Simply put, the term body image refers to an individual’s idea of the way her body looks. Unfortunately, many people suffer from a negative body image, which may be due to factors such as teasing by peers or the persistent portrayal of an unrealistic body ideal by the media. The effects of body image issues can be numerous and serious. Many of those who suffer from body image issues experience low self-esteem, which can in turn lead to poor choices, social isolation, and depression. In extreme cases, the effects of body image issues can include eating disorders, body dysmorphic disorder (BDD), self-harm, and even suicide.
Body image refers the way a person believes her body to look to the outside world. A person who is generally satisfied with her idea of the way others see her body is said to have a positive body image. While it is natural to feel an occasional twinge of insecurity about some aspect of one’s body image, such as a fleeting wish for a smaller belly or whiter teeth, some individuals have an ongoing sense that their bodies are unattractive or unacceptable to others. These individuals are said to have body image issues. While body image issues may be caused by a number of factors, many mental health experts believe that teasing by one’s peers, lack of support from one’s family, and the establishment of unachievable beauty ideals by the media are often involved.
The effects of body image issues can be wide-ranging, and one effect can often set off a chain reaction of further effects. For instance, many individuals with body image issues experience low self-esteem. A person with low self-esteem may go on to make poor choices, such as abusing drugs. Low self-esteem may also make it difficult for an individual to make friends and participate in social events. In some cases, these effects can lead to depression.
Some of the potential effects of body image issues can be extremely serious or even life-threatening. For instance, some individuals may respond to their body image issues by developing anorexia or bulimia. Certain people can develop body dysmorphic disorder (BDD), an obsessive disorder in which negative thoughts about the body become so prevalent that they overtake daily life. Some individuals may seek to ease the pain of body image issues through an act of self-harm, such as making cuts in the skin. When body image issues become overwhelming, some individuals may even contemplate or commit suicide.