Contemporary youth is disproportionately exposed to appearance models distributed through the images persisting in social media and advertisements. The standards of looks and beauty transmitted through these communication channels are particularly influential for teenagers and youths who are psychologically vulnerable to external factors. Their self-images are formed under the influence of perfected beauty standards that are in dissonance with reality, which is why they might develop body dysmorphic disorder, which is characterized by an unhealthy preoccupation with one’s appearance. Since conventional treatment of patients with body dysmorphic disorder deems insufficiently effective, preventative measures should be aimed at eliminating the contributing factors, namely social media and advertising content. This paper is designed to provide evidence to support the abovementioned thesis in order to validate the necessity of addressing this under-researched issue.
Overview of Body Dysmorphic Disorder
Dysmorphophobia or body dysmorphic disorder is a mental health issue that is found in many people globally. With the advancement of technologies, the access to images of other people and the comparison of one’s appearance to others became persistent, forming people’s attitudes toward themselves. According to Singh and Veale, dysmorphophobia is “a preoccupation with a perceived defect or a markedly excessive concern where there is a slight physical anomaly, with associated significant distress and/or functional impairment” (131). The main symptoms of this condition are unhealthy preoccupation with particular body parts, including the face, skin, nose, hair, and others. Commonly, the non-perception of one’s appearance is conditioned by external influences in society, which is particularly relevant to teenagers at their lifespan stage of socialization.
Excessive exposure of young individuals to the standards of beauty created by media contributes to the development of body dysmorphic disorder. Research reveals that the non-realistic and improved images on social media sites create a gap between the standardized body images and real ones, which causes the disorder in multiple individuals globally (Ryding and Kuss 413). Youth spends an increasing among of time online daily, which only complicates the mechanisms of critical content perception and creates wrong body image standards. Overall, the preoccupation with appearance in teenagers is validated by the belief that one’s inability to match the required appearance ideals will lead to exclusion from a group. Indeed, researchers state that ‘he associated distress and concerns that others may reject them, there is almost always associated impairment in one or more areas of social, occupational, academic, and role functioning” (Singh and Veale 132). Thus, the influence of social media is omnipresent in the development of body dysmorphic disorder.
Obstacles to Treatment
Conventional methods of treatment might not be effective in addressing the disorder because this mental health issue is difficult to detect and tackle due to ethical and psychological obstacles. Schulte et al. state that shame and stigma, a strong belief that the dysfunction of the body is apparent, and the lack of resources to diagnose and treat the disorder are the main obstacles (2). Thus, given the sensibility of the problem and the lack of proper means of treatment, it is essential to raise awareness and make an effort to deconstruct social media use in a way that would eliminate unrealistic standards of body images.
In summary, the problem of body dysmorphic disorder treatment has been addressed by researchers from the perspective of obstacles that complicate its timely diagnosis and cure. Conventional approaches to the disorder treatment demonstrate that patients often experience shame, discomfort, and low self-esteem that limit their motivation to seek help from professionals. Therefore, it is claimed to be effective to implement policies and programs to raise awareness about the problem and eliminate non-realistic body image standards from social media and advertisements.
Ryding, Francesca C., and Daria J. Kuss. “The Use of Social Networking Sites, Body Image Dissatisfaction, and Body Dysmorphic Disorder: A Systematic Review of Psychological Research.” Psychology of Popular Media, vol. 9, no. 4, 2020, pp. 412-479.
Schulte, Johanna, et al. “Treatment Utilization and Treatment Barriers in Individuals with Body Dysmorphic Disorder.” BMC Psychiatry, vol. 20, no. 1, 2020, pp. 1-11.
Singh, Aoife Rajyaluxmi, and David Veale. “Understanding and Treating Body Dysmorphic Disorder.” Indian Journal of Psychiatry, vol. 61, no. 1, 2019, pp. 131-135.