A behavior becoming common in teenage and tween girls has been identified by an adolescent psychologist. The behavior that has been identified is called “Camouflaging.” This behavior left unidentified can lead to low self-esteem, depression, cutting etc. It is becoming very common. When I was a guest co-host on the Street Solider Radio Show on KMEL, and the teens were talking about how they change how they dress or their opinions based on their friends. They were describing Camouflaging.
Camouflaging is when an adolescent girl changes how she looks, her opinions or things that she does in order to be accepted by the other girls. The real problem occurs when the girl is changing so much about herself or does it for so long that she forgets or losses track of her real self. Besides changing how she feels, she may forget her chore beliefs and do things she doesn’t believe in.
While this behavior has just been identified in girls and the research appears correct, I believe this behavior applies to boys too.
Many adolescent boys change the way they dress, their beliefs and the way they act to be accepted by their friends. I hear many of these boys telling me in therapy that they feel lost. They tell me they no longer have an idea of who they really are or believe or feel. These boys often turn to alcohol, drugs and cutting. Usually to numb out their lost feeling or to feel something. Often they turn to these in order to forget somethings they have done in order to fit in with their friends.
As a result, many teens start acting like someone they are not just to be accepted. This fear of not being accepted and forgetting their real self because they has been covering their true self up for so long or denying their true feelings for so long can result in boys and girls having low self-esteem and/or feeling depressed.
This low self-esteem and depression can result in such behaviors as cutting, eating disorders, drug use, becoming sexually active etc. Often boys and girls cut just so they can feel as I stated above. The constant denying of their emotions or values can cause boys and girls to lose a sense of their true feelings. Therefore, cutting can occur so boys and girls feel or cope with denying themselves. Denying their feeling or who they are can result in boys and girls feeling very confused. Therefore, they look for behaviors that help them remember who they are and help them identify their true feelings. They also seek behaviors that help them deal with denying their feelings or changing their behaviors. This can trigger eating disorders, drug abuse or other self-destructive behavior. This helps numb out the confusion and disappear of denying their feeling and trying to forget their true self. This can cause feelings of depression and anxiety too.
What should parents look for in their teens? If your son or daughter tries to stop wearing his or her glasses or if he or she all of a sudden changes how he or she dresses or acts these are possible warning signs. Another change could be not doing as well in their classes because they are afraid of looking too smart. Basically, if you see signs indicating that your teenager is trying to deny who they are so they will be accepted by others. It’s more than the common issue of trying to be accepted by friends, they are forgetting themselves and beliefs to fit in.
While it is normal for teenagers to make changes in their attitudes or how they dress, we are talking about something that goes far beyond normal self-expression. We are referring to changes where a teenager is trying to deny who they are because they feel they are unacceptable.
This is what we are talking about. If teenagers are changing their hair or how they dress as a way to express themselves that is normal teenage behavior. However, if teenagers are doing it just to fit in and they end up losing a sense of their true self this is camouflaging.
As I stated, Camouflaging results in depression or low self-esteem because the teenager is forgetting their true self. If they are doing it as a way of trying to experiment with their self expression, the teenager is happy and confident as stated above. This is the main point to understand. Experimenting with their dress and beliefs etc. is normal for teens and helps teenagers identify themselves, however denying or camouflaging their feelings results in teens losing themselves and many behavior problems. This is the main thing for parents to watch for in their adolescents behavior.
If you go onto Yahoo and look up Camouflaging you will find a segment on Good Morning America about Camouflaging. In fact, here is the link to the GMA segment https://gma.yahoo.com/video/parents-worry-tween-teen-camouflaging-122935763.html?soc_src=copy. Also if parents look at the February issue of Teen Vogue, you will find an article about Camouflaging.
Dr Michael Rubino has over 20 years experience working with teenagers and their families. Dr Rubino is considered an expert psychotherapist in the treatment of teens. For more information about Dr Rubino and his private practice visit his website at http://www.rcs-ca.com or http://www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page at http://www.Facebook.com/drrubino3.