Body dysmorphia—having a distorted body image—is a common disorder on the obsessive-compulsive spectrum. It usually starts at a young age: Body dysmorphia can occur in adolescents and teenagers as young as 12 or 13. Beginning with self-esteem issues and poor body image, body dysmorphic disorder is a progressive condition that worsens over time.
Body dysmorphia, also known as body dysmorphic disorder (BDD), combines a body image disorder with self-image issues. Thus, body dysmorphia is characterized by an intrusive preoccupation with an imagined or slight defect in one’s appearance. Moreover, such negative body image preoccupations can become persistent and obsessive in teenagers, leading to the onset of body dysmorphic disorder. Additionally, people with body dysmorphic disorder erroneously believe that they look noticeably ugly or deformed.
The obsessive preoccupations of body dysmorphia, however, do not tend to be focused on weight. Instead, there often is an intense dislike of a part of the body. Therefore, people with body dysmorphia find fault with their hair, skin, nose, stomach, etc. Even when the perceived defect is a slight imperfection or even nonexistent, the intense emotional distress caused by body dysmorphic disorder is damaging.
Such extreme emotional distress brought on by self-esteem issues and poor body image can result in difficulties in daily functioning, leading to behavioral problems and avoidance of social situations. Body dysmorphia treatment methods include Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and inpatient support.
Sources: Anxiety and Depression Association of America, US National Library of Medicine (National Institutes of Health)