As social media becomes more and more visual in nature, the popularity of photo-based platforms like Instagram and Snapchat, featuring high numbers of front-faced camera selfies, continue to rise. But recent reports have doctors and researchers warning against excessive usage of these platforms, as they are increasingly being linked to body image and eating disorders.

A study published in the International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction examined the habits of university students in India, and suggested they may have a compulsive habit of taking selfies.

"A selfie addiction is when a person is almost obsessively taking selfies, multiple times a day, and posting that to whatever it might be — Snapchat, or Facebook, Instagram," said Dr. Ramani Durvasula, a professor of psychology at California State University.

The condition, sometimes known as 'selfitis,' is said to negatively affect body image as social media can become a catalyst for low-esteem individuals seeking validation. Adolescents make up a particularly vulnerable group for developing Body Dysmorphic Disorder. Presently, the condition affects  1 in 50 people. 

Another study showed exposure to Instagram selfies led to lower self-esteem among girls between the ages 14-18. The participants of the study also perceived the manipulated photos (either run through photoshop or the app's filter) to be "realistic," raising a major red flag.

"They’re not changing the content of our beauty standards,” said Renee Engeln in reference to social media platforms. “They’re just making images of it more widely available."

Engeln, professor of psychology at Northwestern University, explained while these features have always been desired, manipulated photos were only limited to magazine covers and celebrities before social media. Now that average people have the ability to transform their images online, the negative effects have been magnified. 

"It’s not enough [to] have to compare yourself to these perfected images of models, but now you’ve got this daily comparison of your real self to this intentional or unintentional fake self that you present on social media. It’s just one more way to feel like your falling short every day," she said.

Last week, a series of news reports emerged over 'Snapchat Dysmorphia,' where people seeking cosmetic surgery would make requests to look like their filtered selfies. 

Snapchat filters add a layer of appealing effects over the user’s face by smoothening the skin, hiding blemishes, and enlarging the eyes and lips. When used regularly over a period of time, some users have admitted to forgetting what their real face looks like.

“We’re at a new level when we actually lose touch with our own face or look surprised when we look in the mirror,” Engeln observed.

Calling out cosmetic surgery for encouraging a “rat race culture where it feels like a constant beauty pageant,” Engeln, who published her book Beauty Sick last year, expressed concern for women who feel pressured to look a certain way even as they begin the natural process of aging. 

“You are never going to meet this culture’s beauty standard. If we all started meeting the standard, the standard would just be changed,” she said.