certified dermatologists published in the January 2021 issue of the International Journal of Women's Dermatology found an increase in patients seeking out cosmetic procedures to improve their appearance on video conference calls. According to the study, after hours of fixating on their small, often distorted image, during video conference calls, some people are developing a negative self-image.
The dermatologists surveyed indicated a 50% relative rise in cosmetic consultations despite the pandemic, and 86% of the respondents reported that their patients cited video conferencing as a reason they’re now focused on their faces. Another recent survey of the general public found that – even among people who previously weren’t interested in cosmetic treatments – 40% want to change their appearance because they don’t like the way they look on video conference calls.
Researchers are cautioning mental health and other medical professionals that “Zoom Dysmorphia” might trigger a rise in body dysmorphic disorder. The condition is similar to “Snapchat dysmorphia” where people used photo editing tools to enhance their appearance, and then asked aesthetic physicians to “edit” their faces to match their photos.
According to the dermatologists surveyed, their patients’ specific concerns included wrinkles, bags under their eyes, and sagging necks.
The good news is that “Zoom Dysmorphia” – like body dysmorphic disorder – responds to cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT helps to identify and replace unhealthy thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. Therapists also may use exposure and response prevention (ERP). You can use our directory to find providers trained to help with these disorders.
By Amanda Barnett, LPC, NCC, EdS
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