Body dysmorphia in children and teens isn’t just possible but is also quite common. The condition stems from a host of reasons that can range from self-esteem issues, peer pressure, underlying disorders to even abuse.
Medically known as Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD), the condition refers to self-perceived ‘flaws’ in the individual’s appearance – the idea of being physically ‘imperfect.’
Children, with their wide friend circles and points of contact – at the playground, in schools, and now, even social media – subliminally or consciously pick up on multiple messages from their social surroundings. Where fully grown adults find it hard to evade the pressures of false beauty standards and self-satisfaction, children and teens with yet-developing identities are highly susceptible to issues of dysmorphia.
Gagandeep Kaur, a presidential-awardee clinical and child psychologist based in Delhi, tells SheThePeople that body dysmorphia in children directly relates to difficulties in self-acceptance, feelings of vulnerability and insecurity. The child feels embarrassed to step out in view of people and may not be able to concentrate on day-to-day schedules.
Signs Of Body Dysmorphia In Children
Here are some indicators in a child who may be harbouring feelings of dysmorphia that parents must watch out for:
- obsessive preoccupation with how one looks
- avoiding social gatherings with many people
- anxiety about physical appearance
- perceiving ‘flaws’ not even noticeable to others
- compulsive touching or looking at the said ‘defect’
- comparing self to other peers
- feelings of general discontent, not feeling ‘enough’
What Can Parents Do For Body Dysmorphia In Children?
Kaur suggests, “Open channels of communication with your children. Dialogue will help you and them to relay information candidly between each other. Spending time with each other is also a great way to update yourself on your kids’ lives. Ask them questions about their basic routines, discuss how they’re feeling. As parents, you must also keep an eye out for what it is that your children do or where they go, whom they meet, without giving them the feeling you are interfering.”
Other tips for parents whose children may be facing body dysmorphia issues:
- Schedule visits to a child therapist. There should be no shame attached to caring for your child’s mental health.
- Reinforce beliefs to your child that they are sufficient as they are.
- Be conscious of any ideals of physical perfection and beauty standards you may be preaching, and correct them.
- Don’t isolate your child. Always make them feel loved.
- Cosmetic surgery or operations on the perceived ‘flaw’ will not solve the problem long-term.