Quick Fix?

The number of "cosmetic" procedures among American teens continues to rise, with more and more teens seeking surgical solutions to self-esteem problems.

To the rigors of teenage grooming — waxing, plucking, body training and skin care regimens that were once the province of adults — add cosmetic surgery, which is fast becoming a mainstream option among teenagers. But with this popularity, some experts are concerned that the underlying motivation for many of the young people seeking surgery — namely, self-esteem — is being disregarded in the drive to look, as Kristen puts it, “normal.”

The stereotype of someone suffering from Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) is a vain, plastic surgery addict. Which, of course, is precisely as false as the stereotype of a person with an eating disorder as vain and vapid. Yet the increase in plastic surgery, paralleling the increase in teenage dieting, opens the doors to some of the issues that might led to the development of these disorders.

Obviously, the social phenomena surrounding both BDD and EDs are important. A constant emphasis on appearance can make you uncertain and more than a little paranoid, which can spark the body-related obsessions of BDD. A pressure to be "thin" and "healthy" can make a young person look at his/her food intake more carefully and make some innocent-seeming changes that result in a trip down the rabbit hole of an ED.

Although these are certainly triggers for the development of these disorders, they aren't a cause. The evidence is pretty clear that both disorders are rooted firmly in biology. They play out on a social stage, with social and environmental cues as to how symptoms are interpreted. But BDD is more than just an attempt to "look good." The article didn't address BDD specifically, but I think it's important to take a good, hard look at these phenomena and how they might be affecting people, and how they might serve as a disguise for a full-blown disorder. Perhaps lesser discussed, how these phenomena serve to perpetuate the disordered thinking.

I think we all need to take a good, hard look at the values we're passing on to kids.

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I'm a science writer, a jewelry design artist, a bookworm, a complete geek, and mom to a wonderful kitty. I am also recovering from a decade-plus battle with anorexia nervosa. I believe that complete recovery is possible, and that the first step along that path is full nutrition.

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Have any questions or comments about this blog? Feel free to email me at carrie@edbites.com

nour·ish: (v); to sustain with food or nutriment; supply with what is necessary for life, health, and growth; to cherish, foster, keep alive; to strengthen, build up, or promote


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