Is your teenaged daughter addicted to photo editing applications such as Snapchat to get that flawless look for the perfect selfie? Beware, it can take a toll on her self-esteem and trigger body dysmorphic disorder (BDD), warn researchers, including one of an Indian-origin.

BDD is a mental illness involving an excessive preoccupation with a perceived flaw in appearance, often characterised by people adopting unhealthy lengths to hide their imperfections. It has affected around two per cent of the population.

This can include engaging in repetitive behaviour like skin picking, visiting dermatologists or plastic surgeons, hoping to change their appearance.

“A new phenomenon called ‘Snapchat dysmorphia’ has popped up, where patients are seeking out surgery to help them appear like the filtered versions of themselves,” said Neelam Vashi, from the Boston University in Massachusetts, US.

“Filtered selfies can make people lose touch with reality, creating the expectation that we are supposed to look perfectly primped all the time,” she added, in the paper published in the journal JAMA Facial Plastic Surgery Viewpoint.

According to various studies, teenage girls who manipulated their photos were more concerned with their body appearance, and those with dysmorphic body image seek out social media as a means of validation.

Additional research has shown 55 per cent of plastic surgeons report seeing patients who want to improve their appearance in selfies.

“This can be especially harmful for teenagers and those with BDD, and it is important for providers to understand the implications of social media on body image to better treat and counsel our patients,” Vashi said.

Surgery is not the best course of action in these cases, because it will not improve, and may worsen underlying BDD. Psychological interventions such as cognitive behavioural therapy and management of the disorder in an empathetic and non-judgmental way may help, the researchers recommended.