Adolescence marks the developmental stage of rapid and intense emotional and physical changes in girls. For these teen girls there is an even increased value placed on peer acceptance and approval and a heightened attention to external influences and social messages about cultural norms. Body image and related self-concept emerge as significant factors associated with health and well being during this developmental phase. Negative correlations have been statistically proven between media usage/addiction and social well being. Video, video games, email, social media, text/instant messages, and phone and video chat all constitute media. The 24/7 nature of social media and Internet addiction places huge pressures on girls, which in turn can lead to significant emotional issues and disorders.
Self-esteem Linked to Appearance
Social media and popular mainstream culture promotes specific images and standards of beauty and attractiveness that contradict good health practices and young girls’ ability to achieve a specific body type or image. It’s uniformly accepted that the U.S. society places great value on looks and exalts images unachievable by most. Unfortunately, the use of social media is not a healthy way for girls to seek acceptance or validation.
It seems that an entire generation of adolescent girls will fail to fulfill their professional potential because they are suffering from low self-esteem about their appearance. Why? Because one in four females aged between 11 and 17 are weighed down by pressure to conform to the ‘ideal notion’ of how they should look. “Whether it presents as a lack of confidence about their ability, their body or their worth, these deep-seated anxieties really hold girls back from achieving their potential.”
Many young girls believe physical appearance is a major part of their self-esteem, and their body image is a major contributor to sense of self. The experience of body dissatisfaction can lead to poor health habits and low self-esteem. These negative feelings may contribute to a higher prevalence of depressive symptoms and lower self-esteem among girls and affect health behaviors associated with poor eating habits, dieting, depression and anxiety, and eating disorders. “According to the National Women’s Resource Center, more than 7 million American women are affected by eating disorders each year, and 1,000 of those will die from complications of anorexia. Up to 80 percent of female college students have admitted to binge eating, a predecessor to bulimia.”
Differentiating Eating Disorders
There’s no single type of eating disorder as habits present themselves in various ways:
- Anorexia nervosa is self-starvation. Girls with anorexia have an intense fear of body weight, and eat very little even though they are thin.
- Bulimia nervosa is characterized by cycles of binge eating and purging. Girls with bulimia fear body fat although their weight may be normal.
- Binge eating disorder means eating large amounts of food in a short period of time without being able to stop when full. Bingeing is often accompanied by feeling out of control and followed by guilt or depression.
- Disordered eating refers to troublesome eating behaviors, such as restrictive dieting, binging, or purging, which occur less frequently or are less severe than those required to meet the full criteria for an eating disorder diagnosis.
Wilderness Therapy Can Help
The wilderness therapy program at Pacific Quest offers a unique whole-person, nature-based model for healing from the effects of the various addictions associated with today’s social media surge. Pacific Quest uses the healing power of nature and practices complete wellness, with qualified staff working together on every aspect. One reason Pacific Quest works is because it has an individualized, comprehensive and neuro-developmentally informed approach: Everyone is different. At Pacific Quest we can design strategies that reach our students and move them through a deep and lasting process of change.
We are passionate about our social mission and want to continue to help young girls and women develop a positive relationship with their bodies. Students have discovered the healing powers of horticulture therapy (HT), a formal practice involving the use of plants, the garden and horticultural activities to “promote well-being for its participant.” The benefits of horticulture therapy can take many forms, from physical and cognitive to spiritual and emotional. The garden uses horticultural principles to teach clients about food security, provide skills training, and nurture self-confidence and healthy leisure activities. The use of sustainable growth, horticultural therapy and gardening, focus on health and wellness, and peer culture, complement the individual treatment plan providing the foundation for developing personal awareness and cultivating tools for personal development teens and adolescents with eating disorders.
In many cases, cognitive-behavioral psychotherapy techniques are very effective in addressing Internet addiction issues being faced by our students. This approach helps the teenagers examine their anxiety, anticipate situations in which it is likely to occur, and understand its effects. This can also help them recognize the exaggerated nature of their fears and develop a corrective approach to the problem. They learn to replace negative and unproductive thought patterns with more realistic and useful ones. Treatment often involves facing one’s fears as part of the pathway to recovery. Interpersonal therapy and problem-solving therapy are also effective.
Contact Pacific Quest to find out more about our dynamic medium for therapeutic growth and whole person wellness.