UAE: Residents dial up doctors as Zoom meetings magnify insecurities

Nandini Sircar/Dubai
Filed on June 4, 2021 | Last updated on June 4, 2021 at 02.38 pm

It’s a scenario dubbed ‘Zoom dysmorphia’ and doctors said it has become more common in the UAE.

This era of Zoom meetings and video conferences has seen many residents dialling up their dermatologists because, all of a sudden, wrinkles are too visible or hairlines appear much higher. It’s a scenario dubbed ‘Zoom dysmorphia’ and doctors said it has become more common in the UAE.

With insecurities magnified, there has been an uptick in cosmectic consultations, the specialists said.

Dr Preethi Dayashankar, dermatologist at Medeor Hospital, Dubai, said: “This is on the rise in the UAE residents, as seen by our fraternity, who share a common opinion on people reaching out to us for corrective treatments. This scenario has become more prominent after the restrictions have been lifted and physicians became more accessible.”

Zoom dysmorphia occurs when a person becomes fixated on flaws in their appearance, particularly during Zoom or video conference calls, Dr Dayashankar explained. “It initiates a self-critical comparative response that leads to people rushing to their physicians for corrective treatments which they had not considered before the onset of Zoom classes or calls.”

In a report published in The International Journal of Women’s Dermatology this year, a whopping 86 per cent of patients polled had cited video-conferencing as the reason for seeking cosmetic treatments.

Common concerns found in global studies were receding hairlines, nasolabial folds, wrinkles close to the eyes, pigmentation, etc.

However, such cosmetic issues don’t always require any medical procedure. “What we see on the screen is not an accurate representation of what we look like. Lens size and subject distance are important factors in photography, affecting how the subject appears on the screen,” said Dr Dayashankar.

“As ethical dermatologists, we should know when to do any correction, or just an explanation and counselling would suffice,” she added.

Dr Vimi Ponnamparambath, dermatologist at Aster Beauty Clinic, Al Warqa, said people who are experiencing Zoom dysmorphia could be too concerned about their image that they would avoid video calls altogether. “People with this problem will often avoid social contact for fear of ridicule and humiliation and increase isolation and rarely even consider suicide.”

Doctors reiterate that fellow medical professionals should be ready to discuss the issue with their patients and offer support not only for aesthetic needs but also counselling.

“An important part of our job as aesthetic practitioners is to recognise this relatively common, yet very serious mental disorder and refer patients to the right help, quickly,” Dr Ponnamparambath said.

Dr Naglaa Ramzy, dermatologist at Prime Hospitals, added that social media is another factor that leaves people feeling insecure.

“Many people are spending more time on social media viewing highly edited photos of others, triggering unhealthy comparison to their own images on front-facing cameras, which we know is distorted and not a true reflection. I suggest a few tips which include considering using an external high-resolution camera for better video quality, adjusting your camera, positioning it at a distance from your face, and reducing the amount of time you spend facing the camera by turning off the video calls when it is not required,” Dr Ramzy said.

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