The Link Between Teen Body Image and Substance Use
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The Link Between Teen Body Image and Substance Use

The Link Between Teen Body Image and Substance Use

Adolescence presents many challenges. It is when teenagers begin seeking their friend’s approval, struggle with an array of complex physical and emotional feelings, and find it difficult to maintain self-esteem. It is also the age when teens develop insecurities about how they look. Therefore, teens could partake in unhealthy habits such as using substances to cope.

Teens who think they have a poor body image show higher rates of substance use. If untreated, this habit can wreak havoc on a teen’s life. Learning to be comfortable in their skin and fostering a greater sense of self-esteem can help teens find their way to addiction recovery, and Clearfork Academy can help.

Body Image and Mental Health

Body image and mental health are intertwined. Unhealthy relationships with your body could lead to developing a mental health condition. A key factor in body image struggles is peer engagement. Kids can be cruel. They make comments and tease others about things in a way that they think is harmless. They might comment on:

  • What someone wears
  • How they look
  • Body image

There is a fine line between teasing and bullying. Teenagers are far less likely to be mindful of their words. Unfortunately, some adults are not much better, and parents could make their children feel self-conscious. Such words may cause teenagers to develop a negative self-perception about their bodies. They may lose confidence, leading to isolation, decreased performance in school or work, and avoiding social interaction. If left untreated, a teen could develop body dysmorphic disorder (BDD).

Body Dysmorphic Disorder

Body dysmorphic disorder is a severe mental disorder caused by negative body image. BDD is a mental health disorder often defined as individuals constantly worrying about how they look. These individuals begin to obsess over a characteristic or feature that isn’t serious or is non-existent. While these compulsive thoughts surrounding body image may feel real to the individual, their thoughts are typically irrational. Sometimes individuals can recognize their thoughts as irrational, but individuals diagnosed with BDD are often unaware.

When untreated, BDD causes further emotional distress. Further, parents may not understand BDD and confuse it for vanity. Such perceptions could either reinforce the child’s beliefs or make light of how the child feels. Therefore, parents need to educate themselves about BDD so that they can spot the signs when they occur.

Recognizing Symptoms of BDD

It can be difficult to recognize symptoms of BDD; however, it is essential to know these signs. Telltale signs include:

  • Constantly asking their friends or family about how they look. They do this to look for reassurance; however, they rarely believe the answers.
  • Constantly looking at their reflection or comparing their body to another person.

These signs may seem harmless at first, but these symptoms become more severe over time. Other signs and symptoms include:

  • Excessive dieting
  • Exercising too much
  • Practicing unhealthy methods of weight loss like vomiting or taking laxatives

Body Image and Substance Use

Teens often use substances to cope with negative feelings surrounding body image. Research from Am J Drug Alcohol Abuse indicates that adolescents use substances as a “weight control strategy.” In their article on body image, acculturation, and substance use, the authors claim that 18% of girls and 10% of boys reported: “Smoking cigarettes in the last year to lose or control their weight.”

This research also indicates that “Boys with a strong desire to be thin are more likely to smoke than other boys,” and “Girls who reported a fear of weight gain or a strong wish to be thin were twice as likely as girls without these concerns to take up smoking.”

Additionally, body image affects a teen’s perception of what being attractive means. Teens who think they are not good-looking may begin smoking, drinking, or using other substances to cope.

Seeking Treatment

Teenagers suffering from substance use related to body image will benefit from a mix of addiction and mental health treatment. Such treatments include:

  • Individual therapy
  • Group therapy
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy
  • Learning coping skills to combat negative thoughts and behaviors
  • Practicing mindfulness

Teenagers may be less inclined to ask for help which is why support from family, friends, and medical or mental health professionals is essential.

How Clearfork Academy Can Help

While asking for help may be difficult, remember that the struggle with substance use and negative body image can be detrimental and life-threatening if left untreated. Clearfork Academy has the professional staff and tools to treat dual diagnoses like substance use addiction and BDD. These professionals will help educate teens and their families about BDD.

When peers make negative comments about another’s appearance, it can have a negative impact on how they see themselves. At Clearfork Academy, we understand that when teens obsess over their appearance, they become vulnerable to experiencing anxiety or depression. They also risk developing substance use disorders which can lead to overdose or death. At Clearfork Academy, we provide the necessary resources to allow teens and their families the opportunity to learn about various mental health and addiction disorders. With us, our goal is to set teens on the right path by developing the confidence and motivation they need to lead their lives. We accomplish this by providing both conventional and alternative approaches to care. If your teen is currently struggling with BDD and has turned to substance use to cope, the time to get help is today. To learn more, reach out today by calling (888) 966-8604.