Dear Fiona, My teenage daughter has my husband and I worried sick because she genuinely believes that she looks revolting.
The truth is that she’s absolutely lovely and it’s not just us being biased.
She gets up hours before school starts to put her make-up on.
It’s really disturbing how much she hates her looks and she’s depressed all the time.
She wants to have plastic surgery when she’s older but I don’t know how she’ll pay for it as she won’t get a part-time job. She’s too paranoid that people think she’s ugly. What could be wrong with her?
Worried Mother, Newry
Dear Worried Mother,
Teenagers can become image obsessed, partly because expectations of what they ‘should’ look like are driven by the media but absolutely no-one can live up to these standards.
This ‘perfection’ can only be achieved through extensive surgery or serious airbrushing, regardless of how beautiful someone is naturally.
Body Dysmorphic Disorder is a condition characterised by a preoccupation with imagined defects in appearance and even though small anomalies will inevitably exist, their preoccupation is obsessive.
Sufferers are most likely to be adolescents who have difficulties with social interaction and they exhibit all the signs you mention.
This disorder often co-exists with eating disorders, generalised anxiety disorder, and obsessive compulsive disorder.
It’s possible that she’s subconsciously using these imagined physical defects as an avoidance strategy to withdraw from the outside world.
Please consult your doctor who may prescribe anti-depressives, cognitive behavioural therapy or a combination of the two if her condition is deemed serious enough.