How To Recognize Teenage Body Dysmorphic Disorder

It is of utmost importance that parents are aware of the telltale signs of teenage body dysmorphic disorder, as this is a critical stage in their children’s lives. By being knowledgeable about the symptoms, parents can intervene early and help their children overcome this disorder, paving the way for them to live happy and fulfilling lives. So, read on to know more about how to recognize teenage body dysmorphic disorder.

It is usual for adolescents to be concerned with their appearance. In many ways, feeling uncomfortable in one’s own flesh is par for the developmental course. However, while adolescence is a tough period, particularly during puberty, some children suffer more than others with self-perception.

Some adolescents and preteens may develop body dysmorphic disorder, which is characterized by an unhealthy preoccupation with their appearance (BBD). Read on to learn the signs and symptoms of BBD and what you can do to assist your child.

What Is Body Dysmorphic Disorder?

According to the International OCD Foundation, BBD is a mental condition defined by a possible or nonexistent fixation with perceived defects in one’s appearance. BBD is closely associated with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and is frequently misdiagnosed as anxiety, depression, eating disorders, and other conditions.

BDD affects approximately 1 in 50 people in the United States, with the onset of symptoms between the ages of 12 and 13.

Oregon psychologist Suzanne Manser, Ph.D., adds, “The issue has nothing to do with the individual’s actual body.” “The problem is that the individual believes they have a physical defect so severe that it causes them almost continual distress.”

BDD has dire long-term implications, including eating disorders and a significant risk of suicide and/or suicidal thoughts if untreated. Knowing the symptoms as a parent is an essential first step.

Teenage Body Dysmorphic Disorder: Signs and Symptoms

BDD symptoms are observable, however, they differ from person to person. “There is no predominant bodily dysmorphia symptom. It can and does vary from person to person — and child to child — but regardless of age, gender, or sex, there can and will be a significant change in behavior “National Eating Disorders Association vice president of missions and education Lauren Smolar states.

“Some adolescents use more makeup than is considered “normal,” at least for them. Some devote significantly more time to exercise “says Smoler. They may workout for hours at a time or participate in multiple shorter sessions per day. Some adjust their diet and/or look by wearing clothing that conceals or enlarges them.

Teenage Body Dysmorphic Disorder Symptoms

  • A preoccupation with one’s appearance that borders on obsession.
  • Stressing and/or fretting over one’s appearance, typically focusing on a single body region.
  • A conviction that you have a physical flaw that makes you ugly or misshapen.
  • Regularly examining one’s appearance or other measurements.
  • Always seeking confirmation over your physical appearance.
  • Social isolation or avoidance
  • Other warning signs include hostility or even violent conduct, despair and anxiety, alcohol or drug misuse, and suicidal ideation.

Parents may also observe compulsive and repetitive activities such as frequent hair combing, body and hand washing, excessive buying, numerous clothing changes, exercise fixation, and skin plucking.

According to Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience, 40% of those diagnosed with BBD report spending between 3 and 8 hours per day obsessing over their appearance.

Body Dysmorphic Disorder: Diagnosis

While there is no single test to detect if your child has BDD, skilled mental health providers can typically identify the symptoms and develop a treatment plan.

Diagnosis and therapy are based on a psychological evaluation that considers personal, social, and familial aspects and reviews their symptoms and indicators.

However, it is crucial to note that if you suspect BDD in your child, you should still consult with their healthcare physician first. Your child’s pediatrician can conduct a comprehensive medical examination to rule out other conditions.

How Parents Can Assist Their Body Dysmorphic Disorder Child

If you feel that your child is having difficulty, it is time to intervene. Long-term effects of BDD can include suicide risk, poor psychological and social functioning, and eating disorders like anorexia nervosa and bulimia. Twenty-four to twenty-eight percent of people diagnosed had tried suicide, while eighty percent reported having suicidal thoughts.

Discuss your child’s concerns with them.

Conversation with your adolescent is an important next step. Smolar recommends bringing the things you’ve observed to their attention in a concerned and open manner, letting them know you’re open to connecting them with a professional, and reaffirming that this is the best way to go. “If there is a warning indication, it is recommended that they visit a physician to determine if they require more assistance.”

She also underlined that parents should consult their child’s physician if they observe health-related changes in their child’s weight or appearance.

“Mental health can be difficult to assess, and body dysmorphia can be severe, so it’s best to consult an expert as soon as a warning sign is spotted,” suggests Smolar.

Demonstrate a healthy outlook toward your own body.

While experts believe that a physical defect is not the origin of BDD, small imagined flaws can be a trigger. Brett Klika, a qualified strength and conditioning specialist, asserts, “One of the best ways for parents to establish a positive body image in their children is to exhibit it themselves.”

Due to the fact that adolescents look to their parents to determine how they should feel about their own bodies, Klika focuses on critical questions for parents in establishing a healthy body image, self-esteem, and attitude.

  • Do parents depict their bodies as something that enables them to engage in physical activities that bring them joy, such as sports and hobbies?
  • Are parents antagonistic toward food, or do they view it as a source of nourishment?
  • When discussing healthy eating and exercise, do parents use healthy eating or exercise as a form of discipline?

Consider medication or treatment.

“The best and only acceptable treatment for body dysmorphic disorder is one that helps the individual minimize their fixation with the perceived fault,” explains Manser.

This is accomplished through cognitive behavioral therapy, a type of treatment in which a patient examines negative thought patterns to alter problematic behavior. Moreover, interpersonal counseling may be effective.

In some instances, medication is beneficial, particularly SSRIs, which can reduce feelings of melancholy and suffering. Consult your child’s doctor to choose the best course of action for your family.


If you are concerned about body dysmorphic disorder (BDD), the best thing you can do for your child is set a positive example by having a healthy connection with your body.

Moreover, you should be on the watch for any warning signs or symptoms, be receptive to discourse, and visit your child’s physician if you observe concerning behavior.

Meaningful articles you might like: Cyberbullying Facts Everybody Needs To Be Aware Of, Parenting Facts Nobody Talks About, Why media exposure damages teens’ body image!