Understanding Body Image
A teenage girl’s body image is her perception of the way she looks in her own mind. A teenager girl’s body image may not accurately reflect their true appearance. Regardless of the way the girl actually looks, a teenager with negative body image may have a negative view of themselves based on what they see in the mirror. Teenage girls with a positive body image, on the other hand, will feel confident and satisfied with their appearance.
When body image issues in teens become severe, they can develop into body image disorders. These disorders raise the risk of the teenager developing related problems, such as food restriction, excessive exercise or an eating disorder.
What Causes Teen Body Image Issues?
Teen body image issues can result from a number of different factors. Some of the most common factors may include:
1. Influence of the media
It is no secret the media promotes certain body types as more “desirable” than others. Unfortunately, the body types featured in movies, magazines and on social media are difficult, if not impossible, for the average teenage girl to obtain. In many cases, the media uses technology and optical illusions to remove perceived imperfections from models and change the way they look for the purposes of a magazine cover or feature film. There are also instances where the models or actors engage in unsafe behaviors themselves in order to maintain the “perfect look” for their profession.
Many teenage girls are unaware of the tricks the media uses to alter the appearance of models and actors. As teenagers see these images constantly throughout the day they may begin to feel as if any other body type is simply not good enough. They may begin to scrutinize their own appearance, comparing it to the models and actors they see in the media. Over time, this exposure to unrealistic standards of beauty can lead to negative body image issues.
2. Bullying and teasing
Another potential cause of a teenage girl’s body image issues is bullying and teasing from peers. During adolescence, teenage girls may be teased about the way they look. Peers may make unkind or harassing comments about a girl’s shape or weight. When a teenage girl is bombarded with bullying and teasing on a regular basis, she may begin to believe what she hears. This may lead to an altered perception of her appearance, focusing too much on real or imagined defects.
3. Natural changes occurring during adolescence
During adolescence, teenage girls go through puberty. During this time, the girl’s body releases hormones that cause her appearance to change quickly. Most girls will grow taller, develop breasts and gain weight. Girls may notice wider hips, oily skin or other changes that make them feel self-conscious. Because these changes happen so rapidly, some girls have trouble adjusting. If a girl is uncomfortable with her new shape or appearance, she may be more likely to develop a negative body image.
4. Individual traits
Some girls have personality traits that make them more susceptible to negative body image issues. For example, if a girl tends to be a perfectionist, she may be more likely to closely scrutinize her appearance and notice even the smallest flaw. Girls who have more obsessive personality traits may also be at a higher risk of body image issues as they may have a more difficult time overlooking perceived flaws and how to change them.
Genetics may play a role in body image issues. If a girl has first degree relatives who developed body image issues during adolescence, she may be at a higher risk of developing these issues herself.
6. Home environment
Another factor that may play a role in the development of teen body image issues is the teenager’s home environment. Teenage girls with a home environment that is less positive and supportive may be more likely to develop issues with body image. Additionally, if parents, even inadvertently, put extreme pressure on a teenage girl to be successful, popular with peers or attractive, she may be more likely to worry too much about her appearance.
7. Psychological or emotional issues
Some teenage girls who develop body image issues have additional psychological or emotional concerns, such as depression or anxiety. The presence of these disorders may put a girl at a higher risk of having or developing negative body image.
Recognizing Body Image Issues in Teens
Body image issues in teens range in severity, from slightly negative to a fully distorted perception of appearance that can lead to chronic illness. It can be difficult for parents to recognize whether their teenager’s behavior constitutes a body image issue, especially if the issue is mild. Nonetheless, because any issue in this area can potentially develop into a serious problem, it is essential for parents to pay attention to their teenage daughters’ behavior and look for signs of a developing issue.
Some of the signs a teenage girl may be struggling with negative body image, include:
- Preoccupation with physical appearance:If a girl spends an unreasonable amount of time talking about her physical appearance or scrutinizing her body in the mirror, she may have a body image issue.
- Refusing to appear in pictures:If a teenage girl refuses to appear in pictures or is never happy with the outcome of a picture, parents may consider the possibility of a body image issue.
- Interest in cosmetic procedures:Some teenage girls who have body image issues may request cosmetic procedures, such as those designed to change the shape of the face or body.
- Ongoing diets or attempts to lose weight:Teenage girls with body image issues are often on a continuous diet or may excessively
- Signs of an eating disorder:A teenage girl with body image disorders could develop an eating disorder, such as anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa. Some of the signs of an eating disorder include episodes of binging and purging, unreasonable amounts of exercise, significant food restriction or social withdrawal.
If a parent witnesses any of these symptoms in his or her teenage daughter, seeking professional advice is recommended. A professional can evaluate the teenager, determine whether a problem exists and recommend treatment, if necessary.
A teenager with a negative body image may be at risk of developing additional disorders, such as an eating disorder. Fortunately, effective treatment for body image issues is available. In most cases, a teenage girl with body image issues can recover by completing a program at a day treatment center or a residential treatment center. Day treatment programs for teens provide treatment services to teenage clients during the day or evening and allow them to interact in their daily routines when not in treatment. The goal of day treatment programs for teens is to help teenage girls recognize the underlying causes of their negative body image, or disorder, and develop a more positive, realistic view of their own appearance. Day treatment programs may also address co-occurring problems experienced by teenage girls with body image issues, such as psychological or emotional concerns. Day treatment programs for teens will also help clients develop coping skills they can use to positively respond to triggers and stressors during and after treatment.
In some cases, day treatment programs may not be appropriate, and a higher level of care is needed. For example, if a teenage girl’s body image issue has developed into an eating disorder she may need more intensive treatment. Instead of enrolling at a day treatment center, she will need to be admitted to a residential treatment program that specializes in eating disorder counseling. Residential programs require clients to live on-site during the treatment process, which provides them with an immersive and intensive treatment experience. These programs include enhanced treatment options that may not be available at a day treatment program, such as round-the-clock medical care. A potential option, and typical recommendation, is for a client to step down into a day treatment program after completing treatment at the residential level.
Treatment for Body Image Issues at Clementine
Choosing the right day treatment or residential program can be difficult for parents of teenage girls with body image issues. At Clementine, we understand how body image issues affect teenage girls and we provide day treatment and residential programs specifically designed to address this problem. Our day treatment programs are holistic in nature and include a number of services to address body image issues, including psychotherapy groups, individual therapy sessions, sessions with a nutritionist, family therapy, parent education, academic support and psychiatric management. All treatment programs are customized to meet the needs of each individual client.
For teenage girls with more severe body image issues or an eating disorder, we also offer residential treatment. Our residential treatment program is highly structured and includes additional services, such as exposure therapy, life skills training and more. Prior to treatment, we perform a detailed assessment to ensure the treatment plan meets all of the client’s unique needs. Before releasing the client from treatment, we spend time developing a detailed aftercare plan to provide the best chance of continued recovery.
If you think your teenage daughter may have a body image issue or a related problem, the experienced professionals at Clementine can help. Please contact us today to learn more about our day treatment and residential treatment programs.