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Body Image Issues

Distorted Body Image Treatment at Promises

Many people suffer from a distorted body image. It is more often attributed to women because they are raised to be beauty-conscious. But men can also have negative body image issues. It’s known as body dysmorphic disorder (BDD). This negative image is based on an unrealistic view of how the person sees themselves.

Body image issues and a distorted body image often are related to early trauma. They may go along with other conditions that can be addressed in residential treatment. People with trauma, addictions and intimacy disorders may also have poor self-esteem.

Treatment for Body Dysmorphic Disorder

At Promises Treatment Centers, we help people with distorted body image issues. Goals of treatment for body dissatisfaction include:

  • Combatting low self-esteem
  • Experiencing personal growth
  • Changing the way clients feel about their bodies
  • Developing a healthy body image
  • Working toward self-forgiveness and self-acceptance
  • Learning to tolerate and express emotions in more constructive ways
  • Developing trust and body awareness

Many people with body image issues may also have other areas that need attention. For this reason, residential treatment is tailored to address all of the client’s issues. Treatment types may include:

  • Individual counseling
  • Group therapy
  • Family therapy
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy to overcome distorted perceptions
  • Education about body image and a healthy lifestyle
  • Dual diagnosis treatment for co-occurring mental health disorders

What Is Distorted Body Image?

People who try to live up to an impossible ideal may spiral into:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Anger
  • Self-hatred

This mental disorder affects people’s view of themselves. Having a negative body image may cause them to:

  • Avoid social situations
  • Have conflict in their relationships with friends and loved ones
  • Develop body image distortion or eating disorders

Body image is the way people see themselves and imagine how they look. A healthy body image means that most of the time, a person sees themselves accurately. They feel comfortable in their body and good about the way they look. It isn’t unusual to struggle now and then with body image. But when the person has a severely negative body image, it can lead to serious eating disorders.

BDD is a mental disorder that involves a misperception of one or more body areas. People with BDD believe they have a flaw in their appearance. In reality, it is very small or not even there. Specific areas of concern often involve:

  • Face or head
  • Genitals
  • Breasts
  • Buttocks
  • Abdomen
  • Hips
  • Thighs

How BDD Differs From Eating Disorders

The line between BDD and eating disorders isn’t always clear. Body image disturbance is likely at the root of both BDD and anorexia nervosa. Anorexia is characterized by an extreme fear of gaining weight. Obsessive worry and repetitive behaviors like self-checking are at the root of both conditions. About 32% of people with BDD will develop an eating disorder. Key differences between BDD and anorexia nervosa include:

  • People with anorexia often feel their bodies are too large, even though they are underweight. People with BDD may not have a noticeable defect at all.
  • Females make up about half of patients with BDD, compared to about 90% of people with anorexia nervosa.
  • People with anorexia nervosa usually focus on weight and body. People with BDD often focus on face and head.

People with bulimia nervosa are also dissatisfied with their bodies. They have an extreme concern over body weight and shape. BDD can lead to bulimia nervosa as a way to cope with their shame and self-hatred. The National Eating Disorders Association reports that around 20 million women and 10 million men suffer from an eating disorder.

Symptoms of Body Image Distortion

People may develop a negative body image when they feel they don’t match “ideal” images in the media. Their dissatisfaction with their body increases. They may begin to display some of the following signs and symptoms:

  • Inability to see their body accurately
  • Spends excessive time checking mirrors, applying makeup, doing their hair or trying to mask their appearance
  • Constantly seeks reassurance
  • Feels self-conscious or awkward
  • Feels ashamed of their body
  • Develops high levels of anxiety, depression, low self-esteem or self-disgust
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Takes risks with their sexual health
  • Cuts themselves off from social interactions and romantic relationships
  • Stops doing healthy activities where others may see their body
  • Develops or suffers from serious mental health problems. Examples include anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa or binge eating
  • May abuse drugs or alcohol to cope

Causes of Body Image Issues

How a person views their body begins early. It is initially shaped by the family. Young people may develop a love of exercise and feel strong and self-confident in a family that enjoys physical activity. Children who are criticized by their parents for the way they look may develop a negative body image. Other influences are at work as well. These include messages about the “perfect body” portrayed in the media. Trying to emulate the way a certain celebrity looks leads to pain and frustration. Bodies in the real world are much more diverse than what is portrayed in the media.

A person’s body image changes as part of the aging process. As such, the way they think about how they look may also change. Critical body image times for women include puberty and menopause. A woman’s body image may also change is when she is hurt, sick or stressed. Important body image times for men include puberty, mid-life transitions and times of stress.

Women and Body Image Issues

Most young girls become beauty-conscious by age 9. Many women are told by the media, parents or significant others that they are ugly, too fat, too thin or not good enough. BDD starts early in women. This can lead to bingeing, excessive dieting or covering up pain by overeating. These issues may last into adulthood.

The cultural demand for women to have a “good figure” can make it difficult for some women to find peace with their bodies. Today there are more tools for fixing perceived facial and body flaws. This can lead to:

  • Excessive plastic surgery
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Addiction

In residential treatment for body image issues, women can connect with others who have experienced similar struggles. They can also rebuild their self-esteem.

Men Can Have Body Dysmorphic Disorder, Too

Men also suffer from a wide range of BDD-related behaviors. Examples include

  • Binge eating
  • Overeating or food addiction
  • Purging
  • Excessive exercise

Signs and symptoms are similar to what women go through. Men also have a high level of shame and fear. All of these behaviors develop as coping skills to help mask deep internal pain. They can also go hand in hand with addictions to food, exercise or substances. Residential treatment for body image disorders is a safe space. Men can delve into the underlying issues that are causing unhealthy behaviors.

Take Back Your Life

If you’re struggling with body image distortion and substance abuse, we can help. Learn to accept yourself and live a healthy life. Call Promises today: 844-876-5568

To learn more about Body Image Issues, call 844-876-5568

Posted on July 21, 2017 and modified on April 27, 2019

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