Teen body image is a huge concern for many families, and with good reason. As children enter into adolescence, they go through several different physical and emotional changes. Most often, negative body image in teen girls is a telling first symptom in the development of an eating disorder, although a distorted or unrealistically negative body image does not necessarily lead to disordered eating. Most experts, though, agree that eating disorders and body image are inextricably linked. So how are the development of common eating disorders and body image in teenagers related to each other?
What Is Body Image and How Does It Affect Teenagers?
Body image is the way people perceive their bodies, which can be distorted in many cases. People with body dysmorphia (AKA distorted body image) may imagine flaws or that they’re overweight despite evidence to the contrary. Body image in teenagers is especially complex in that adolescents’ bodies and self-image change so rapidly. The way that teens see themselves and their bodies can have an impact on their general health, mental state and relationships as well. A well-adjusted body image in teenage girls and boys means that they can objectively see their positive as well as negative qualities as regards their physical appearance, and that allows them a chance to avoid slipping into harmful behaviours as a way to counteract imagined flaws.
The Impact of Negative Body Image
Negative body image in teenagers is usually characterized by an overall dissatisfaction with their appearance. They will often engage in behaviours to counteract this negative body image by engaging in behaviors such as frequent dieting and avoidance. The results from NEDA studies show that up to 50 percent of pre-teen girls and 30 percent of pre-teen boys admit to disliking their bodies. As age creeps up on them, body dissatisfaction increases; 60 percent of adult women and 40 percent of adult men have a negative body image.
The Relationship Between Eating Disorders and Body Image Issues
Eating disorders (in particular anorexia nervosa) are more than being picky with food; they’re among the most dangerous kinds of mental health issue. Unfortunately, the exact causes have yet to be identified, with environment and genetics being the most likely – but negative body image in teenagers is one potential contributor. Families need to keep in mind that negative body image is a good indicator of the development of eating disorders because the majority of people with an eating disorder place a high value on how their overall body shape and weight is perceived.
An obsession with body shape and weight is a symptom of many common eating disorders like anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa. For example, a diagnosis of anorexia nervosa usually means that an individual restricts how much they eat because of the way they experience their body weight or shape. Additionally, anorexia nervosa usually results in extreme weight loss, even though the individual with the disorder still see themselves as overweight.
Treatment for Negative Body Image
The good news is that over the years, a variety of mental health treatments have been developed and can be applied to treating both negative body image and eating disorders. In most adolescent eating disorder treatment facilities, behavioural changes and weight recovery, being physically necessary and even lifesaving, while psychological recovery is addressed after the client is stabilized or in outpatient treatment.
Some of the most common and effective treatment options for negative body image with eating disorders include:
- Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy
- Fitness Training
- Peer Group Therapy
- Understanding Media Imagery
Focusing On the Positive
One of the easiest ways families can work together to prevent negative thoughts and feelings surrounding body image is to avoid certain self-defeating practices. These include:
- Compulsive exercise
- Spending too much time in the mirror
- Over-shopping for clothing
It can help to replace these practices with body-enhancing activities such as yoga, dance classes, listening to music and regular pleasure walks.
Negative body image or warped self-image in teenagers is a symptom of growing eating disorders – but they can be halted. Reach out for an eating disorder treatment facility near you if you are worried about your son or daughter – you can stop eating disorders before they start.
If you would like to read more about this topic and other related topics I have listed two sources below.
Also I would recommend this as a great resource MIND -Body dysmorphic disorder