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How does body image affect mental health?

These thoughts and feelings can be positive or negative when you see yourself in the mirror. While many people take pride in how they look, there are others who take issue with their version of themselves. These negative attitudes can have an impact on your physical and mental health. We’ll detail the four aspects of body image, how social norms affect body image, and highlight tips on how to keep a positive body image in the article below.

What is body image?

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Since the word “body” is a generic term, what you see can be anything from your weight to your face to your skin. In other words, body image doesn’t always depend on your weight; It could also be a problem you notice with your nose or some other body part.

There are four aspects to body image. These include the following:

Sense: This is what you see in your body image. Perception is not always reality. What you feel and what others see can be completely different. For example, you might think you’re overweight when you’re actually thin.

Affection: This is how you feel about your body image. You may be satisfied with some aspects of your body, but not in others.

Awareness: This is how you think about your body. Constant criticism and preoccupied thoughts tend to arise due to this aspect of body image. For example, you might think you would be more famous or have a more successful dating life if you were thinner or more muscular.

Behavior: This is how you act in relation to your body image. People who are not satisfied with their bodies may choose to exercise more, try a restrictive diet or undergo a cosmetic procedure.

Body image problems

Body image is not a matter of black or white – there are some gray areas involved – but people tend to be of the body accepting or body dissatisfying type.

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Body acceptance vs body dissatisfaction: Body acceptance is just that – learn to accept your body for what it is. The act of acceptance means that you respect and understand your body, know that you may struggle with it at times, and celebrate it.

There are three types of body acceptance:

Body positivity: Body-positive people have unconditional love for their bodies, no matter how they look or feel. Comfort and confidence are key pillars.

Body neutrality: This neutral view doesn’t emphasize positivity but also doesn’t focus on assessing their body.

Freeing the body: Instead of being active all the time, body release promotes self-control and variety among body shapes and sizes.

For comparison, body dissatisfaction – also known as negative body image – involves negative thoughts and feelings related to your body image. Often, this dissatisfaction is a distorted view of how you really feel or look. In general, women have a more negative body image than men, mainly because of social norms.

Unfortunately, these negative thoughts and feelings tend to start at an early age. According to the National Eating Disorders Association, about half of elementary school girls worry about weight or worry about gaining weight. Children are more likely to have body image problems if they are bullied at school because of their looks or grow up in a family with weight problems.

Body image and mental health

Your body problems don’t start and end with looks. The mental aspect of having a poor body image can create a toxic environment. A person thinking they are too overweight or not muscular enough is only part of the problem. More problems arise when people start guessing their value a second time.

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(Photo: The Society for Mental Health Studies)

For example, you may not like your appearance and allow yourself to think negatively about you not being good enough or attractive enough.

Having negative thoughts about your body image can create a range of problems, including the following feelings and actions:

– Worry

– Body disorder

– Depression

– Eating disorders (anorexia, bulimia)

– Feelings of shame or guilt

– Financial stress

– Guilty

– Negative self-talk

– Poor self-esteem

– Weight/body type concerns

What is body metabolism disorder?

Some people with body image issues may also have dysthymia, a mental health condition that stems from preoccupied thoughts about your appearance.

Although rare (it affects 1.5 to 3 percent of people), this disorder is a concern that goes beyond simply worrying about how you look in the mirror. People with body dysmorphic disorder can be ashamed of their appearance and their social lives suffer as a result.

Metabolic disorders can also make people so obsessive about how they look that it takes hours to prepare – their outfits may not be perfect or the makeup doesn’t match. They may also be addicted to cosmetic procedures to enhance their appearance.

Poor body image increases the risk of depression and anxiety

Feelings of shame or unhappiness can arise from negative body image. Frequently pointing out these defects increases anxious thoughts or feelings of depression.

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For example, people with body image issues may wear shirts to swim because they fear others will judge their body.

The relationship between body image and anxiety and depression is cyclical. People with negative body image may experience depression, while people with depression may suffer from body image problems. It is often difficult to distinguish which incident occurred first.

Social media and body image

Ever since marketing and advertising became more popular, the idea that women have to be thin and men have to be muscular has been ingrained in our minds. These views have been increased over the past decade with the rise of social media.

Platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and Tiktok focus on compelling photos and videos to grab your attention. Social media content paints a false and inaccurate picture of how people should look. It is important to remember that these photos and messages are not real. Look no further than face filters that can be used to beautify your skin, fade dark spots and plump your lips as if you had just undergone a cosmetic procedure.

As people continuously view these images, the more they see this as reality. Exposure hits people’s vulnerable side. Not only does this lead to cases of negative body image, but it also increases the likelihood that people will undergo procedures to change their appearance.

How to improve body image

The first step to improving your body image is to identify the triggers for your negative thoughts and feelings. For example, guilt should be explored to find the source. Once identified, you can learn from your experience by allowing self-compassion and gratitude instead of criticism.

Try not to compare yourself to others. It can take time and effort, but it’s important that you learn to appreciate your body for what it really is – not what it can or should be. People with a positive outlook tend to see themselves in a more positive and non-judgmental way.

Improving your body image isn’t simply about losing or gaining weight – people can still be unhappy with how they look if they’re thin. The more important part is promoting a healthy lifestyle instead of obsessing about a certain number on the scale.

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(Photo: The Article Xpress)

While it can be hard to get over the nature of your body, know that one aspect doesn’t define who you are. There is no such thing as a perfect face, perfect complexion, or perfect height and weight.

It can help limit media use – especially social media – as many of the body image triggers occur when viewing edited images of men and women. In some cases, unfollowing certain celebrities, personalities, and social media influencers can help avoid these triggers.

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