Like adults, teenagers naturally have thoughts and feelings about themselves in relation to their bodies. In most cases, these thoughts and feelings don’t interfere with the ability to function in daily life. However, some teens develop an extreme preoccupation with certain aspects of their physical appearance. If this preoccupation interferes with your child’s day-to-day function, they may have something called body dysmorphia. Left untreated, this condition can have a severe, negative impact on your child’s well-being.
What Is Body Dysmorphia?
Body dysmorphia is officially known as body dysmorphic disorder or BDD. It belongs to a group of mental health conditions known as obsessive-compulsive and related disorders. People with BDD undergo significant, harmful changes in their body image. This term describes the way you think and feel about your body. It also describes the ways you physically experience your body in everyday life.
A range of BDD-related changes in body image is possible. Signs and symptoms that may affect your child include:
- Heavy preoccupation with perceived physical flaws that are minor or invisible to others
- A deep-rooted sense that these perceived flaws make them look unsightly or deformed
- A belief that others see them negatively because of their perceived flaws
- Use of clothing or makeup to cover or mask perceived flaws
People with BDD may also develop strong urges to do certain things in response to their perceived flaws. For example, your teen may obsessively groom themselves. They may also repeatedly check their appearance in a mirror.
In addition, your child may develop other issues. For example, people with BDD may make constant physical comparisons between themselves and other people. They may also shy away from social situations and display tendencies toward perfectionism. In addition, your teen may frequently talk about getting plastic surgery to change their appearance.
What Causes Body Dysmorphia?
Most people develop BDD as preteens or teenagers. The disorder is often specifically associated with girls. However, it can affect boys, as well. No one knows exactly why BDD occurs. Still, a number of risk factors have been identified. They include:
- Having a history of BDD or obsessive-compulsive disorder in your family
- Being exposed to abuse, neglect, or bullying as a child
- Exposure to restrictive social expectations or standards of beauty
- Having a preexisting tendency toward perfectionism
The presence of depression or another serious mental health issue can also increase your child’s BDD risks.
Potential BDD Complications
Without treatment, BDD tends to get worse over time. One of the most common complications of the disorder is low self-esteem in teens. Other possible long-term issues include substance abuse and the onset of additional mental illnesses. Significantly, many teens with BDD experience suicidal thinking. This thinking may progress to plans for suicide and actual suicide attempts.
Treating Body Dysmorphia
Effective treatment for BDD may include psychotherapy and medication. The top psychotherapy option for the disorder is cognitive-behavioral therapy. The most common medication options are a group of antidepressants called SSRIs. Treatment for severe BDD may begin in a hospital setting. That’s especially true if your child is actively suicidal.
Learn More About Body Dysmorphia and Self-Esteem in Teens at Imagine Spokane
Body dysmorphia is a mental health condition that seriously distorts your body image. Affected people become preoccupied with self-perceived flaws. As a result, they experience problems functioning in daily life.
Are you concerned your child may have BDD? Talk to the teen mental health specialists at Imagine Spokane. We can help you determine if body dysmorphia is present. We also provide the customized treatment needed to recover from this serious disorder. For more information, call us today at 509.870.3810 or fill out our online form.