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body image and mental health
Andy Garland Therapies - Counselling Cardiff - Mental Health Services Cardiff - Cardiff Therapists

what is body image?

What do you think you look like? Body image is the mental representation you create, but it may or may not bear any relation to how others actually see you. Body image is subject to all kinds of distortion from early experiences, attitudes of our parents, internal elements like our emotions and moods, and much more. Nevertheless, your mental image of you strongly influences behavior.

Preoccupation with, and distortions of, body image are widespread among American women (and, to a lesser extent, among males). This mental image is a driving force in eating disorders, not to mention mood conditions like severe anxiety and even depression. In the midst of this angst, we forget that the body has utility; bodies get us from point A to point B, after all.

Yet we are still mired in a world where physical looks rule the day. To put your body image back into perspective, start by curbing your use of social media, a place where you are constantly reminded of looks and image.

can you learn to love your body?

Having a poor sense of body image can affect a person in many ways, including performance in academics or career, relationship satisfaction, and even overall quality of life. In extreme cases, a person may suffer body dysmorphic disorder, where he or she imagines a physical defect. Often the person zeroes in on a specific area like the nose, breasts, legs, or whatever body part. Meanwhile, the perceived flaw is not even noticeable to others. People who suffer from this severe disorder obsess over the flaw to a point of dysfunction, with some even visiting the cosmetic surgeon again and again.

what is negative or distorted body image?

Body image refers to how people see themselves. Distorted body image (also called negative body image) refers to an unrealistic view of how someone sees their body. Like eating disorders, it is seen most commonly in women, but many men also suffer from the disorder.

You begin forming your perceptions of your body's attractiveness, health, acceptability, and functionality in early childhood. This body image continues to form as you age and receive feedback from peers, family member, coaches, etc. Personality traits such as perfectionism and self-criticism can also influence the development of a negative internalized image of your body.

Andy Garland Therapies - Counselling Cardiff - Mental Health Services Cardiff - Cardiff Therapists

signs & symptoms of negative body image

Symptoms of unhealthy or negative body image may include:

>obsessive self scrutiny in mirrors
>thinking disparaging comments about your body and frequent comparison of your own shape and size to other people
>envy or a friend's body, or just as commonly: the body of a celebrity or someone else in the media.

causes of negative body image

Sometimes body image is negatively impacted by one or more significant events. For example, a gymnast who is continually chided by her coach and fellow athletes to lose a little weight, may develop a deeply ingrained and long standing dissatisfaction with her body, no matter how thin she becomes.

If you are concerned about your body image, here are some questions to ask yourself:

>Is my perception of beauty distorted from years of media exposure that glorifies a very thin ideal that is unrealistic for most people to obtain in a health manner?
>Do I find myself regularly criticizing my own appearance?

relationship between weight & body image

A normally healthy weight range for an individual can be perceived as overweight by someone with a distorted body image. An anorexic young woman may look at herself in a mirror and see a reflection that is greater than her actual size.

Conversely, it is not uncommon for obese individuals to report that they did not realize they were as large as they are and had perceived their body as much smaller until an occasion arises where they see a photograph, video or window reflection that strikes a nerve and causes them to come to terms with their actual image.

Andy Garland Therapies - Counselling Cardiff - Mental Health Services Cardiff - Cardiff Therapists

treatment for negative body image

Getting treatment for distorted body image is a critical step to recovery. The problem won't just go away by itself. Recognizing and acknowledging your feelings and accompanying body sensations will help you become more comfortable in your body and lessens the tendency to suppress feelings and revert to unhealthy, negative inner diatribes to escape uncomfortable feelings.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, an approach where irrational thoughts are recognized, analyzed and restructured to more rational self-talk, is frequently used.

Additionally, dance and movement therapy are often employed to develop a greater trust and appreciation of one's body based upon creating internal experiences, rather than simply evaluated one's body aesthetically.

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