Body image is the way a person feels about their body, and in a society increasingly focused on looks, body image issues are common.
In Australia, body dissatisfaction has grown significantly in the past few decades and is now one of the main concerns for young people. The way that a person feels about their appearance can be affected by what they see or hear in the media, as well as how they are treated by their family, friends, acquaintances and teachers.
Body image issues – as well as the eating disorders they often cause – are steadily rising. A near-constant stream of impossibly perfect, dangerously thin photo-shopped models bombards us all. If you’re already vulnerable to body image problems, then, these images may push you over the edge. At Three Seas Counselling, we know that body image issues are more than just superficial concerns. Your body image affects everything from your self-esteem to your ability to have healthy romantic relationships. No one deserves to suffer from body image issues alone, and we’ll help you put the pieces of your self-esteem back together.
Body Image Issues and Mental Health
Research suggests that nearly half of women in a healthy weight range mistakenly believe they’re overweight. While body image issues often centre around weight, they can take many forms. You may find yourself obsessing over perceived imperfections, spending endless hours grooming yourself, desperately trying to lose weight, or outright hating just about every part of your body.
When body image issues are so severe that they cripple your judgment, body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) is the result. BDD causes you to believe things that are objectively false about your body. For instance, you might believe that you’re fat, or see the crow’s feet under your eyes as evidence that you look 100 years old. BDD is a legitimate mental health condition that necessitates prompt treatment. Even if you don’t have BDD, though, problems with your body image may eventually lead to BDD or eating disorders and can undermine virtually every facet of your life.
Why Are Body Image Issues a Problem?
Those who don’t struggle with body image issues are often eager to dismiss those who do. Body image isn’t a superficial issue. Problems with self-esteem can lead to a number of medical conditions, most notably eating disorders such as bulimia and anorexia. Tragically, more than 10% of people who struggle with these afflictions eventually die.
Depression is similarly common among those with body image challenges. And if you’re in a relationship, you might find that difficulties with body image compromise your relationship, too. Some people with body image issues are unwilling to have sex or be nude in front of their partners. Others seek outside validation by cheating on their partners or gratuitously flirting with people outside the relationship.
Body image issues are unlikely to go away on their own. The good news, though, is that these issues are highly treatable, so there’s little reason to suffer alone.
What Causes Body Image Issues?
Body image issues are rarely caused by a single factor. Instead, a complex array of issues increase your odds of struggling with poor body image, including:
- Excessive media consumption. Even a few minutes spent reading fashion magazines have been shown to lower self-esteem in women. Commercials, billboards, and exposure to images of supermodels can have similar effects.
- A history of abuse or trauma
- A history of eating disorders
- Health problems
- Sudden changes in appearance; women who gain weight after pregnancy, for instance, often struggle.
- Domestic violence; abusers sometimes tear down their victims’ body image in an attempt to gain more control.
- A history of mental illness
- Addiction or health problems
How Therapy Can Help
Three Seas Counselling works to uncover the root causes of your body image issues. In most cases, a number of factors combine to destroy your self-esteem. We’ll help you sort through the morass and adopt strategies for coping with unhealthy influences. If negative thoughts about your body cripple your self-esteem, we’ll help you learn to detect these thoughts – while replacing them with more positive ideas. Oftentimes, education about what normal bodies really look like and the challenges of an unrealistic beauty image can work wonders.
You don’t deserve to loathe your body; it’s your only home! Let Three Seas help you get back your self-esteem and finally, at long last, learn to love your body, your home.
Poor body image can affect every facet of a person’s life. Feeling dissatisfied with your appearance can be damaging and may lead to destructive behaviours such as unhealthy eating, depression, self-medication, unhealthy exercising patterns and even self-harm. Negative body image may further lead to a range of eating disorders such as binge eating, anorexia and bulimia.
Having a positive body image is important for self-esteem, satisfaction and general happiness. Breaking the negative thoughts and behaviours and learning to accept how you look is one of the key factors in achieving a healthy body image.
If you are experiencing body image issues, it’s important to seek professional support. A psychologist can help you to learn to change negative thought patterns and behaviours.