Its’ all about appearance, be it perceived or real. Research suggests that most people form their opinion about others in the first 3 – 5 seconds of meeting them. Is it any wonder then, that most of us place undue emphasis on our appearance or image? And so do our young teens? While almost all of us have normal appearance concerns, it becomes rather unhealthy when these concerns start resembling obsessions / compulsions.
In my last blog, we had discussed body image issues, and one of the repercussions mentioned was Body Dysmorphic Disorder or BDD. Let’s look into this in detail. What is BDD? Simply put, it is extreme preoccupation with one or more perceived defects or flaws in physical appearance that are not really observable to others. If at all these defects are observable to others, then, they are very minute and easily ignorable. A person can be said to be suffering from BDD, if along with this preoccupation, the person has also engaged in behaviours like skin picking or frequently compares oneself with others. It is important to understand that we all have appearance concerns and engage in comparing ourselves or our children to one another. But such behaviour can be labelled as BDD only if, these concerns cause significant disturbance in almost all areas of life.
The most common areas of concern for people with BDD include:
- In males especially, muscle dysmorphia (preoccupation with the idea that one’s body is too small or too muscular);
- Face & hair;
Why is the concept of BDD relevant to parenting?
The most common age of onset for BDD is 12-13 yrs. This is the period marking the beginning of adolescence and a time of crucial, emotional and physical changes for the teen. Roughly 2/3rd of people with BDD have the onset before they turn 18. These statistics make BDD a concern that needs to be addressed by everyone who deals with teens and young adults. Factors such as having parents who have BDD, childhood abuse & neglect, presence of low self-esteem, societal expectations, and presence of conditions like anxiety, predisposes one to developing BDD.
What are the early warning signs which suggest that someone you know may have BDD?
- As already mentioned, a preoccupation with the physical appearance;
- Frequent examination in the mirror or avoidance of it altogether;
- Feeling of ugliness and often talking about it;
- A need to stay housebound and avoid social situations;
- Frequently seeking assurance from others regarding any specific feature or whole of one’s appearance;
- Excessive grooming, for e.g., skin picking to the extent that it can cause severe skin damage;