‘Zoom Dysmorphia’ Becoming Rising Issue Among Patients

April 26, 2021
Morgan Petronelli, Associate Editor

A survey found a large proportion of dermatologists surveyed said their patients referenced video conferencing as the reason for seeking cosmetic consultation since the start of the pandemic.

Since the start of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, there has been a swift increase in the use of video conferencing. Zoom estimates participants in daily meetings grew from nearly 10 million in December 2019 to over 300 million in April 2020.1

In a presentation at the American Academy of Dermatology Virtual Meeting Experience (AAD VMX) 2021, Shadi Kourosh, MD, MPH, FAAD, said dermatologists have also seen a rise in patients who have expressed negative self-perceptions related to this increase in video conferencing.2

Kourosh is an assistant professor of dermatology at Harvard Medical School in Boston, Massachusetts, director of community health in the department of dermatology at Massachusetts General Hospital and director of the center for Laser Surgery and Aesthetics at Brown Dermatology.

“Society quickly transitioned to a remote way of working and socializing during the COVID-19 pandemic, communicating largely through video calls during a stressful and isolating time,” said Kourosh. “As reliance on video calls increased, we started seeing the consequences of how prolonged time staring back at yourself significantly impacted our patients in a phenomenon we call ‘Zoom dysmorphia’.”

“Zoom dysmorphia” is defined as an altered or skewed negative perception of one’s body image that results from spending extended amounts of time on video calls.

In a recent survey Kourosh helped conduct, over 100 dermatologists were asked how the shift to remote work affected patient self-perception. Results of the survey found more than 50% of dermatologists reported a rise in cosmetic consultations, despite being in the midst of a pandemic.

“What was alarming about our research results was that 86% dermatologists surveyed who were fielding these cosmetic concerns reported that their patients referenced video conferencing as the reason for seeking cosmetic consultation,” said Kourosh. “The increased time on-camera, coupled with the unflattering effects of front-facing cameras, triggered a concerning and subconscious response unique to the times we’re living in. In addition, many people were also spending more time on social media viewing highly edited photos of others — triggering unhealthy comparisons to their own images on front-facing cameras, which we know is distorted and not a true reflection.”

She added, “Unfortunately, this is the lens in which people are viewing themselves today, and it’s not accurate and can eventually become unhealthy,” said Kourosh. “Technology has certainly helped us navigate this pandemic in many ways, but it’s also important to be aware of its limitations and potential to impact how we feel about ourselves.”

Kourosh suggested the following to tips to help battle “Zoom dysmorphia”:

  • Assess your technology: Consider using an external, high-resolution camera for quality video and adding a ring light to control how you illuminate your face, which will also improve how you appear on camera.
  • Adjust your camera: Try positioning the screen a further distance away from your face and keep the camera at eye level, which can help to minimize the distortion of the camera and improve appearance.
  • Protect your mental health: Find opportunities to reduce the amount of time spent looking into a front-facing camera by turning off your video on calls when it is not required. It can also be helpful to limit social media engagement. Since photo editing is so pervasive on social media, it’s unhealthy to compare your own distorted images from front-facing cameras to edited and augmented photos posted online. It may also help to talk with a mental health professional, who can help a person take a healthier approach to their appearance and offer strategies for redirecting ones focus away from perceived physical flaws.
  • See a board-certified dermatologist: If you’re concerned about your appearance, see a board-certified dermatologist, who can help identify whether a problem truly needs aesthetic intervention and if so, can recommend appropriate products or treatments to help you look and feel your best.

References:

1. Business of Apps. March 2021. https://www.businessofapps.com/data/zoom-statistics/

2. News from the AAD. Accessed April 24, 2021. https://aad.new-media-release.com/2021/aadvmx/pages/zoom.html