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Zoom calls, isolation have made body dysmorphic disorder symptoms worse, experts say

Worried about how you look? Feel like it happens more than normal? Experts say it’s possible because of Zoom

In this April 18, 2019, file photo shows a sign for Zoom Video Communications ahead Nasdaq IPO in New York.
In this April 18, 2019, file photo shows a sign for Zoom Video Communications ahead of its Nasdaq IPO in New York.
Mark Lennihan, Associated Press

The coronavirus pandemic has led to an increase in body dysmorphic disorder symptoms as people worry about their appearance and physical attributes.

Experts recently told NBC News that people across the world have been worrying about their physical appearance more than normal because of the pandemic, specifically as people have been isolated at home or have had to use Zoom calls on a near-daily basis.

This condition — called body dysmorphic disorder — is a mental health condition where people are so concerned over physical flaws that it disrupts daily living.

Dr. Katharine Phillips, a professor of psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medicine, attending psychiatrist at New York-Presbyterian Hospital, told NBC News that she’s seen an increase in recent months.

And, she said, “for those who don’t currently have BDD but are at risk of developing it, the stress of the current situation might trigger the onset of full-fledged BDD.”

BDD can be a serious problem for people as it could lead to high suicide rates for individuals who feel concerned about their appearance, Phillips told NBC News.

“We think one of the reasons for BDD is that patients have some aberrations in visual processing,” Phillips said. “When they look at their face, for example, they may notice that little scar at the bottom of their nose that no one else would ever see. Their brains pick up the detail excessively and they have trouble contextualizing it and realizing it’s a tiny detail in the context of their entire face and body.”

BDD can often develop among adolescents from 12 to 13 years old. These conditions can last into adulthood, as something that concerned you as a teenager still worries you as an adult, according to Fox Business.

Refinery29’s Nathalie Olah said modern technology — like social media, Skype and Zoom — can be a small cure. But there’s still a push for people to use their phones so they can see how they look.

In fact, HuffPost’s Sabra Boyd wrote that seeing her face on her phone triggers her BDD.

“Anxiety always exacerbates my dysmorphia,” she said. “It melts the boundary between internal and external terror as my mind insists that I look as monstrous as I feel.”