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Always feeling anxious about the way you look is a sure sign of adolescence. Wishing you could just change a little bit of this and that is quite typically common in teens. But kids with body dysmorphic disorder experience something more than this. BDD often prevails in teenage and it makes them hate the way they look.
Kids with BDD tend to spend hours of their time in front of the mirror focusing on their flaws. Some don’t even look in the mirror with the fear of seeing their bad features. Many times a day, they check, ask others, keep on fixing themselves, and feel insecure about their looks.
As Rachel explained in her article at childmind.com, the wish to change so much is the part of the adolescence period. They want to change so much about themselves, especially the looks. They wish they could change their facial features as they compare themselves with their peers of having better skin.
Most of the teens describe themselves as monstrous, eyesore, as ugly as it hurts. The flaw they see might be not real or minor, but the effect is worse. Dr. Jerry Bubrik, a psychologist shared his experience about a boy who had a scar on chin due to an accident that occurred in childhood. He graduated from Harvard but still believed that nobody took him seriously because of the scar.
This is the scenario with most of the adolescents. They feel that their physical flaws are not physical but they are serious threats to their value as a human being. A study revealed that approximately 80% of the people with BDD have suffered from suicidal thoughts and 20% have attempted suicide.
Eva Wiseman shared her experience of having a conversation with a teenager in this article at The Guardian. She told us about Zoe, a 19-year-old girl having trouble with her physical flaws. She said as she looked at Zoe, she couldn’t believe that such a beautiful girl would feel that way.
Zoe was 13 when her classmate called her “ugly”. It was then when she started analyzing herself and picking out the flaws. Later at the age of 14, she was diagnosed with anorexia, and then things started getting worse. When she started her A-levels, she gave a list of surgeries to her mother that she thought she should have.
Her mother said that she was quite aggressive at that time. It was a dark time for them. At 17, her BDD got worse and she didn’t leave the house for three months. Zoe said at that time, she felt trapped in her body. She never felt clean and nice. She hated her body and skin. And, there was this thought that she shouldn’t live at all.
As described in an article, teens suffering from BDD are extremists regarding their looks. They are pre-occupied with several flaws including muscle size, weights, complexions, hair, scars, or anything else in their body. They find it difficult to focus on their studies or relationships, as they can only think about correcting their flaws all the time.
They are often seen practicing the same behavior patterns again and again like looking at the mirror, applying makeup, picking at skin, and pointing out flaws all the time. Kids with BDD spend hours to apply makeup and compare themselves with others.
Teens also believe that the flaws are real when they are imaginative in most of the cases. As Dr. Bubrick said, “what they see in the mirror, they think that is the real representation of how they look. What other people see is different, but it is hard for them to accept that.”
Here is another case study of Caitlin Reynolds explained in her own words as she was interviewed by HuffPost about her journey through BDD. She shared, “the feeling never left my brain, so it turned into looking in the mirror obsessively. I would start with my face, start picking at things, thinking my nose is too big, my neck isn’t long enough, my waist isn’t thin enough.”
She shared further that it all started when she was young and not happy with her body. According to her, it is not about making small changes to be better, it is about not being happy with yourself ever. BDD is like carrying a weight throughout your life and you can’t get rid of it no matter how beautiful you become. Because it is all in mind.
We are in an era where the world is the place of high premium in beauty. As this article in childmind.com;declared the fact that even most movie stars are shown with no scars on their faces. Their body image is an idea, and their beauty is becoming the standard.
Dr. Bubrick said, “media and society reinforce a lot of this”. Media is advertising fillers, botox, plastic surgeries, anti-wrinkle creams, tummy tucks, laser treatments, and much more. This is all to give the younger ones the beauty they admire.
Not to forget body shaming that is practiced on social media platforms. Teens love to upload their pics on social media, and they face weird comments regarding their bodies and faces. This cyberbullying makes them believe that they are not perfect. They feel that they need to socially acceptable.
As Dena Angela shared her recovery journey with HuffPost, she said that her journey was slow but it was worth it. She told, “I started by covering all the mirrors in my room and bathroom, and it made a tremendous difference for me.” She had to tell herself not to compare her skin and body with others. She stopped looking at her social media photos again and again.
However, it isn’t enough as most of the youngsters can’t stick to the idea of controlling themselves. So Cognitive Behavior Therapy is recommended which slows down the process of questioning one’s body. It is all about making them more flexible with their approach.
Many psychologists have shared that it is not an easy process because BDD is often embedded in the thoughts and actions of teens. They care so much about how people are looking at them and how they should go outside. Also, these teens have plenty of ways to conceal their imperfections.
There is a therapy named “exposure with response prevention” where the kid is taught to feel less and less anxious in going outside without any cover-ups. It is a slow process because the anxiety or stress doesn’t go away in just a few days.
Parents can also play an important part in this process. In fact, they can even stop it before it starts. Secureteen helps parents monitor their child’s social activities. Since in most cases body-shaming is generated through social media, this can help parents so much. They can know what is going on with their kids.
It is highly recommended for the parents to get help as soon as they get to know the intensity of your kid’s situation. If not taken seriously in the early teen years, these insecurities follow throughout life and have adverse effects.