One area of focus that many teens tend to have is their appearance. And it’s natural to wonder about how attractive or appealing you are to others. But during adolescence, appearance can go much deeper than attracting a relationship. For instance, your style of dress can point to who you’re friends are and your hairstyle, makeup, hair color, and even tattoos and body piercing can express who you are and what you like.
It’s natural for teens to express themselves through their physical appearance. However, sometimes that can go too far. Some teens can become so obsessed about their body image that it can become problematic. It can even interfere with daily life. Teens might begin to rely heavily upon how they look and their body image, including their shape, weight, and structure.
Body image is how one views his or her physical self. This might include how attractive you feel or whether you feel that others appreciate the way you look. For many teens, body image can be closely linked to self-esteem, self-confidence, and happiness. Because there is so much emphasis placed upon one’s appearance in adolescence, it’s natural to feel happy and joyful when you seem to fit in or when you get a compliment by a classmate you look up to.
But if you find yourself obsessing about your weight, the shape of your nose, the size of your muscles, or the shape of other parts of your body, there’s a point in which that obsession might be unhealthy. For instance, some teens might come to believe that there is something “wrong” with their bodies. And some teens might even develop symptoms of mental illness, such as eating disorders, body dysmorphic disorder, and addiction. Certain disorders can arise out of a desperate need to look good in the face of feeling that something is wrong. Some teens might feel that because of an outer “flaw” on their body they are internally flawed. And this contributes to self doubt, lack of confidence, and low self esteem.
If you notice yourself obsessing about certain parts of your body, or if you notice your thoughts about your body don’t match thoughts of others (such as feeling fat when everyone says you’re thin), then you might have a distorted body image. You might also be vulnerable to certain illnesses, such as those mentioned above. In fact, if you are trying to control your eating in order to stay “thin” or if you are binge eating, then you might have an eating disorder. This illness is common among adolescent girls. However, boys can have distorted body images too.
The first step to take is to talk to someone you trust. This might be a parent, teacher, school counselor, or your psychology instructor. Talk about your concerns and whether any obsessions about your body are interfering with your life at school, home, or part time job. Next, have the adult you’ve spoken with help you find a mental health provider who can do an assessment to determine whether you have an illness. From this determination, a treatment plan can be created. Getting professional can help you and your parents feel more secure or confident in working through this challenge.
Remember that it’s so easy to develop a distorted body image and/or obsessions about the body during adolescence because of the emphasis on physical appearance. However, if your body image is interfering with your happiness, it’s time to get professional help.