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A negative body image is a state of dissatisfaction with outer appearance that is closely associated with weight. It is often characterized by feelings of inferiority, failure to meet too-high standards that society imposes, and an overall poor self image. Body dysmorphic disorder is a common result of a negative body image, sometimes leading to the development of dangerous eating disorders, such as bulimia and anorexia. This distorted view of appearance can cause a person to actually see her body as much more flawed than it is in reality. It is usually more common for women to suffer from a negative body image, although men are also not immune to this problem.
Many nutrition experts report that a good body image is an important contributing factor to weight loss and increased overall health. Stress is a common trait of people with consistently poor body images, leading the brain to release certain hormones that can actually make fat reduction more difficult. Some people with this negative self image often begin to criticize their appearances whenever they are under mental stress, even when the initial cause of the stress is not related to their bodies.
Disordered eating is generally one of the most serious effects of an unaddressed negative body image. This kind of unchecked bad self image can lead to behaviors such as deliberate starvation, binge eating, self-induced vomiting, and abuse of laxative medication. Eating disorder sufferers are also sometimes at risk for developing other problems such as self mutilation and abuse of other types of drugs. The various health problems resulting from an eating disorder can be life threatening if the disorder is allowed to continue without professional psychological help.
A negative body image and depression are often closely linked in many cases of body dysmorphic disorder and its associated self destructive behaviors. Women who consistently compare themselves to the impossible standards of beauty portrayed in popular culture often do so as a result of poor body images and their associated depression. The cycle of depression generally continues when they find themselves falling short of these standards. Some men with body image problems compare themselves to the muscular physiques of male celebrity athletes and may view themselves as failures for not measuring up to these culturally-imposed standards as well. Treatment for the underlying depression is often one of the first effective steps to improving this poor view of the self and the outer appearance.