understanding how body image affects mental health and ways to promote a positive outlook

Understand how body image affects mental health and ways to promote a positive outlook

understanding how body image affects mental health and ways to promote a positive outlook_ichhori.webP

The mental image you have of your body and how you feel about it when you look in the mirror are both components of your body image.

It takes more than simply tolerating your appearance or not loathing yourself to have a positive body image. When you have a positive body image, you don't try to alter your appearance to meet your idealised idea of how your body should look. Instead, you genuinely accept and like how you now appear. It entails identifying the unique features and abilities that you possess beyond your weight, shape, or appearance that make you feel good about yourself and resisting the urge to pursue the idealised version of your body that you see in the media, online, and in your communities.

The phrase "body image" can be used to refer to how we perceive and feel about our physical selves. The way we think and feel about our bodies can have an ongoing effect on how we feel about ourselves, as well as our mental health and overall welfare.

Being a generic term, "body" can refer to a variety of physical parts, including your weight, face, and skin. In other words, having a negative body image isn't always related to your weight; it also may be a problem with the way you view your nose or another body component.

The four facets of body image, these are:

Affective: You feel like this about your physical appearance. You could enjoy some elements of your body while disliking others.

Perpetual: This is how your body image seems to you. Reality isn't always what is perceived. There may be a huge difference between what you see and what others view. For instance, you can believe you are overweight while in fact, you are thin.

Behavioural: You behave in this way in relation to your body image. People who are dissatisfied with their bodies could decide to exercise more, adopt a limited diet, or get cosmetic treatment.

Cognitive: You view your body in this way. Because of this component of body image, frequently leads to constant criticism and obsessing thoughts. For instance, you might believe that if you were leaner or had more muscle, you'd be more popular or have a more successful dating life.

Causes of body image issues

You may develop a negative body image as a result of the following past experiences and circumstances:

  • Being harassed or mocked for your appearance as a child.
  • Having your appearance criticised, such as for being too thin, too obese, or ugly.
  • Seeing media content, such as photos or messages on social media, that makes you self-conscious about your appearance.
  • Being obese, overweight, or underweight.
  • Pressure to match a certain body type, idea of an ideal and desirable body.
  • Rarely, persons might develop Body Dysmorphic Disorder, a mental health disease where they have a skewed perception of their bodies. It is a severe disease where the sufferer obsesses over slight or imagined physical imperfections.

Body Image and Mental Health

Negative thoughts are only one aspect of how having a poor body image affects your mental health. According to a study, those who struggle with body dysmorphic disorder or weight obsessions have higher degrees of depressive and anxiety symptoms and are more prone to consider suicide. Because of this, keeping a healthy body image is a necessary component of maintaining mental health. Your mental health can be enhanced by showing your body respect and practising body love.

Body problems don't just begin and finish with how you look. A toxic atmosphere can be produced by the mental effects of having a negative body image. Part of the issue is a person who feels they are overly muscular or too overweight. People who start to doubt themselves run into more problems.

You might, for instance, allow yourself to think critically about your appearance and how you're not good enough or attractive enough. Negativity about one's appearance can lead to a variety of issues.

Physical health can also be directly influenced by how a person feels in their body and how they view themselves. A person is less likely to feel comfortable exercising in public, getting medical care, or participating in social activities if they have unfavourable feelings about their looks or have received negative feedback about them.

Lower levels of bodily satisfaction also translate into lower levels of general exercise enjoyment. All of these may have an adverse bodily impact on the person, which only serves to damage their sense of self. The effects on a person's health can be rather negative when they feel so horrible about themselves and the way they look that they are afraid to get medical help. People can face the following issues when they are prey to body image issues;

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Body dysmorphia
  • Feelings of shame or guilt
  • Eating disorders (anorexia, bulimia)
  • Negative self talk
  • Financial strain
  • Guilt
  • Preoccupation with weight/body type
  • Poor self-esteem

Positive body image and its importance

Being able to embrace both one's positive physical characteristics and those ones that one may not particularly enjoy also contributes to having a positive body image. A person is more likely to have a favourable body image when they learn to judge themselves based on a variety of factors rather than just their external look.

