Body Image Issues Associated with Drug and Alcohol Use in Teens

body imageWe’ve known for awhile that poor body image can lead to low self-esteem, eating disorders, and depression. New research now points to another possible side effect of poor body image in teenagers: drug and alcohol use.

This study was published in the Journal of Child and Adolescent Substance Abuse. It found a possible link between perceived body image and rates of alcohol and drug use in teens. Research involved reviewing a national survey about American teens to compare self-image and destructive behavior.

These findings aren’t limited to just women. Researchers did find that girls who perceived themselves as “too fat” were more likely to use alcohol and tobacco. However, males who perceived their body size as “too skinny” were more likely to smoke. Boys who perceived themselves as “too fat,” in contrast, were more likely to binge-drink.

The authors of the study fear that perceived body image negatively affects teens’ behaviors related to alcohol and drugs. Unfortunately, this can put them at greater risk for health problems. For example, boys who see themselves as thin might smoke to maintain that size. They often do this whether they intend to hurt themselves or not.

How teens view themselves has a lot to do with how they speak of themselves — and each other. Words like “fat” or “skinny” are so impactful that it can drive people to harm themselves with alcohol and drugs.

Body shaming language doesn’t just affect those who have negative perceptions of their bodies. It affects those with positive perceptions as well. Adults can have either a positive or negative influence on teens and how they view their bodies. This can depend on both their language and behavior.

Parents, educators, and health providers play a major role in young people’s body image and self-esteem. Teaching children to use body-positive language, and doing the same to set a good example, can go a long way. The more positively teens view themselves, the less likely they are to use and even abuse alcohol and drugs. This can significantly impact their lives both now and in the future.

Researchers, activists, and lawmakers are trying all they can to push for substance abuse treatment in place of harsh and ineffective prison sentences. However, it’s unclear at this time whether or not scientific evidence supporting the more effective alternative will be enough to ensure the necessary laws are put into place to launch any kind of positive change.

Did you know an addiction can be caused by a mental disorder?

One of the primary reasons that mental disorders and substance abuse so often go hand-in-hand is that drugs and alcohol can provide an escape from the pressures of mental health problems. Self-medicating is surprisingly common: you’re not alone.

But unlike real, effective, long-term solutions, such as medication and detoxification in a treatment center, drugs and alcohol won’t amount to effective treatment.

If you suspect that your loved one is suffering from addiction, then take our free 3 minute assessment.
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