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Title: When the mirror lies: is your reflection taking over your life? Look closer. The real problem may surprise you
Source:Current Health Teens, a Weekly Reader publication. 37.2 (Oct. 2010): p20.
Full Text: COPYRIGHT 2010 Scholastic, Inc.
Chris Trondsen (right) works in front of the camera, hosting a music show on cable television and interviewing celebrities such as Robert Pattinson and Kristen Bell on the red carpet. Looking at Trondsen, 27, you'd never know that he spent his teen years hiding from the public eye. Back then, he'd stand in front of a mirror for hours, convinced that there was something wrong with his appearance. No matter how many times Trondsen washed his face or brushed his hair, he hated how he looked. His concerns got so bad that he stopped seeing his friends. Trondsen was afraid that people would see what he saw in the mirror--a severely flawed appearance.
When Looks Interfere With Life
What he didn't realize was that the problem wasn't with his appearance. Trondsen was suffering from body dysmorphic disorder (BDD), a psychological condition in which a person's dissatisfaction with how he or she looks consumes his or her daily life. People with BDD see defects in parts of their bodies that other people don't see. "I felt 'less than' as a person than other people," Trondsen told Current Health. "I actually felt that I was ugly, that I had bad skin and that my hair looked funny."
About one in every 50 people has BDD, which often begins between ages 14 and 18. But because BDD is not widely known, it can be tough to recognize. While it's common for teens to be preoccupied with their looks, people with BDD find that their concerns take an extreme toll on their happiness. "It [often gets] to the point where they're not going to school, their grades are dropping, they used to be social and now they don't hang out with friends, or they seem very depressed," says Dr. Jamie Feusner, an assistant professor at the University of California, Los Angeles. "Those are all signs that this isn't normal, that it's crossed a line into a disorder."
The Wrong Image
In studies, Feusner found that the brains of people with BDD do not process images of their faces in the same way that people without BDD process those images. "It's like they're only seeing the pieces, and they're unable to put them together and see the whole picture that the pieces actually look normal," Feusner says. The most common concerns tend to be areas above the neck, such as facial features or hair, but the focus can be on any body part.
Trondsen's concerns became so consuming that instead of hanging...
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