What Is an Altered Body Image?

Tara Barnett
Tara Barnett
Body image is a person's conception of his or her own body.
Body image is a person's conception of his or her own body.

Body image is a person's conception of his or her own body, including opinions about how that physical form appears to others. Altered body image is therefore any set of opinions about that body that diverge highly from reality or what is considered rational by that society. In certain cases, the phrase is also used to talk about situations in which a person's body does change, but where the mind has trouble making sense of the physical changes. There are many cases in which altered body image might develop, and sometimes this condition can become quite hazardous to a person's health.

Depression can cause a person to experience altered body image problems.
Depression can cause a person to experience altered body image problems.

One of the most common types of altered body image involves slight negative opinions about a person's own body. Sometimes, this discrepancy between reality and body image is due to insecurity or unrealistic expectations. In certain cases, depression can cause a person to experience altered body image problems. Generally, taking steps to feel good about one's self is the best way to overcome this problem.

Sometimes, a person might focus not on dissatisfaction with his or her body overall, but with a specific aspect of the body that is viewed as a flaw. This flaw might be rationally quite minor, such as having small hands, but when it becomes an obsession it can seem enormous to the person with body image problems. Sometimes, people who obsess over minor flaws take irrational measures to attempt to fix the problem, but this typically does not solve any issues in the long term. This is because another flaw will usually become the focus of the person's obsession.

When a person experiences altered body image problems due to actual changes in the body, the process of recovery is typically quite different. Amputees, for example, need to come to terms with permanent changes to their bodies through therapy and other treatments. In some cases, a person's self-image might come to include non-biological features, such as a hearing device or a prosthetic limb. The most important part of body image in these cases is usually thought to be restoring positive self-image. Failing to do so can result in depression.

Body image is highly complex because it is not only a personal issue but a social one as well. The way people talk about a person's body can have real effects on the way that person sees his or her body. This is particularly true when dealing with children, as children often learn how to think about themselves from their social spheres. The cause of altered body image is not always apparent, but treatment typically involves therapy and learning to think in more positive ways.

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Discussion Comments

Raynbow

@spotiche5- Always tell your friend she is beautiful. Though it may not sound like much, it means the world to someone who is going through tough emotional times.

Ocelot60

@spotiche5- It almost sounds like your friend is depressed. Tough times in life can cause depression for many people. You should try to convince her to see her doctor as soon as possible so she can find a solution and begin to feel better about her life.

Talentryto

@spotiche5- Your friend's altered body image issues could definitely be the result of the hard times she has faced. When a person goes through a lot of physical and emotional stress, often he or she doesn't feel the same afterwards. His or body image often changes for the negative, as a depressed person is more likely to see flaws that aren't there.

Getting back to normal for a person in your friend's situation will take time. Talking helps, so try to be there for her as much as possible. If you think she needs it, you should also suggest counseling by a qualified mental health therapist to help her get through her difficult times and move on.

Spotiche5

Is it possible for someone to end up having an altered or disturbed body image following upsetting life circumstances? I have a friend who use to be positive and felt confident about her looks and body. After dealing with some stressful relationship and job issues, she no longer has that some spark. She is always talking about how she doesn't look or feel good now. How can I help her?

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    • Body image is a person's conception of his or her own body.
      Body image is a person's conception of his or her own body.
    • Depression can cause a person to experience altered body image problems.
      Depression can cause a person to experience altered body image problems.