When children enter their teenage years, they start to develop an identity and through this identity, they face many concerning obstacles. These obstacles include bullying, underage sex, teen pregnancy, low self-esteem, depression, internet addiction, etc. They are expected to adapt to these changes and obstacles as they are “old enough” now and “not a child anymore”. This attitude can cause them to spiral further so being understanding and addressing their concerns in a healthy manner can be helpful. This paper will explore one of these issues which is negative body image caused by low self-esteem, how it can lead to eating disorders, and explain a healthy way to address this issue.
Low Self-esteem and Body Image
In the age of the internet, everyone is exposed to everything that is going on in this world which is not always good for mental health. Standards of beauty are redefined every day and for a person with low self-esteem, this can have adverse effects leading to eating disorders such as bulimia, anorexia, binge eating disorder, etc. Teenagers are the most common victims of low self-esteem and can go to dangerous lengths to achieve that perfect body, get top-of-the-line clothes and accessories, and be the next social media star (Woods & Scott, 2016). Many external stressors can cause low self-esteem, while natural factors like height, race, weight, body type, intelligence, etc., other stressors that come from family, school, internet, media, and cultural influences (Orth et al., 2008).
When teenagers start to develop negative body image, they develop obsessive behavior. Some signs are; obsessive use of the mirror, fixating on imperfections, age comparison with other people, mood swings, envying their peers even celebrities, strictly monitoring their food intake, and changes in diet. It will be helpful to observe them, assess their behavior, talk to them to form a bond of trust so they may open up about their problems, and ask those questions that will help in identifying if they are suffering from low self-esteem. To further assess, if the adolescent is suffering from negative body image due to low self-esteem, look for obsessive behavior, self-deprecation, withdrawal from social life, sensitivity to criticism, hostility as a defense mechanism, and in physical symptoms eating disorders (Harter, 1993). Some questions that can be asked to make sure that the diagnosis is correct are:
- How is your relationship with your family and schoolmates?
- How do you view yourself?
- How do you feel?
- If you could change something about yourself what would it be?
- Are you happy with things right now?
These questions would allow you to assess the patient and give insight on how to move forward with the treatment.
Ethical Parameters of Sharing Information with Parents
After assessing the teenager, the parents or the guardians should be taken into confidence. Only the information relevant for the patients’ wellbeing should be shared with their parents and their most intimate thoughts, fears and concerns should be kept confidential as this will make the patient feel safe and more trusting of the assessor. This will help in treating them as they will open up to you more and you will be able to treat them more efficiently. Parents should be advised to not berate the patients instead they should support the patients so they may heal faster.
Support Options and Intervention
In such a time when a teenager is going through difficulties, it is very important to support them, make them feel loved and wanted. Monitoring their behavior can be essential to their road to recovery and rewarding their recovery milestones can add to their self-esteem, boosting their self-confidence. Their internet exposure should be limited as it can trigger them. Encouraging body positivity and praising them will help them build confidence. Parents and siblings should be advised against using any insulting language and comparing the patient with others. Building their confidence and changing their mindset can help in treating them successfully (Hoffman et al., 1988).
Harter, S. (1993). Causes and Consequences of Low Self-Esteem in Children and Adolescents. In R. F. Baumeister (Ed.), Self-Esteem: The Puzzle of Low Self-Regard (pp. 87–116). Springer US. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4684-8956-9_5
Hoffman, M. A., Ushpiz, V., & Levy-Shiff, R. (1988). Social support and self-esteem in adolescence. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 17(4), 307–316. https://doi.org/10.1007/BF01537672
Orth, U., Robins, R. W., & Roberts, B. W. (2008). Low self-esteem prospectively predicts depression in adolescence and young adulthood. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 95(3), 695–708. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-35188.8.131.525
Woods, H. C., & Scott, H. (2016). #Sleepyteens: Social media use in adolescence is associated with poor sleep quality, anxiety, depression and low self-esteem. Journal of Adolescence, 51, 41–49. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.adolescence.2016.05.008