How Physical Appearance Issues lead to Teen Depression

A study has established that adolescents who have negative concerns about their body image can more easily be affected by teen depression than those who do not have any such concerns. These children may have anxiety issues also and some of them may develop suicidal tendencies.

The study assessed other problems like BDD or Body-Dysmorphic Disorder, ED or eating disorders that are also called bulimia or anorexia and a few other concerns that are related to body shape and body weight and how they can negatively impact the mental health in teens.


If a teen is preoccupied with a defective appearance that is either imaginary or exaggerated, it is called BDD.  A crooked nose, an imperfect complexion, etc. are examples of such imaginary preoccupation. There are weight-related BDD concerns also in which people are preoccupied with their shape or excess weight.

Body-Image Concerns And Their Effect On Mental Health

There are many teens who have such concerns about their body image and due to this, their mental health is severely affected. More specifically, these adolescents are likely to be affected by teen depression and anxiety. Some of them may develop suicidal thoughts also. These symptoms are uncommon with those teens who do not have any such negative concerns about their body image. This applies to teens with eating disorders also which means that they are also likely to be affected by depression unlike others without any body-image concerns.

This study is the first of its kind and the researchers who have undertaken the study opine that the findings may pave way for more in-depth researches because such body-image concerns seem to be there among adolescents and these concerns appear to cause teen depression in them.

Another important finding of the study is that those who are preoccupied with body shape and body weight concerns and who develop depression due to such concerns block out emotions and this indicates that they have high levels of dissociation. They also have sexual preoccupation and distress. They seem to be affected by PTSD or Post-Traumatic-Stress-Disorder which means that the concerns of these teens may be due to the bitter experiences of physical as well as sexual abuse they have had in the past. Ironically, those teens who were considered for this study were not overweight.

How The Study Was Conducted?

The teens who were considered in the study were provided with a questionnaire that contained questions like what they opine about their physical appearance, whether they have concerns about their body image, what aspect can improve their appearance, how much time they spend thinking about their appearance or body image, etc.

6.7 percent of the patients considered met the criteria of non-weight related BDD and 22.1 percent had distressing concerns about their weight, shape and body-image.

Preoccupation with body-image perceptions may have caused mood disorders, issues like anxiety, PTSD, etc. in these teens. These findings will be useful for treating these adolescents for their teen depression problem. These researchers opine that the negative feelings of these teens about their body-image and appearance are a major contributor for their suicidal attempts and thoughts and this fact is ignored by parents as well as professionals like psychologists and psychiatrists.

Under-Recognition of Body-Image Concerns And Their Effects

This means that the body-image concerns and the disturbances caused by them are under-recognized or it may turn out to be a case of under-treatment also. If parents and professionals give the right type of recognition to this fact, they can prevent worsening of the problem. 

How Verbalizing Negative Emotions Can Help

In short, body-image concerns can not only cause teen depression but may affect the quality of life of these adolescents. If these teens are encouraged to verbalize their negative concerns, they can be helped to value themselves in the right manner. Not only that, this will help these teens learn that non-appearance-based qualities are more important because they can effectively enhance their self-esteem and stay away from teen depression.

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