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The bad side to body image concerns

Teens with body image concerns were more likely to suffer from symptoms of depression, anxiety, says a study.

india Updated: Jun 17, 2006 16:52 IST

In a study of adolescents who were admitted to a psychiatric hospital, those with body image concerns were more likely to suffer from symptoms of depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts and other mental health problems than those who didn't have such concerns.

Also, patients preoccupied with body shape or weight were significantly more likely to have post-traumatic stress disorder, dissociation and sexual preoccupation.

Overall, body image disorders affected one third of all of the teens evaluated, and were severe enough to cause significant distress or interfere with normal functioning, Dr Jennifer Dyl of Brown Medical School in Providence, Rhode Island and colleagues report.

"These relatively common, yet distressing and impairing body image preoccupations deserve further study in adolescents," Dyl and her team report in the journal of Child Psychiatry and Human Development.

Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) is a medically recognized condition in which a person suffers from a disabling preoccupation with an imagined or minor flaw in his or her appearance.

The condition usually first appears in early adolescence, a time when the body is undergoing major changes in appearance, Dyl and her colleagues note.

To investigate the prevalence of BDD, eating disorders and other body image concerns and their association with other mental disorders, the researchers evaluated 208 boys and girls between 12 and 17 years old who were admitted to a psychiatric hospital for inpatient care.

Fourteen met the medical criteria for BDD, 8 had eating disorders, and 46 had shape or weight concerns that were clinically significant but did not meet criteria for BDD or eating disorders.

Just 1 of the 14 study participants with BDD had this diagnosis noted in their medical record, Dyl and her colleagues found. Less than half of the teens with shape and weight concerns were actually overweight.

"Our results underscore the importance of screening for and diagnosing BDD and other body image concerns in adolescents," Dyl and her team conclude.

SOURCE: Child Psychiatry and Human Development, June 2006.