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Staring at yourself on video calls can lead to 'Zoom dysmorphia'

"Zoom dysmorphia" is the process of starting to believe you look a certain way that differs from your actual appearance.

INDIANAPOLIS — "I wasn't used to seeing myself every day," said Indianapolis resident Pamela Bay. "So for me, it was like looking in the mirror all day, every day."

Sound familiar? Bay is like a lot of Americans, having to adjust to video calls for work due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"When I'm here at home on a video chat, I always have myself in that little corner and, I always try to avoid looking at myself but it's like, I'm standing there talking to myself in a mirror, and all I see is that I'm starting to age," Bay said.

She's not alone. The plastic surgery industry is seeing a boom, one that doctors think can be attributed to video chatting.

"I think that this is an unusual thing for many in the business world or other professional areas," said Dr. Mark Hamilton, a plastic surgeon with Hamilton Facial Plastic Surgery. "Now, instead of meeting people face-to-face where they're looking at someone else, they're looking at a screen where their image is there the entire time, all day long. They're all of a sudden very, very self-conscious of a lot of their facial features."

Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto
Video chatting has become extremely popular in the workforce due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Spending so much time analyzing your appearance can be unhealthy, leading to what some are calling "Zoom dysmorphia," which means you start to believe you look a certain way that differs from your actual appearance. 

"The camera on Zoom does distort things a little bit," Hamilton said. "So, people were noticing features, maybe some that were an issue and some that were distorted because of the camera."

There are a few things you can do to combat this. The first, when possible, is to leave your camera off. This will avoid seeing your reflection at all.

If that's not possible, try putting a Post-it Note over your video stream on the call. This will help avoid the temptation to look down at yourself.

Lastly, try updating your video call setup. Experts suggest buying a light kit to help brighten up your video stream.

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