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How looking on a webcam has affected the way people see themselves

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Research conducted during the pandemic shows that millions of people are treat “Zoom dysmorphia”, or a feeling of dissatisfaction or dissatisfaction with their appearance exacerbated by staring at themselves in front of the camera all day.



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New research shows that when people return to school, work and other in-person events, this concern about their appearance persists, even when the cameras are turned off.

Dr. Arianne Shadi Kourosh, dermatologist and director of community health at Massachusetts General Hospital, who was part of the team that conducted both the original research and the new investigation, said more than 70% of the 7,295 participants in the new survey expressed a “sense of anxiety” about their appearance in person.

“There was a significant percentage who, when asked about the reasons for their anxiety, cited their embarrassment about their appearance,” Kourosh said. “When we asked follow-up questions about this, the main reasons were concerns (about) weight gain, skin discoloration, acne and wrinkles.”

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The new research attributes many of these concerns to “increasing the number of hours spent on video conferencing” and the use of tools like filters to change appearance. Kourosh said respondents who spent more time on social media and used photo editing tools or filters more frequently had “great anxiety” about their appearance.

Sierra Gordon, who is starting her first year of college in person at UC Santa Barbara, said she was concerned about returning to in-person learning for exactly these reasons.

“It comes down to everyone to see your whole body, and there are body issues and self-confidence issues and stuff like that,” Gordon said TODAY. “People can see me from all angles and in all directions, even when I don’t like certain angles or directions of my physical self.”

Dr. Janis Whitlock, a psychologist specializing in adolescent and young adult mental health, resilience and well-being, said for young people who are worried about returning to in-person events, it can help slowly resume their activities. regular hanging out with close friends or indulging in hobbies.

“During the pandemic, we have seen an increase in anxiety related to body image,” Whitlock said. “All of the studies that have been published on this relationship have shown very similar things, and that is that people have had a hard time.… I think we will have more students with bodily issues in the fall, that is. ‘is on .”

In addition to spending time with friends, Whitlock recommends making room for family time. If a child seems to need extra support during the transition to in-person learning or other activities, Whitlock recommends bringing in a mental health professional.

Jessica Stern, a clinical psychologist at NYU Langone Health, gave some advice for those who may experience some anxiety about their appearance when they return to in-person events. For starters, keep everything in perspective.

“What can be very helpful to remember is that this last year and a half has been a bit strange and we have received a lot more visible feedback about our appearance than we are generally used to,” said Stern said. “Keeping this standard and understanding in mind can be helpful in recognizing that… statistically, we’re more likely to notice things about ourselves that we haven’t noticed (before).”

Understanding that our perceptions of ourselves have “changed” can be helpful and can help you avoid comparing yourself to others.

“A lot of people have looked at each other virtually, a lot more than before, and gathered feedback about themselves and experienced their appearance in a different way than they did before, and that’s okay.” , Stern said. “If you notice that you are feeling harder on yourself in a way that is affecting you, you can seek professional help if it seems helpful.”

If, like Gordon, you’re worried that people could see you from all angles instead of a carefully curated video screen, Stern said it can help remember how you lived before the pandemic.

“People have received a lot more comments about their physical appearance, body language, and facial expressions than they’ve ever been used to. Once you start to become almost addicted to those comments, it may seem like really weird not having it), ”Stern said. “What can be helpful is if you can connect as best as you can to the previous standard and remind yourself that once you were doing a great job operating in the world without that feedback, and we , as humans, don’t usually have that back. “

The most important thing, Stern said, is to be gentle with yourself and remember that this is a time of transition for most of the world.

“Learning a little self-compassion can be helpful for you, to learn to embrace the things that are strong about you, beautiful about you, and to give yourself some space to enjoy the things you love about yourself, because there might be a tendency to lean towards the things you don’t like about yourself, ”she said.

Kourush said that even after doing the initial research, she was surprised how many people were still worried about their appearance while resuming their activities in person.

“I thought people would be much more eager to go back in person, and so I think seeing this sense of hesitation or anxiety in well above the majority of the study population made me realize that certain aspects pandemic have impacted us in ways that may last or take longer than we thought to return to normal, ”Kourush said.“ We may need to make a special effort to understand these effects, become aware of them and take active steps to cure them. “

However, Kourush said she hopes the research will make people realize that they are not alone in dealing with these feelings.

“I think one of the most telling lessons from this work, even last year, was realizing that the problem was much bigger than we thought and was being experienced by different people from all walks of life. and from all walks of life, ”Kourush said. “A lot of people came to learn that they weren’t the only ones, they weren’t the only ones having this experience, and I think it was reassuring for people because they were suffering from this phenomenon and thought that it was ‘was just them. “

“I think it was important to raise awareness about this and to explain that there was actually a reason for what they were going through,” Kourush continued. “And that they weren’t alone.

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