From acne to braces: Why teenagers are hesitant to drop masks despite easing of Covid restrictions

UAE expert says there are multiple psychological factors, including body image

Teenage girl looking in mirror
Teenage girl looking in mirror

Nandini Sircar

Published: Tue 6 Dec 2022, 5:01 PM

Last updated: Tue 6 Dec 2022, 5:52 PM

While number of Covid-19 cases is dropping significantly, a lot of teenagers are beginning to have issues with their body image especially the face, which remained covered when the coronavirus restrictions were applicable.

Throughout the pandemic, face masks had become dependable shields against the deadly virus.

Many teenagers still feel inclined to hide their faces, especially when they have pimples, any scars, braces or even the nascent facial hair growth, says doctors.

Speaking on the sidelines of the 25th World Congress of IACAPAP 2022, Dr Omer Ahmad Saleemi Minhas, consultant of Mental health of children and adolescent, at Al Jalila Children’s Speciality Hospital, opined that teens feel comfortable hiding behind a mask these days.

“Broadly speaking, there is an issue about the body image and when we all are growing up, we all go through a time during our teenage years where we see who we are and how we fit in the world. People (adolescents) used to have their faces covered all this while (during pandemic). But the body changes during puberty. So, there is a complex interplay of multiple factors,” explained Dr Minhas.

“Some young people who are suffering from psychological trauma or increased anxiety, develop body image issues, and for them the self-esteem is low (explaining the effect of masks on body perception). They tend to feel anxious around other people and they are worried about their appearance. It could be due to acne, it could be due to any part of the face which they don't like and they perceive others would notice. So, these are psychological issues we suffer when we grow up. We have all faced such issues when growing up, but they are exaggerated in some young people who have psychological problems or are unwell. This becomes really problematic.”

When parents should consult mental health experts

Elucidating on when parents should consider taking their wards to a specialist, to seek treatment for mental health issued, Dr Minhas said, “Those struggling with psychological problems need to see an expert. For milder problems like bullying, speaking to an in-house school counsellor is a good idea. But if a child is impacted by bullying and is not sleeping well or has become more reclusive and withdrawn, it is time to seek expert advice."

Healthcare professionals underline such issues are coming to the fore as several children and youngster have missed out on learning and socializing (during the pandemic) and this has widely affected mental health.

“Problems like anxiety and mood disorders, depression and eating problems are on the rise,” he added.


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