Tue. Jun 25th, 2024

If we were to ask you which phase of human life would you call the most volatile, what would you say? A majority of people tend to think back to their teen years, and for good reason. Anyone between 13-19 years of age is indeed going through a volatile, unpredictable phase, with their bodies changing and their hormones all over the place.

With these bodily changes comes an apprehension, a reluctance to accept them. And if you think self-acceptance is difficult, you can’t imagine how stressful the thoughts of how those around you perceive your bodily changes can be. That’s body image for you – a problem of all humans that pointedly intensifies for teenagers. 

But was body image always such a big problem? Not really. According to Forbes Health, the COVID-19 pandemic could have a role to play in sensitizing people about body image. Amidst the monotonous isolation of the lockdown, it was only natural for people to turn their attention to their bodies. This sudden focus on appearance has also led people to struggle with body dysmorphia and unhealthy eating behaviors. 

The teenagers haven’t remained untouched by it. Combine the pandemic and the growing trend of filtered beauty standards online, and you’ll understand why body image issues among teens are rising. 

Join us as we explore the factors that contribute to the growing body image issues among teens and their impact on the teen psyche. Let’s dive in. 

Factors Contributing to Body Image Issues Among Teens

Body image issues among teens are influenced by a variety of factors, including peer pressure, societal standards, and social media influence. Let’s take a closer look at how each of these factors contributes to shaping the way teenagers perceive their bodies: 

Peer Pressure 

Teenagers often feel pressure from their peers to look a certain way. Whether it’s through direct comments, subtle hints, or simply observing how their friends present themselves, peer pressure can significantly impact how teens view their bodies. 

This pressure to conform to a certain standard of beauty or attractiveness can lead to feelings of inadequacy and dissatisfaction with one’s appearance.

Societal Standards

Societal standards of beauty and attractiveness are pervasive and can be incredibly rigid. From the images portrayed on television to the expectations set by cultural norms, teenagers are bombarded about what they’re supposed to look like.

These standards often prioritize thinness, muscularity, and other specific physical attributes, making teens who don’t fit these ideals feel inadequate, sad, or even depressed.

The Influence of Social Media

The rise of social media has profoundly impacted how teenagers perceive themselves and others. Platforms like Instagram, TikTok, and Snapchat are filled with carefully curated images that often present an unrealistic and idealized version of beauty.

Instagram, in particular, stands out as a social media platform linked most closely to the rising body image issues in teens. TruLaw notes that the platform is accused of contributing to poor self-esteem and body image issues among youth. With its thriving influencer culture and filtered reality, the platform shows them unattainable beauty standards relentlessly. 

It is one of the reasons why 41 states within the US have filed Instagram lawsuits. Evidence put forward for these lawsuits indicates that 32% of teenage girls and 14% of teenage boys affirm that Instagram worsens their self-perception and body image. 

Beyond body image, the platform has also been linked to an 8% increase in depression, an 11% increase in anxiety, and a 17% increase in eating disorders among teens. 

While the lawsuit has currently brought Instagram under legal scrutiny, other social media platforms have also been linked to rising body image issues among teens.

How Do Body Image Issues Impact the Psyche of Teens?

Body image issues can have significant impacts on the psychological well-being of teenagers, affecting their self-worth, susceptibility to eating disorders, and overall mental health.

The Mentally Healthy Schools notes that teenagers with a negative body image are also vulnerable to low confidence, social isolation, and self-harming behavior. In a survey they conducted on teens, it was revealed that 35% of the population worry about their body image “often” or “always”.

Below, we’ll delve deeper into the direct impact of body image issues on the psyche of teenagers: 

Low Self-worth and Self-esteem

Teens struggling with body image issues often experience diminished self-worth and self-esteem. Constant comparison to unrealistic beauty standards and feelings of inadequacy can erode their confidence and sense of value as individuals. 

This diminished self-esteem can permeate various aspects of their lives, including relationships, academic performance, and overall contentment.

Vulnerability to Eating Disorders 

Body image concerns can also make teenagers vulnerable to developing eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge-eating disorder. The pressure to attain a certain body size or shape can lead to unhealthy behaviors around food and weight control. 

Teens may engage in restrictive eating or purging behaviors in an attempt to meet unrealistic standards, putting their physical health and well-being at risk.

Other Mental Health Implications 

Beyond low self-worth and eating disorders, body image issues can contribute to a range of other mental health challenges for teenagers. 

Anxiety and depression are commonly associated with negative body image. This is because teens constantly worry about their appearance or feel hopeless about never achieving their desired look. These mental health implications can further exacerbate feelings of isolation, inadequacy, and distress, impacting every aspect of their lives. 

A prime example of body image issues impacting the psyche of teens negatively is this news article, which highlights kids quitting sports at school. The premise of the news was how school students were discouraged by the display of athletes’ perfect bodies on social media. As a result of it, they chose to quit sports, believing they didn’t have the “right body” for it. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What age group is most affected by body image?

Studies indicate that body image issues affect the age group of 13-19 years the most, including both boys and girls of the population.

How does puberty affect body image?

All adolescents go through several bodily changes when they hit puberty, including weight gain, changes in voice, height, and more. Dissatisfaction with these changes can often lead to body image issues. 

Are body image issues common among adults?

Yes, it is. Research shows that adults often compare their appearances to those of others negatively, which leads to body dissatisfaction and image issues.

To sum it up, the rising concern about body image issues among teens is more than just a passing trend. It has become a pressing reality that demands our attention and action today. 

To prevent it from getting worse, we must remain vigilant in our efforts to combat the pervasive influence of harmful beauty standards. We must strive to create a world where every teenager feels valued, accepted, and worthy just as they are.

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