How taking a selfie became a ‘sad’ addiction

"I would definitely call myself a selfie addict, I take more than 200 selfies a day," a confident 23-year-old confesses to me.

Junaid Ahmed cares about how he looks, a lot. He frequently posts selfies to his 50,000 Instagram followers. But to gain such a following in a saturated market you must stand out.

We’ve seen this before on magazine stands with airbrushed covers - and the same techniques are now available on smartphones.

"When I first started taking selfies on Instagram, it was just about the filter and nothing else," Junaid says.

“But Instagram has progressed and there are so many more influencers out there. All these apps have now come out, you have to use them to compete with everyone else that is doing social media influencing as well.

"So, using these apps is kind of a routine now. It genuinely is hard work, but everyone out there is looking to get that perfect selfie."

Photo editing apps like FaceTune, AirBrush and Slim & Skinny enable you to easily alter your appearance in selfies. With just a few clicks you can make yourself skinny, remove blemishes, enlarge your eyes or even shrink your nose.

FaceTune is one of the most popular apps on Apple's App Store. Credit: ITV News

These apps are popular and often appearing in the top app charts.

FaceTune was Apple’s most popular paid for app of 2017 – and counts the likes of Khloe Kardashian among its fans.

Cosmetic surgeons have reported that people have started to ask for treatments that will make them look like their digitally-altered self – a condition surgeons have called ‘Snapchat dysmorphia’.

While that’s not a medically recognised condition, young people wanting to look like their airbrushed selfies could be showing symptoms of a mental health condition called Body Dysmorphic Disorder.

Khloe Kardashian has used the FaceTune app on her pictures. Credit: AP

Amita Jassi, a Consultant Clinical Psychologist at South London and Maudsley NHS Trust, says it is "characterised by a sufferer really being preoccupied with what they perceive to be a flaw in their appearance, which other people would not see at all or would appear really slight to them".

She added: "This preoccupation really drives them to engage in repetitive behaviour to try to hide or fix that perceived flaw, so wearing excessive makeup, seeking cosmetic treatments and checking their appearance in the mirror excessively.

Amita Jassi helps young people suffering with Body Dysmorphic Disorder. Credit: ITV News

Dr Jassi said social media can "perpetuate" Body Dysmorphic Disorder among young people.

"These behaviours lead to lots of distress and interference in people's lives, she said.

"The young people we see in the clinic might not be attending school - there is high risks of suicide, ideation and self-harm.

"So (it's) a really risky condition and a very common condition, with about 1 to 2% of young people having Body Dysmorphic Disorder.”

This risk has led to MPs from the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport select committee quizzing Snapchat executives this week about the impact it could have on users’ mental health.

Stephen Collins, a policy director at Snapchat, told MPs: "I think we need more evidence and more research - not just for Snapchat but across the industry, it's very important."

And despite finding success on the platform, Junaid is acutely aware of how apps can impact mental health.

“When you think about it, it's sad. What I'm doing in these selfies are not a true representation of myself," he admits to me.

“I do think that it's setting the standards that are not true to life. It's not being real and it's hard because this is the 21st century and this is what social media has done and created.”