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Information for Children and Adolescents

The Center for Human Appearance also is a resource for children and adolescents who have appearance concerns, whether from congenital conditions (craniofacial anomalies) or an acquired change in appearance such as those resulting from trauma or disease. Canice Crerand, PhD, a psychologist in the division of plastic and reconstructive surgery at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, is a consultant to the Center for Human Appearance. She helps children and adolescents who face the challenge of looking "different."

Adolescents are especially vulnerable, she says. “Their bodies are changing with puberty, and they are paying more attention to the actions and attitudes of their peers. A different appearance can leave a teen vulnerable to teasing from peers and low self-esteem."

Although interaction with peers can be a major concern for these kids, some of the issues they face are school-related. For example, some teachers may have different expectations about a child's intellectual abilities based on appearance, Crerand points out. “We help children and their families address these issues and also help children develop social skills. We let them know that it’s okay to talk about appearance concerns. We help them develop ways of dealing with unkind, unwanted or inappropriate attention to their appearance – in ways that are acceptable to their peers and to their own comfort levels.”

Body Dysmorphic Disorder in Kids
Adolescents without congenital, trauma- or disease-related conditions may have psychological issues with their appearance, a condition called body dysmorphic disorder (BDD). “BDD is a disorder that involves preoccupation with an imagined or slight defect in appearance that interferes with daily functioning, explains Crerand.

Persons with this disorder have distorted beliefs about their appearance and engage in compulsive behaviors. They do this as a means of managing their appearance-related distress, she points out.  For example, persons with BDD may spend hours examining their appearance in the mirror or they may avoid situations or activities where appearance "flaws" might be exposed. Sometimes this preoccupation with appearance interferes with functioning.

If that is the case, Center for Human Appearance psychologists can provide interventions to help adolescents with BDD manage their appearance concerns and improve their daily functioning. The staff begins by monitoring how much time the adolescent thinks about appearance and spends grooming. “We then challenge distorted thoughts about appearance. We also use behavioral strategies to help persons with BDD conquer their appearance-related anxiety,” says Dr. Crerand.

Cosmetic Surgery for Adolescents
Adults are not the only ones seeking cosmetic surgery in greater numbers. Adolescents are also looking to surgical intervention to change their appearance. Center for Human Appearance psychologists help ensure that a young person pursuing a cosmetic procedure is an appropriate candidate for the procedure and has realistic expectations.

“We help them know what they can expect, how their appearance will change and how others may react to the change,” says Dr. Crerand. Because cosmetic procedures are elective, it is important for individuals, especially adolescents, to have a good understanding of the risks, benefits, and long-term consequences associated with surgically altering their appearance.


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Need an appointment? Request one online 24 hours/day, 7 days/week or call 800-789-PENN (7366) to speak to a referral counselor.

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