The teenage years are often when people start to become more aware of their appearance. For some, this can be a time of great confidence and self-esteem. However, for others, it can be a time of doubt and insecurity. When teens fall prey to insecurity, their negative self-talk can evolve into body dysmorphia.
But what is body dysmorphia and how does it contribute to mental illness? Ascend has the answers in this comprehensive overview of this mental health concern. Read on here to learn more about signs and symptoms, as well as treatment options and support.
What Is Body Dysmorphia?
When teens with body dysmorphia (also known as body dysmorphic disorder or BDD) look in the mirror, they see themselves looking different than they really are. This faulty perception can be due to a number of things, such as unrealistic body expectations that warp their true form, comparing themselves to others, or fixating on a single minor imperfection.
For example, a teen with body dysmorphia may look in the mirror and see themselves as overweight, even if they’re at a healthy weight. Or, they may focus on a small blemish on their skin and believe that it’s huge and everyone can see it. This distorted view of their appearance can cause a great deal of distress and bother them on a daily basis.
The Nuances of a Body Dysmorphia Diagnosis
When learning what body dysmorphia is, parents and teens must understand that this condition is different than people who are simply unhappy with their appearance, and it’s more than just a case of low self-esteem. People with body dysmorphia actually have a distorted view of how they look. This can lead them to engage in unhealthy behaviors, such as dieting to an extreme, excessive workouts, or spending hours trying to cover up their perceived imperfections.
Unfortunately, body dysmorphia doesn’t just go away on its own. In fact, it can often lead to more serious mental health issues, such as depression, anxiety, and eating disorders. It can also cause social withdrawal and isolation. Learning more about what body dysmorphia is and how it contributes to mental health concerns can help you better understand and support your teen.
How Does Body Dysmorphia Contribute to Mental Illness?
Body dysmorphia can lead to a number of other mental health concerns, resulting in comorbidity. A few of the most common co-occurring conditions include:
- Depression: People with body dysmorphia may become depressed due to their negative self-image. This can lead to a decrease in energy and motivation as well as feelings of hopelessness.
- Anxiety: The anxiety caused by body dysmorphia can be so severe that it interferes with daily activities. People with this condition may constantly worry about their appearance and what others think of them. This can lead to social anxiety and avoidance.
- Eating disorders: People with body dysmorphia may develop eating disorders such as anorexia or bulimia in an attempt to control their weight. Even less intensive disordered eating habits can have a massive negative effect on their health.
- Self-harm: People with body dysmorphia may also engage in self-harmful behaviors as a way to cope with their negative feelings. This can include cutting, burning, or other forms of self-injury.
Symptoms of Body Dysmorphia
Now that you know what body dysmorphia is, we can start talking about how you can spot it in yourself or a family member. Some of the most common symptoms of this condition include:
- Feeling anxious or depressed about your appearance
- Constantly checking your appearance in the mirror
- Avoiding mirrors completely or trying to hide your body
- Excessive exercise and grooming
- Frequent comparisons between your body and others’
- Picking at skin with fingers or nails
- Attempting to control food intake through calorie counting or purging
If you’re worried that your teen may be dealing with body dysmorphia, it’s important to talk to them about your concerns. They may be hesitant to talk about it at first, but it’s essential to let them know that you’re there to support them.
Causes of Body Dysmorphia
It’s not enough to know what body dysmorphia is, you should also consider the cause. While there is no one single cause for body dysmorphia, studies show that it often starts in adolescence and can be triggered by certain conditions, including:
- A family history of BDD
- Abnormality in brain chemicals
- Personality type
- Trauma or other negative life experiences
Help for Body Dysmorphia at Ascend
Now that you know what body dysmorphia is, you’re better equipped to handle a situation where a teen may be struggling with it. At Ascend, we’re familiar with this condition and how it can relate to other mental health concerns we treat. Consider residential treatment for body dysmorphia and connect with our team at 310.388.3713 to find out if Ascend is the right place for you.