How many times have you been with a girlfriend and the two of you talk about the physical traits you would like to change? Perhaps it’s your nose that you’d like a little smaller or your breasts to be a little bigger. Perhaps you want to lose the fat on your belly when there’s hardly any fat there.
Teen Body Dysmorphic Disorder
These discussions may not point to a clinical diagnosis, but if you have a belief that you are ugly or if you perceive your body to be deformed in some way, when in fact you look normal, this is the beginning of what is known as teen Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD). For instance, perhaps you feel that your skin is severely scarred or that your waist is disproportionate to other parts of your body when in fact there is no such condition? This is the primary symptom of BDD.
Both male and female adolescents, can suffer from BDD. Although the severity of thoughts and beliefs about your body may vary with each person. For example, Body Dysmorphic Disorder is also known as Dysmorphophobia. Notice the word phobia in the second half of the word. BDD can become so severe, turning into an obsessive fear or terror that your body, or a part of it, is repulsive in some way. For some individuals, dysmorphophobia impairs their ability to function. Which prevents them from going out in public, engaging in any social activities, or spending time with others because of their fear.
In the case of adolescents, you might keep yourself from doing any extracurricular activities. You want to get home after school as quickly as possible. Or perhaps you avoid school altogether to stay away from the socializing during class, in the hallways, or at lunch. Dysmorphophobia can cause significant distress and impairment in social, academic, and occupational areas of your life. Of course, socializing with friends and family is a necessary part of adolescence. The inability to do so can affect the successful move through this stage into adulthood. For instance, friends and family can provide reflections for you that help to bring out particular character traits in you. They facilitate the growth and development of who you are. Although this is true for any stage of life, adolescence, in particular, is a time for discovering your identity and sense of self.
Sadly, conversations about body figures, weight, and physical traits take place frequently among women. Western culture perpetuates the value placed on being thin and large-breasted for women. And muscular and tall for men, among other traits. Other cultures do not place so much emphasis on physical appearances. As a result, have fewer mental illnesses related to the body. The United States and other Westernized cultures have high incidences of eating disorders, depression, anxiety, and other clinical diagnoses. Clearly, we have a long way to go in creating a society that is healthy, loving, and mentally stable for all.
In the next part of this two-part series, Body Dysmorphic Disorder and Dysmorphophobia will be explored from a clinical perspective and discuss various forms of treatment.