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Body Image Issues & Disorders

Talking about body image issues and disorders in today's time can be conflicting. On one hand, you hear ‘Your body is perfect, it’s natural and you shouldn’t feel ashamed of your body’ but then you scroll through social media with countless pictures of people with superficial bodies. Somehow, we end up telling ourselves - “It’s all photoshopped. Those bodies are fake! I shouldn’t compare myself to them!” For some, this self-narrative works while for some others who struggle with negative body image, it barely does.

In this article, we will try to understand Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) and types of Eating Disorders (ED) that result from untreated negative body image.

A body image refers to how individuals perceive their body. This can include thoughts, beliefs, attitudes and emotions regarding ones' body. Society, family, new media, social media, and popular culture often shape them, and this can affect how a person sees their own body. If the body image is negatively influenced then it can lead to several psychological disorders.

Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) is a psychological disorder in which it gets hard to stop thinking about one or more perceived flaws or defects. They may be minor and hardly seen, but it can affect someone to the point where they avoid all social interactions and feel embarrassed, ashamed and anxious in most situations.

An Eating Disorder (ED) is another type of psychological disorder, characterized by symptoms of eating, exercising and body shaming that becomes an unhealthy preoccupation of someone's life.

Some of the common EDs include:

  1. Anorexia Nervosa - This is one of the deadliest EDs considering it has the highest mortality rate. It is accompanied by signs and symptoms like an intense fear of gaining weight, losing weight rapidly and/ consistently staying underweight, etc.

  2. Bulimia Nervosa - Individuals binge-eat with a fear of not being able to control how much they eat and later proceeds to purge it all/ excessively exercise due to shame.

  3. Muscle Dysmorphia - This is more commonly associated with men as compared to women, who are obsessed with becoming and staying muscular.

  4. Binge Eating Disorder (BED) - This is similar to Bulimia Nervosa however, the individuals do not engage in activities to compensate for binge eating, for e.g., purging. This disorder usually causes obesity, a feeling of shame and disgust about their bodies etc. The individuals most of the times give up making healthier food choices.

  5. Other Specified Feeding or Eating Disorder (OSFED) - This diagnosis is meant as a term for all other eating disorders that don’t fit into the previously given conditions.

As a society, we equate fat to unhealthy and thin to healthy. However, we fail to understand that irrespective of how the body size, an individual can still be healthy physically and mentally. It is important to not fall prey to false notions of body perfectionism that impacts our mental as well as physical health. If you or anyone you know is facing body image issues or showing symptoms of the disorders mentioned in this article, please seek therapy from a Psychologist/ Psychotherapist.