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Body Image: putting adolescent's mental health at risk

I wish I was taller! If only I had curly hair, I would be pretty. I would be happy if I was skinnier! Why can't I look like her? This are all comments commonly made by adolescents whom are feeling the pressure to have ideal physical features. Body Image is the subjective picture or mental image of one's own body. Body image can be formed by many factors such as the pictures of models that advertisement show on television and magazines; the way that society feels and acts towards certain types of bodies and specific physical features; And the message social media sends. Body image can have an enormous impact, especially on teenagers. Adolescents are going through several cognitive and physical changes such as puberty, and body image can influence that in numerous ways. The psychological effects that body image is causing on teenagers are mostly negative and they can lead to severe consequences on their growth and development.

The media is the biggest network, everyone is connected to it, more than 50% of the population is surrounded by it, magazines, social media, google, in fewer words, it is everywhere. The media portrays many messages and ideas that teenagers follow as if it was a norm. At this age period, adolescents compare themselves to everything the media shows, and that is when the issue begins. Constantly looking at pictures of models and celebrities lowers your self-steam and one of the consequences of this is unnecessary dieting (Ratcliffe). According to the targeted news service, adolescents are undergoing cosmetic surgery just because they want to look like these celebrities and consider their selves more attractive by fixing their perceived flaws. Models and celebrities are meant to be the most beautiful girls, the ones that show beauty and talent, the ones that mostly people at this age admire. However, that is the problem, the word the media is spreading through social media and advertisement is only provoking body dissatisfaction. This statement is proved by the professor Katherine Presnell when she states:

Use of media that conveys messages about body ideals is consistently     associated with greater body dissatisfaction, and experimental exposure to images portraying the thin-ideal result in moderate decreases in self-esteem and increases in body dissatisfaction among females

Therefore, the media is not inspiring, but bringing down these innocent young females and provoking them to make decisions that will have a enormous relevance throughout their lives.

An essential factor that all teenagers are going through, which it also affects body image is their specific cognitive development and puberty. Adolescents are well aware of what is happening in their bodies, and they may react with joy or horror depending on the social norms of how you are supposed to look. Adolescents process and store information differently. They have egocentrism, and this develops what has been called an imaginary audience, which is defined as the "adolescent's belief that his or her own behavior is primary focus on others' attention and concerns" (Feldman, 372). This characteristic of teenagers makes them feel concerned about every single detail of their selves that is not socially considered beautiful. According to Will Storr, teenagers are constantly feeling anxious about what others think and they always compare each other to those around them. This feeling of discomfort and body dissatisfaction is generated by others around them, in most adolescent's minds there is no such thing as thinking that is normal being different and that everyone goes through puberty at their own pace. Which proves that what it is supposed to be normal since every teenager goes through it, it just contributes to the psychological disturbances that are being formed because of body image.

Body image has created the fear of fat and the desire to avoid weighting more than what society considers perfect sometimes becomes so strong that they become into a problem. The most common eating disorder that is developed because of this fear, is anorexia nervosa which is defined as, "severe eating disorder in which individuals refuse to eat, while denying that their behavior and appearance are out of the ordinary" (Feldman, 364). Anorexia nervosa is a dangerous eating disorder in which you can get to the point in which you starve yourself to death. Even though some teenagers are aware of this, they keep turning into dieting, such as in taking a lower amount of calories so that they can become thin.

Body dissatisfaction has been consistently shown to place adolescents at increased risk for the development and maintenance of disordered eating since strategies such as extreme dietary restriction or compensatory measures may be used in an attempt to alter weight and shape. (Presnell)

It is extremely shocking how teenagers are developing this disorders because of what society perceives as perfection. On top of that, in reference to pediatric annals, the media contributes to self-image and eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia. Google consents certain types of websites in which people post pictures of how your body is supposed to look, and unhealthy tips on how to lose weight fast and look like those on the pictures (Williams IV). Something as broad and influential as google should never allow these prominent websites to continue enforcing this message and causing more deaths among young girls and boys. 

Every crucial decision teenagers make at this age will affect them in a near future. It is extremely important for them to take care of their selves, principally their health. According to the university of Missouri, how teenagers view their body image can have significant impacts on their health. Young men and women find themselves suffering from depression which causes an increase in substances like Tobacco and alcohol. Teenagers abuse of this substances to escape their reality for a few hours and look cooler in front of their peers without acknowledging the terrible impact this is going to have in their lives. Adolescents that start to experiment will more likely become alcoholics in the future. That statement is proved by the author Robert S. Feldman when he quotes in his book that alcohol becomes a habit that cannot be controlled (381). Substance abuse affects their every day routine, starting from lack of sleep, declining grades, absenteeism from school and other activities, increased potential for dropping out of school, and ending at the high rick of accidents that could cause death. Body image is really disturbing the minds of teenagers. It's provoking depression and it also triggers them to look for alternatives to fit in, because if they don't, they feel like everyone is judging them all the time.

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