A person who has a good body image respect themselves and understands that there are many facets to who they are in addition to their physical appearance. A healthy body image can be developed by staying away from perfectionism and comparison. We can never be content with what we see in the mirror if we are constantly comparing ourselves to other people and expecting ourselves to be ideal.

Importance of Positive Body Image

It's crucial to have a positive body image since it affects how we feel about ourselves. It affects how we behave in social situations and how confident we feel. One's appearance becomes less important when other elements are used to determine one's self-worth and self-acceptance. Not that striving to look attractive is necessarily a negative thing. It implies that we are much more than just our outward look and how it compares to what society considers to be beautiful. When we are more self-assured, it manifests and permeates both who we are and what we do. This benefits our relationships with one another, our business endeavours, and even our pastimes. This results in becoming content and healthy.

Ways to promote and encourage a positive outlook towards your body

  • Respect your body by caring for it.
  • Find affirmations that make you feel good about yourself, then put them on mirrors all over your house as a reminder to think positively instead of negatively.
  • Recognize when you are judging your own appearance or the appearance of others. When those thoughts occur, ask yourself if there are any further characteristics you could consider.
  • Instead of trying to manage your body, eat balanced meals and exercise because it makes you feel good and strong.
  • Put on clothing that fits you right and dress in a way that makes you feel good about yourself.
  • Spend time with supportive friends and family who value your individuality and accept you for who you are.
  • Take care when discussing your body with relatives and friends. Do you frequently turn to others for affirmation or reassurance in order to feel good about yourself? Do you frequently solely consider outward appearances?
  • Make a list of the advantages of the bodily feature or part that you find difficult to accept.
  • Keep in mind that everyone occasionally struggles with their body image. You never know when you're chatting with friends whether someone else wishes they possessed a quality you find objectionable.
  • Be aware of the media messages you read, watch, and hear, and how they affect how individuals feel about their appearance. Recognize these prejudices and combat them!
  • Take a moment to reflect on your life's circumstances the next time you catch yourself thinking negatively about your body or appearance. 

Treatments to help boost positive body image

A negative body image causes a lot of issues, emotionally, mentally and physically but there are certain treatment options that are available to help you with body image issues. You can opt for any one of these treatments to combat your negative body image issues.

Cognitive Behavioural therapy

Your body image can be changed with the use of talk therapy known as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). A therapist who has received CBT training can assist you in recognising negative, unhelpful thought patterns and in reorganising your thoughts to make them kinder and more accurate. Guided imagery, a type of deep relaxation when your therapist helps you imagine mental images that soothe you, is occasionally used in therapy.


Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), which are frequently used for anxiety disorders, may be useful when you're trying to modify your body image, according to some studies. When used in conjunction with CBT procedures, the drug is particularly successful. Discuss the dangers of taking medicine with your healthcare professional if you believe it might help. Not everyone is a good candidate for SSRIs.

Seeing a therapist

You can discuss the origins, precipitating events, associated memories, and associations you might have with your body image with a qualified therapist or counsellor. For instance, shows that early trauma and sexual abuse are connected to a later-life poor body image. Discussing these early encounters with someone may assist to uncover and alter any complex underlying attitudes you may have about your body. A reputable therapist's office is frequently a secure setting where you can discuss feelings and actions that you might not want to disclose with anyone else. A therapist can also inform you of the ways that having a poor body image can be detrimental to both your physical and mental health.

Use physical fitness therapy

Endorphins, the feel-good hormones that are released when one engages in a healthy level of physical activity, can help combat the anxiety that might occasionally accompany a negative body image. A skewed body image may be corrected by concentrating on what your body is capable of doing rather than how it looks.

A person's perception of their body can regularly shift over the course of a lifetime. Self-esteem and healthy lifestyle choices are also strongly correlated with positive body image. People are significantly more likely to experience sentiments of great self-esteem and excellent mental health when they feel good about their bodies. Additionally, those who have a favourable body image frequently approach eating and exercise in a balanced manner. The building blocks for excellent mental and physical health as children and adolescents develop into adults can be laid by having a favourable body image during adolescence. On the other side, youth who have a negative body image may experience long-term effects on their mental and physical health. You have survived every experience in your life, thanks to your body. Your heart continues to beat. And you continue to breathe in and out. So that you can peacefully follow your own beautiful path, you can start taking action today to mend your body image.

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