There is a behavior that is becoming common in teenage and tween girls that has been identified by an adolescent psychologist who specializes in treating teenage girls. The behavior that has been identified is called “Camouflaging.” This behavior left unidentified can lead to low self-esteem, depression, cutting, abusive relationships etc. It is becoming very common in teenagers right now. When I was a guest co-host on the Street Solider Radio Show on KMEL, and the teens were talking about how they change the beliefs and how they change how they dress because they are afraid of being rejected by their friends is Camouflaging. Covering up their outside person so no one can identify the true person inside. Friends are a very important issue for teenagers right now. Remember due to the Coronavirus most teenagers have not had contact with their friends in over a year. Many teens are worried about how their friends have changed over the year and are afraid of losing their friends.
Therefore, Camouflaging is when an adolescent girl changes how she looks in terms of make up and how she dresses, her opinions and things about herself she is willing to deny or things she will start doing in order to be accepted by her friends. 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 core beliefs and do things she doesn’t believe in.
While this behavior has 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 in or feel. These boys often turn to alcohol, drugs, sex and cutting. They usually turn to these behaviors to numb out their lost feeling or to try to remember their real selves. Often they turn to these in order to forget the shame and guilt they have due to something they did 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. It can also result in girls or boys getting involved in emotionally or physically abusive relationships because they don’t feel they are entitled to anything more. They no longer love themselves so how could anyone else love them.
As I stated this behavior can result in low self-esteem and depression in addition to 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 can cope with denying themselves. Denying their feeling or who they are can result in boys and girls feeling very confused or lost. Therefore, they look for behaviors that help them remember who they are or will numb out the list and confused feelings. They also seek behaviors that help them deal with changing their beliefs. Again this can trigger eating disorders, drug abuse or other self-destructive behaviors. 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 www.rcs-ca.com, www.RubinoCounseling.com or www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page at www.Facebook.com/drrubino3 or his podcasts on Spotify or Apple.