Body Dysmorphic Disorder: Important Info. for Teens

Daphnne Cabrera '23, Co Editor

Body Dysmorphic Disorder is a mental health condition where one is absorbed with thoughts about perceived flaws in their appearance. These obsessive thoughts take a toll in one’s life as they interfere with school, work, and relationships. People of any age can develop BDD; however, it is most common in teenagers and young adults, affecting both males and females. Symptoms of BDD typically begin during adolescence for children in middle school through high school.

If you as a WHS student experience unhealthy obsessions about your appearance, are overly critical of perceived minor flaws, and experience severe distress as a result, you might be showing signs of Body Dysmorphic Disorder.

According to Cleveland Clinic’s website, Body Dysmorphic Disorder affects about 1 in 50 people. It is believed that the number of people with this condition is actually much larger than these numbers reflect as many people may be reluctant to discuss their symptoms, thus not receiving a diagnosis. This disorder can go unnoticed for several years and many people with BDD don’t ever receive a diagnosis.
There is no exact cause of BDD, but like many other mental health conditions it is believed to be a combination of environmental, psychological, and biological factors such as a family history of the disorder, negative judgements or experiences about your body or self-image, and abnormal brain function or abnormal levels of the brain chemical called serotonin. Other factors that might affect the development of or trigger Body Dysmorphic Disorder include experiences of traumatic events or emotional conflict during childhood, low self-esteem, family and friends who were critical of the person’s appearance, and pressure from peers and a society (including social media) that identifies physical appearance with beauty and value.

There are several warning signs that can indicate that a person has or is developing body dysmorphic disorder including overwhelming concentration with one or more defects or flaws in physical appearance that cannot be seen by others, or that appear slight to others, having problems at work, school, or in relationships because the person cannot stop focusing on the defect, feeling self-conscious and not wanting to go out in public, or feeling anxious when around other people.

It is important to understand that BDD is a serious mental illness. According to the National Library of Medicines website, 80% of individuals with BDD experience lifetime suicidal ideation and 24% to 28% have attempted suicide.

The best way to prevent BDD from becoming a serious problem is to catch it early on, as BDD tends to get worse with age. Students in middle school and high school are typically the first to develop symptoms of BDD. If you are feeling overly worried about your appearance and need constant reassurance, talk with your parents/guardians, healthcare provider, or a mental health professional.
For more information on Body Dysmorphic Disorder and ways to help cope with BDD here is a helpful website:

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