Body Image and Mental Health

Body Image does not start in the mirror… it starts in the mind. 

Body image is not a mental health condition within itself, however, having poor body image can contribute to the development of mental health conditions such as eating disorders, depression and anxiety. Therefore it is important that we talk about it and help people to have a positive body image.

Some of you may be reading this and wondering ‘what does body image even mean?’… so let me tell you:

Body image is how we think and feel in regards to our bodies, this could be our body shape and figure, scars, spots, freckles, hair and much more! Having a negative body image does not necessarily mean that you hate your entire body, you may dislike certain aspects which in return makes you feel self-conscious.

How we think and feel about our bodies can affect us throughout our lives. Our opinions of ourselves can change over time, affecting us in various ways. Concerns about body image can affect people of all ages, not just teenagers. Feeling negatively towards ourselves can contribute to the development of mental health conditions, most commonly, depression and anxiety, and possibly suicidal thoughts.

Some Facts and Figures:

In a UK survey of 4,505 adults, 57% of 18 to 24-year-olds said that they have felt anxious because of their body image. This compared to 30% of 45 to 54-year-olds and 20% of over 55’s.

10% of women admitted to deliberately harming themselves due to their body image, compared to 4% of men. 13% of adults admitted to having suicidal thoughts and feelings.

These figures are shocking. They show that a lot of people feel uncomfortable in their own skin. A lot of people’s mental health and wellbeing are suffering due to having a negative body image. Yes, it can be difficult to love your body, especially in this day and age where we are surrounded by highly edited social media images and ‘curvey’, ‘plus-sized models’ who are a size 10 and would not be classed as being curvey or plus-sized at all; making plus-sized people feel as though they are not good enough. We live in a world were social media and the internet rule our lives. We wake up in the morning and check our social media feeds whilst sipping on our morning coffee, we lay in bed at night scrolling through Instagram before shutting off and getting some sleep. We share pictures of ourselves with Snapchat filters, retweet pictures of models or highly edited people who we think are beautiful and we strive and wish to look more like them… we live in a world where it is hard to distinguish what is real and what is fake and find ourselves living up to impossible standards, rather than embracing what we have.

We are all guilty of looking at pictures online or in magazines and feeling bad about ourselves as we compare our lives, our bodies, our make-up, our hair and everything else with that of others. It can be hard not to do this. I will hold my hands up and admit that I have a poor body image. There are many things that I dislike about my body. One day I can wake up feeling great, feeling confident and sexy… and then I see a beautiful slim girl on Instagram showing off a tiny bikini whilst sitting on the beach and think to myself ‘I wish I could pull off a bikini like that’… and then BAM! The confidence I had 10-minutes ago has vanished.

We all need to try to put ourselves first, we should all be encouraging each other to post our natural pictures, embrace our true beauty and stop comparing ourselves to others. This is a lot harder than it sounds, but it is not impossible with time and support.

How Body Image Can Lead To Poor Mental Health:

Feeling bad about how we look and comparing ourselves to others, can make us feel down and disheartened. We can start to feel self-disgust and as a response we could start to isolate ourselves from others, avoiding going out with friends, getting frustrated looking for clothes to wear that we feel half decent in, losing our self-confidence and self-esteem, all of these things can impact on our mental health. It is so easy to put ourselves into a downward spiral, yet so difficult to pull ourselves back out.

Poor body image can not only lead to depression and anxiety, but it can also lead to very serious eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia or body dysmorphic disorder (BDD).

There are mental health conditions, they are not easy to battle but there is help and treatments available to help you on the road to recovery.
You can read more about Anorexia here! And there will be fact files on Bulimia and BDD in the near future.

This is an unedited photograph of me trying on a bikini in Primark changing rooms. I sent this picture to my fiance asking for his opinion before I bought it. I personally hate this picture and I never thought I would share it publically without some airbrushing. But then I thought; I would rather not share this image at all than airbrush it to make myself feel better and give other people false information about me.
And then Mental Health Awareness Week came around and I saw the theme ‘body image’ and decided I would share this picture as part of this post…

I am not as slim as I was when I was a young teen and that is where most of my negative body image stems from. As I wish I still looked like I did back then… but when I think back to my younger teenage days, I remember how much I hated my body back then too! The truth is I don’t think I will ever be happy with my body as the standards of beauty change from year to year. There will always be something that I want to change about myself.

So instead of dwelling on making changes here and there and trying to make myself look like someone else, I want to work on loving myself as I am. Sharing love and support to others out there who share their natural pictures with the world, encouraging others to do the same… because the truth is, we are all beautiful in our own little ways, and looks are not everything.

Sources:

How Body Image Can Affect Mental Health – The Guardian
MentalHealth.org – Body Image Report
Here To Help – Body Image, Self-Esteem and Mental Health

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