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Cosmetic Surgeons See Growing Trend, Dangers of ‘Snapchat Dysmorphia’

NBC Miami logo NBC Miami 11/6/2019
a woman holding a cell phone: A recent study by researchers at the University of Boston found that "Snapchat dysmorphia" is on the rise and filters are altering the perception of beauty. © Dave Benett/Getty Images A recent study by researchers at the University of Boston found that "Snapchat dysmorphia" is on the rise and filters are altering the perception of beauty.

Social media, selfies, and filters are definitely mainstream, but experts say some are taking it too far. "Snapchat dysmorphia" is a term now used for people who are fixated on looking like their filtered pictures; and willing to pay for procedures to achieve the look by taking the augmented reality of social media into the doctor's office.

Miami plastic surgeon Dr. Nirmal Nathan calls it all a growing trend. While he has noted an increase in people inspired to have a cosmetic procedure by a filtered picture, he says there's a difference between what is reasonable and what is not.

"Many patients come in and they are inspired by Instagram, they have a wish picture and their concerns are reasonable," said Dr. Nathan.

On the other end of the spectrum, he has seen the unreasonable too.

"I get patients coming to my office asking for part of their ribs to be removed to have a smaller waist. I have had patients ask for their nose to look like a dog nose," said the plastic surgeon.

Similar to body dysmorphia disorder, "Snapchat dysmorphia" involves obsessive and compulsive thinking, and while it is not Dr. Nathan's job to diagnose that kind of thing, it is his job to consult with all of his patients and look for red flags.

"It's important from an ethical and an outcome perspective," he said.

One of his patients, Ortensia Acosta, went through a series of consultations before Dr. Nathan agreed to give her Botox, in order to get her closer to her filtered pictures.

"How she explained it was that the filter made her face more slim," said Dr. Nathan.

Acosta was very happy with the results.

"I was just interested because of using filters on Instagram. I said I wanted to curve my face a bit," Ortensia explained.

Filtered photos can be used for fun. Consider the quintessential dog face filter as an example. Other filters simply serve to enhance how you look on a superficial level. A recent study by researchers at the University of Boston found that "Snapchat dysmorphia" is on the rise and filters are altering the perception of beauty. The implications are concerning indeed.

Social media giant Instagram recently moved to ban filters that depict plastic surgery or seem to promote it due to mental health concerns.

New York-based social media influencer Marla Frezza has been open about altering her looks and described it as kind of addicting.

"You have to realize that at some point you're going to look nothing like yourself and you're going to have to scale back," Marla explained. She's had mainly non-surgical procedures done.

Overall, experts say that regardless of what the patient wants mental health must be carefully considered. In this new age, where augmented reality is causing people to make major changes, the consensus is that safety and wellness should still be top priority.

Photo Credit: NBC 6

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