What is Body Image?
Body image is how one views his or her physical self. As an adult, you have a body image that likely is much different than the way you viewed your body when you were a teen.
For teens, body image is closely linked to their self-esteem, confidence, and even social role. Certainly, self esteem can be linked to how teens feels about themselves as well as how they perceive others see them. And during adolescence these facets of one’s psychological health are of prime importance. Because teens are so dependent upon image, it’s important that they learn to feel good about who they are and their body.
Signs of a Teen Eating Disorder
However, some teens come to believe that there is something “wrong” with their bodies, and certain disorders can arise out of a desperate need to look good in the face of feeling that something is wrong. For instance, if your teen exhibits any of the following, they may be at risk for an eating disorder or another body-related illness (such as body dysmorphic disorder):
- Signs of restricted eating – dieting, low food intake, or fasting.
- Odd food ritual – cutting food into pieces, counting bites.
- Intense fear of becoming fat, regardless of an already low weight
- Fear of food and certain situations where food is present.
- Rigid exercise schedule
- Dressing in layers to hide weight loss.
- Use of laxatives, enemas, or diuretics to eliminate food in the body.
- Weight loss in a short period of time.
- Cessation of menstruation without a physiological cause.
- Complaints of feeling cold
- Dizziness and fainting spells.
- Mood swings
- Perfectionist attitude
- Insecurities about her capabilities despite actual performance
- Feelings of self-worth are determined by what is or is not eaten.
- Withdrawal from people.
- Self-acceptance comes from external sources.
Tips to Help Your Teen Maintain a Healthy Body Image
As a parent, you can help your teen maintain a healthy body image by using the following tips:
- Be a positive role model around the home.
- Avoid making comments on your own as well as the body of your teen, or anyone else for that matter.
- Praise your teen’s strengths and abilities, not their looks and appearance.
- Tell your teen you love them, regardless of their appearance.
- When needed, talk to your teen about their thoughts on body image and self esteem.
- Listen to any concerns your teen has about their body with a nonjudgmental attitude.
- Remind your teen that you’re available to talk to whenever they need it.
- Talk to your teen about the images in the media and how they can be unhealthy, distorted, and unrealistic.
- Talk to your teen about peer pressure versus having friends that accept each other for who they are.
- Parents – explore your own ideas about body image so that you can continue to be a positive role model.
Not all teens are vulnerable to body-related disorders. However, if you notice any of the symptoms above, these tips may be useful. If you continue to feel concerned about your teen’s psychological health, seek the support of a mental health provider.
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