Selfie addiction: When they become harmful to self-esteem

Doctor Reveals How Selfie Addiction Could Turn Into Dangerous Obsession
Doctor Reveals How Selfie Addiction Could Turn Into Dangerous Obsession

SAN DIEGO – Selfies can be silly, sexy or sentimental, but if the wrong angle is captured it can become an individual's worst enemy.

The selfie can capture the moment just right or highlight exactly what you don't like about your face.

Chicago plastic surgeon Dr. Steven Dayan has done countless hours of research on the selfies and how they impact everything from self-esteem to relationships with others.

"A selfie completely alters the way we see ourselves depending on the position of the camera," the doctor said. "If you hold the camera up high in the air, the lower third of the face looks smaller and the upper third of the face looks bigger and that's actually an attractive look for women."

In his research, Dr. Dayan discovered the selfie truly changes the way we all see ourselves, especially when it comes to patients considering plastic surgery.

"We're not really sure what we're treating. Are we treating the person's image in the selfie? The person's image in the mirror or the person in real life? Because a selfie isn't a real image of our self," Dayan said.

Lisa Erhart, 25 from San Carlos, takes dozens of selfies a day, spending anywhere from five seconds to 30 minutes to get the perfect picture.

"I guess maybe I'm vain. I love looking at myself," Erhart said. "I save all of them first of all. Every single selfie gets saved and then, yeah, I mean I'll post them to Facebook, social media, email them to my mom of course, who is across the country and loves to see what I'm up to."

Erhart takes so many selfies, even her dog knows how to strike a pose. As FOX 5 cameras were rolling, she called on her chihuahuato take a selfie and the dog sat up with ears pointed and looked at the her iPhone camera.

The craze has swept social media for years with Kim Kardashian and even President Obama snapping pics on the go.

"Selfie" was first uttered in 2002 and in 2013, the Oxford English Dictionary called it the word of the year after its use skyrocketed by 17,000% in just a year.

"When you see the President of the United States taking a selfie with world leaders at a conference then you know this is a universal phenomenon and it's a human nature phenomenon," Dr. Dayan said. "Its not going away, it's only going to get worse."

Erhart weighed in on what she thinks about her face.

"I just don't like this side of my face for some reason. The crook in the teeth really bothers me and the widening of my nose, the nostrils aren't quite even," she said.

But chasing the perfect selfie is unrealistic.

"If I make your face exactly like how you want it to look in a selfie, that's not a real face. You're going to look abnormal," Dr. Dayan said as he discussed patient consultations.

Many people already consider Erhart "pretty," she is often told by strangers that she looks like Taylor Swift. Those compliments apparently just aren't enough. Lisa wants to look even more like the country-pop sensation and invited FOX 5 to a surgery consultation with La Jolla plastic surgeon Dr. Richard Chaffoo.

"We want to take that nose from being flat to being more triangular," he explained during her consultation.

She scrolled through her selfies with Dr. Chaffoo and he said it is helpful when patients bring selfies into his office.

"It helps me know what it is specifically that bothers them, to make sure we can both see the same thing. If they can see something and I can't, there's a problem," Dr. Chaffoo said.

Dr. Joel Lazar is a member of the San Diego Psychological Association and agrees with Dr. Chaffoo.

"The bottom line of it is that we're often our own worst critic and we wind up looking at whatever feature we think is the worst in us," Dr. Lazar said.

The La Jolla psychologist said obsessing over selfies can be dangerous and lead to dysmorphia, seeing yourself unlike how you really appear.

"We may be bleeding over into an obsession with an image of ourselves that's not necessarily real," Dr. Dayan said.

The obsession nearly turned deadly for 19-year-old Danny Bowman. The British teen stopped going to school, locked himself in his home and took hundreds of selfies a day, all in hopes of getting the perfect one.When he couldn't snap a pic he loved, he tried to kill himself.

Bowman's quest for perfection was extreme, but doctors said the burning desire for instant gratification and approval from others on social media is actually common.

"They measure how many likes they get, within the next hour or half hour, two hours, whatever it may be and if you don't get enough likes, you get disappointed," Dr. Dayan said.

Though Erhart insisted she wants to get a nose job for personal reasons and not to impress others, doctors agreed the most common selfie complaint is about the nose.

"The nose is the center of your face and based on how far the camera is from your nose, it can alter the appearance of your nose and most often what it does is make your nose look bigger," Dr. Dayan said.

The selfie trend doesn't look like it will go anywhere and technology keeps improving making it even easier to take selfies. Dr. Dayan said as you pose for your next picture, consider more than what shows on the outside.

"That's not what makes someone attractive. The most attractive person in the room is the person who has the most amount of self-confidence," he said.

And if that wasn't enough selfie-talk for you, check out some of Kim Kardashian's infamous pics:

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