There are certain mental illnesses that female teens tend to be more vulnerable to. Studies have shown that they are more prone to eating disorders, body image disturbances, depression, and other mood disorders. For this reason, female teens need support that might vary from male teens.
For instance, for female teens, there is a strong social emphasis placed on looking good, and that means being thin. Sadly, a female teen’s sense of self worth and self-acceptance is heavily influenced by the measurements of her chest and hips as well as the amount of body fat she carries. Unfortunately, looking good can have a higher priority for her than her physical and psychological health, which can lead to mental illnesses.
Common disorders among female teens include the eating disorders of Anorexia and Bulimia and Body Dysmorphia. In fact, female teens are at the most risk for developing Eating Disorders and Body Image Disturbances. Interestingly, this risk begins to increase once girls enter adolescence. As long as the underlying issues regarding body image and food in Western culture have yet to be addressed, examined, and healed, female adolescents will continue to be at risk for Bulimia Nervosa and other eating disorders. In fact, the rate of occurrence of Bulimia Nervosa is only increasing.
However, educating female teens on the risk of eating disorders, particularly during puberty and throughout adolescence can be one form of prevention. Additionally, assisting them in cultivating healthy levels of self-esteem and self-acceptance can also prevent Anorexia and Bulimia from playing a dangerous role in her life.
In fact, this is one of the tactics of the American Psychological Association (APA). In as early as 1996, the APA began to look at adolescent girls differently. Instead of focusing on their problems, they began to take a close look at their resilience and strength. Instead of concentrating on the stress and storms that are inherent in a female teen’s life, the APA began a focus on what is working for them and how to facilitate their strengths.
Applying these prevention methods to depression and mood disorders is also necessary. Like eating disorders, females are just as vulnerable to psychological illness, such as depression, as males are prior to puberty. Typically, as children, the rates of depression and anxiety are the same regardless of gender. It is usually around 3 to 5 percent for both boys and girls alike. However, when children enter into adolescence, girls are more at risk for experiencing a mood disorder. In fact, female teens are twice as likely to exhibit signs and symptoms of mood disorders.
One reason for this is the way that females respond to emotional stimuli. Females tend to mature faster than males regarding their ability to regulate their emotions. They also tend to have a heightened sensitivity towards emotions, which might be a trigger for mental illness such as anxiety and depression. It is during adolescence that certain social and psychological concerns peak and/or start during this stage in life. These concerns include suicide, homicide, pregnancies, substance abuse, and homelessness.
Yet, as communities, service providers, and large-scale organizations such as the American Psychological Association look at the vulnerabilities and strengths of female teens, they are beginning to ask themselves how to focus on how to support female teens in their differences and facilitate their strengths.
A New Look at Adolescent Girls. The American Psychological Association. Retrieved on June 26, 2014 from: https://www.apa.org/pi/families/resources/adolescent-girls.aspx?item=1
Adolescent Health. HealthyPeople.Gov. Retrieved on June 26, 2014 from http://www.healthypeople.gov/2020/topicsobjectives2020/overview.aspx?topicid=2