What are body image issues?
Body image is a broad term used to capture a person's perception of their own body and how attractive or unattractive they believe they are. Many people are self-conscious about their appearance. Weight, skin, hair, the shape or size of a specific body component are common concerns. Negative body image might start at an unusually young age. Surveys have shown that children as early as three years of age are dissatisfied with aspects of their bodies. This unhappiness and dissatisfaction can worsen as bodies change during puberty. An individual’s body image is also heavily influenced by the media, culture and society at large. The way a person thinks and feels about their body is affected by how society and the media consider and represent body image. Women and girls are socialised to be conscious of their bodies. Concerns over appearance, however, transcends age, gender; race; culture; etcetera. The DSM-5 provides criteria for a condition involving a preoccupation with a perceived physical defect or excessive concern over a slight physical defect- Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD). BDD also includes repetitive behaviours such as checking one's appearance in mirrors, applying makeup to "mask" perceived or real, constant comparisons of appearance to others and significant distress and impairment in daily activities due to these symptoms.
Signs of body image issues
Body image issues are complex and can include some or many of the following characteristics:
- your knowledge and keen interest in how your limbs move through space.
- your sense of how your body appears to you and others is often perceived as negative.
- your understanding and hyper-sensitivity of what your body can do.
- your views towards your body and body parts are often perceived as negative.
- your assessment of specific bodily components.
- your body size estimation may be distorted or perceived negatively.
- your culturally/media/socially influenced perceptions of how bodies should seem and the acts you believe are required to transform your body into what it “should” be.
How are body image issues treated?
Although body image issues are challenging, frustrating and promotes constant feelings of low self-worth, there are effective treatments available, including but not limited to:
- Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT): A CBT-trained therapist can assist you in identifying damaging, erroneous thought patterns and reshaping your ideas to be more compassionate and truthful about body image perceptions.
- Supportive/Psychodynamic Therapy: You can talk to a competent therapist about the causes, triggers, memories, and associations you have with your body image.
- Medication: When it comes to changing your body image, selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRIs), commonly prescribed for anxiety disorders, may benefit.
- Psycho-education: Developing media and social awareness by recognising the huge role social media plays and identifying the ways in which body image’s can be distorted on this platform.