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Are You Suffering from Zoom Dysmorphia?

zoom meeting

Are You Suffering from Zoom Dysmorphia?

Covid-19 has cost the world an incalculable amount of lives as well as having a previously unimaginable impact on our respective daily lives. Over the past several months here in Edmonton as well as around the world, we’ve endured a variety of pandemic-related impacts on our businesses and personal lives as well as for many grieving the losses of loved ones. Others have suffered from enduring post-covid symptoms. One such impact that many may not be aware of is how virtual meetings are changing how we look at ourselves. It’s been coined, “Zoom dysmorphia.”

Typically, the word, “dysmorphia” refers to a deformity in a specified part of our body. It also alludes to the medical condition, Body dysmorphic disorder, which refers to a medical condition in which people are preoccupied with a perceived or sometimes non-existent flaw in their appearance. As an important distinction between the two, Zoom dysmorphia is not an actual medical diagnosis.

Inside Aesthetics podcast featuring Dr. Jean Carruthers

Just the other day while driving to work, I was listening to a new podcast that Ive stumbled upon called, Inside Aesthetics, with Dr. Jake Sloan and David Segal. I would recommend checking it out if you haven’t already. During this particular episode, they were interviewing Dr. Jean Carruthers (website: carrutherscosmetic.com). Among a long list of incredible achievements, publications, and accolades, Dr. Carruthers is credited with pioneering the use of Botox cosmetic. She’s also a wonderfully bright, insightful as well as articulate person to listen to in her recounting stories about the development of Botox. During this podcast, Dr. Jean Carruthers referred to the term, “Zoom dysmorphia.” While I had experienced the phenomenon as a cosmetic injector listening to patients during the pandemic, it was the first time I specifically heard the term. 

The Quarantine 15

During the various openings and closings of the aesthetic medicine business in Edmonton, which by the way have paralleled the closures of hair salons as a frame of reference, I personally have heard many patients refer to becoming more self-conscious during Zoom meetings. In fact, a few of my patients even mentioned that there are certain features on Zoom that allow you to enhance your appearance. I do wonder if that also plays a role. Though I had attributed the increased demand I was seeing for Belkyra to the ‘quarantine 15,’ it’s also possibly related.

The coronavirus outbreak of 2020 resulted in a significant shift toward remote work and lifestyle. Many people spend more time on virtual platforms (herein collectively referred to as “Zoom”), and research suggests that these remote work arrangements will continue.

Zoom has allowed life to continue in an ever-changing environment, but it may be altering how people see themselves. According to recent research of Google search trends during the virus outbreak, the phrases “acne” and “hair loss” reached an all-time high and became popular in this emerging virtual environment. They associated this tendency to the relationship between acne and hair loss and anxiety and sadness, common psychological disorders during confinement. Some believe the trend stems from individuals continually seeing themselves on camera and being more conscious of their appearance.

What the heck is ‘Zoom Dysmorphia?

For the sake of those who have no idea of what we’re talking about. The term ‘Zoom Dysmorphia’ was coined due to the myriad of people concerned about their appearance after participating in a video conference meeting. Essentially, the prolonged effect of looking at ourselves during Zoom calls and Teams meetings is potentially harming our self-image.

The ‘Dysmorphic Pandemic’

With the distortion caused by front-facing cameras, which in effect distort our faces like a funhouse mirror, it’s impacting our self-perception.  People became concerned that their skin sagged around the jowls and neck,  the size and shape of their noses, and the pallor of their complexion in the Zoom era. They want cosmetic procedures such as Botox and dermal fillers, as well as facelifts and nose jobs. 

What’s the cause of this pandemic. Recently, a Harvard dermatology professor, Dr. Shadi Kourosh, announced the results of a recent survey  (American Academy of Dermatology). Dr. Kourosh attributes the dysmorphic pandemic to the effects of prolonged exposure of simply looking at ourselves. 

Kourosh and colleagues conducted a poll of doctors and surgeons to determine whether video conferencing during the pandemic was a possible factor in body Dysmorphic disorder.

Snapchat Dysmorphia

Well before the coronavirus outbreak, those in the cosmetic medicine industry were witnessing an increase in patients with “unrealistic and unnatural” requests, according to Kourosh. In 2015, the phrase “Snapchat dysmorphia” was previously coined to characterize the rising number of people who wished to seem like they’d gone through a face-altering filter in real life, with large eyes and glittering skin.

The Survey

Dr. Kourosh surveyed 134 board-certified dermatologists and discovered that 56.7 percent had experienced increased cosmetic consultations when dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic. Patients expressly stated video conferencing as the purpose for consultation in 86 percent of cases.

From the survey, the two most common concerns were upper face wrinkles and dark circles under the eyes.

“The increasing time on camera, combined with the unfavorable impact of front-facing cameras, sparked a worrisome and subconscious response peculiar to our times,” she explained. “Several people were also spending more time on social media, watching highly manipulated images of others, which triggered unhealthy comparisons to their own appearances on front-facing cameras, which we know is warped and not a genuine representation.”

Dr. Kourosh and co-investigators addressed the survey and Zoom dysmorphia features and potential treatments to counteract the negative consequences at a recent American Academy of Dermatology virtual meeting.

What’s the way forward? Are there any remedies to ‘Zoom Dysmorphia’?

Self-awareness, according to Dr. Kourosh, is one of the most effective ways to combat Zoom dysmorphia. She went on to say that she received a flood of responses from people who believed they were alone in thinking there was anything wrong with their looks during the pandemic. “A lot of folks are struggling from the negative psychological impacts quietly,” She then concluded that it’s about helping people understand that they are not alone.

Dr. Kourosh’s tips to help battle Zoom dysmorphia

  • Use an external, high-resolution camera for excellent video.
  • Implement a ring light to regulate how you lighten your face, which will help improve your appearance on camera.
  • Try moving the screen further away from your face and keeping the camera at eye level, which can reduce camera distortion and enhance your look.
  • Reduce the amount of time you spend gazing into a front-facing camera by turning off your video on calls when it is not needed.
  • Limiting social media participation might also be beneficial.

References:

  1. American Academy of Dermatology: https://aad.new-media-release.com/2021/aadvmx/pages/zoom.html
  2. Medpage Today https://www.medpagetoday.com/dermatology/generaldermatology/92463
  3. Wired. https://www.wired.com/story/zoom-dysmorphia-the-real-world/

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