Teen Body Dysmorphic Disorder Treatment

Teens struggling with body dysmorphia believe they look ugly, deformed, or somehow, “not themselves.” They may believe their skin is scarred or that they have some other sort of deformed body part when, in reality, there is absolutely nothing abnormal about them. An underweight teen may feel fat, or a well-built teen may feel disproportionately small. This also includes teens who do not identify as their birth-assigned sex.

Everyone has insecurities, and we all spend a little bit of time focusing on our appearance; this is just a normal part of everyday life. Teens with Body Dysmorphic Disorder don’t have a normal sense of self-awareness. Their thought processes are delusional and irrational and can cause a deep and dangerous sense of self-loathing. They become withdrawn, isolated, or completely cut-off due to fears about how others may perceive them. This impacts their lives on a very deep, persistent level.

What Does Teen Body Dysmorphic Disorder Look Like?

  • Teens with body dysmorphia are extremely insecure. They carry around a completely false self-image. These convictions may lead them to unhealthy diet and exercise patterns.
  • The altered sense of self-awareness leads to fear of other people’s opinions, isolation, and anxiety. This leads to deep fears about socialization and public perception.
  • Body dysmorphia leads teens to make poor choices. Many of these are life-threatening, including addiction to weight loss supplements or the use of steroids. Disordered eating patterns lead to malnutrition, organ damage, and a litany of other physical side effects.

Signs of Teen Body Dysmorphic Disorder

Excessive vanity over appearance

Excessive vanity over appearance

Obsessive, excessive self-grooming

Obsessive, excessive self-grooming

Extremely low self-worth or self-esteem

Extremely low self-worth or self-esteem

Intense episodes of anxiety and paranoia

Intense episodes of anxiety and paranoia

Unhealthy eating habits or disordered eating

Unhealthy eating habits or disordered eating

Episodes of Depression and/or dysthymia

Episodes of Depression and/or dysthymia

Causes of Teen Body Dysmorphic Disorder

There isn’t much known about what causes teen Body Dysmorphic Disorder. There are some risk factors associated with its development.

Psychological Trauma - Bullying plays a huge role in the development of body dysmorphia, especially if bullies focus on the teen’s appearance. This can force them to develop an unrealistic and irrational sense of self. They become focused on aesthetics and feel they need to be perfect to be accepted. Sometimes the disorder flares up during times of intense stress.

Genetics - Approximately 43 percent of teens with teen Body Dysmorphic Disorder have a close family member with some sort of inheritable mental health disorder or brain issue. Genetic ties do not need to be direct; e.g., having a parent with Depression may also raise the risk for teen Body Dysmorphic Disorder.

Media Influence - Teens who consume excessive amounts of media are at a higher risk for developing body dysmorphia than those who abstain. The media leads teens to think they have to live up to a certain standard, even when some of the features they focus on (like bone health and height) can’t physically be changed. Excessive exposure to advertising, movies, television shows, talk shows, and other forms of media make them self-conscious.

Request a Call

  • We are here to assist you and answer your questions, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. All calls are confidential.
Teen Body Dysmorphic Disorder Treatment | Paradigm San Francisco


people struggle with Body Dysmorphia.


of all men are diagnosed with BDD.


of people with Major Depression also have BDD.

How Can I Help My Teen with Body Dysmorphic Disorder?

Trust the Process - It isn’t easy to watch someone you truly love struggle with thought patterns you simply can’t understand or support. Understand that their delusions are tricking their brains into thinking they see something that isn’t there. Don’t waste your time constantly arguing or getting upset. Be encouraging and trust that proper treatment will help your teen get back on track.

Support your Teen - Your teen’s disorder isn’t a part of who they really are. Align yourself with your teen so that they know you’re fighting with them and not against them. Body Dysmorphic Disorder is a legitimate, well-documented mental illness; in other words, it isn’t your teen looking for attention or pity. Your empathy towards your teen’s situation will show them you care and believe in them, even when they’re feeling bad about themselves.

Practice Self-Care - You can’t help others if you’re not taking care of yourself. Putting everything aside to care for your teen seems noble, but it isn’t healthy for you to neglect yourself and become depressed. Taking care of yourself, managing your own stress levels, and supporting other family members is just as important and will help keep chaos levels down.

What Types of Teen Body Dysmorphic Disorder Treatment are Available?

The first and most important goal when it comes to treating a teen with Body Dysmorphic Disorder is helping them to recognize they have a problem. There is no point to making a teen feel like we’re trying to force them into a different mold or thought pattern. We instead focus on helping them understand why they are thinking the way they are so that they can learn to manage them better. This results in a happier, healthier life with more realistic levels of confidence and self-esteem.

Talk Therapy

Teens with Body Dysmorphic Disorder benefit greatly from different forms of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). They learn to recognize their false belief patterns, think about themselves in a more positive light, and cope more effectively with their emotions. Being aware of the problem makes it easier for a teen to recognize when negative self-talk is becoming an issue. They’ll be able to use their new coping techniques to avoid self-destructive behaviors.


Medication isn’t used to treat dysmorphia specifically, but it can be used to treat the symptoms of Anxiety and Depression your teen has developed along with it. Antidepressants can help your teen avoid negative thought patterns and the urge to participate in behaviors that are harming or destructive. Even still, therapists will try to avoid medications, usually SSRIs, unless a case is particularly severe.

Teen Body Dysmorphic Disorder Treatment at Paradigm San Francisco

This disorder can have a huge impact on your teen’s life, making them feel depressed and even considering self-harm. Teens with Body Dysmorphic Disorder can learn to think more positively about themselves while living a healthier lifestyle. Paradigm’s San Francisco locations are dedicated to helping teens cope with their diagnosis and embrace the healing process.

A Focus on Treatment

Teens in residential program have the time and space they need to focus on themselves without outside influence. They’ll learn to identify their self-destructive behavior patterns and cope differently. Our dedicated treatment plans remove home and school pressures from the equation, allowing teens to focus on getting healthier.

One Step at a Time

The professionals at Paradigm San Francisco will help your teen uncover some of the underlying causes for their dysmorphia. Instances of bullying and negative social interactions can be addressed. They’ll learn to stop being paranoid about what others think of them and learn to have healthier social interactions. We accept a limited number of teens into our program at any given time, giving those staying at Paradigm San Francisco the space as well as the attention they need to heal and begin interacting with others again.

“I don't know who will see this, but I just thought I'd put it out into the world that Paradigm Malibu changed my life forever. Long story short, I had nothing but anger inside me when I got there, and putting the rest of the world to the side for a while and being present with people I grew to love helped me gain my sense of self back. I'm forever grateful for the people of Paradigm. “

– Olivia H.

Frequently Asked Questions About Teen Body Dysmorphic Disorder

Why can’t I just have cosmetic surgery?

Teens with Body Dysmorphic Disorder don’t actually have any physical issues. Their beliefs are based in psychology and are delusional. Their reactions to those false beliefs have major physical ramifications. Cosmetic surgery won’t change the fact that a teen sees something that is unrealistic when they look in the mirror. That thought pattern will persist.

How do I know if I have Body Dysmorphic Disorder?

There are three main characteristics we look for when diagnosing Body Dysmorphic Disorder: the need to act compulsively, have deep rooted delusional beliefs, and have an unhealthy focus on appearance. The only people who can diagnose teen Body Dysmorphic Disorders are mental health professionals with experience with this and other disorders of a similar nature. You can look online for information and educational materials, but you should start by talking to a doctor for a diagnosis before seeking any form of treatment.

Ready to take the next step?

Call now for a free assessment with a counselor or to start the admissions process.
We are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. All calls are confidential.
Call Now