What Is “Zoom Dysmorphia,” and How Does It Affect Your Well-Being?

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In a March 2020 conversation with GeekWire, Zoom's Chief Executive Officer Eric Yuan described what he believed would be a permanent and fundamental shift in the ways we work: using video for remote worker collaboration. People worldwide have seen the job-related impact of Zoom and similar meeting technologies as these tools have become essential for communication throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. And they’ve certainly been helpful for facilitating meetings with colleagues — but they may also be making a bigger impact on our mental health and well-being than we might’ve anticipated.

According to the International OCD Foundation, approximately one in 50 Americans lives with a condition called body dysmorphic disorder (BDD), which affects how people feel about their physical appearance. People with BDD have been experiencing intensifying symptoms in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, in part because spending so much time on camera in virtual meetings is making it easier to fixate on the way we look. But how exactly does this condition relate to Zoom calls? It turns out that people who’ve been spending more time than ever in video conferences are showing some of the symptoms of BDD, leading to an effect some health experts are colloquially calling "Zoom dysmorphia."

As Zoom meetings and other video-based interactions become increasingly common and in-person interactions grow rarer, we're spending a lot more time staring at people's faces — and realizing that they’re spending an equal amount of time seeing ours. Rates of self-image insecurity, BDD and mental health challenges are increasing, and our regularly scheduled online appearances may have something to do with it — so much so that "Zoom dysmorphia" was coined to describe the mental health effects we’re experiencing from looking at our perceived flaws on camera and wanting to change them. Whether you use Zoom for fun or for work, here's what you need to know about the phenomenon.