What Is Body Image Disturbance?

Esther Ejim

Body image disturbance is a marked distortion or preoccupation with the physical appearance that causes those suffering from it to exhibit several peculiar characteristics. One of these characteristics is an unhealthy obsession with a sense of the way the body appears to those who suffer from it, even if there is no basis for such an undue dissatisfaction. Body image disturbance manifests itself in eating disorders that include anorexia, as the people suffering from the condition go to extremes to achieve their version of the ideal body.

Body image manifests itself in various eating disorders.
Body image manifests itself in various eating disorders.

The chief underlying factor that is responsible for body image disturbance is a perception by society of what the perfect body image ought to look like. By transference, individuals feel some pressure to measure up to this ideal image that is presented as the best. Some individuals are more susceptible than others to suffering from body image disorder, such as those who have a low self-esteem and those who may have been the target of vicious taunts as a result of some kind of perceived imperfection. For instance, children who may have been bullied by other children because they were overweight may grow up to develop an unhealthy view of themselves based on the projection of the way others have perceived them in the past. Where this is the case, such people might develop an obsession with attaining the ideal look.

Individuals with low self-esteem may be more susceptible to body image disturbance.
Individuals with low self-esteem may be more susceptible to body image disturbance.

The danger in this type of situation is the fact that body image disturbance makes it very hard for people to ever believe that they will look good enough. For example, no matter how much weight they lose, they still continue to feel like they are fat. Sometimes body image disorder is precipitated by a trigger or occurrence that induces an exaggeration of the feeling that the body does not look good enough.

While bullying is a psychological trigger, some physical triggers can also cause people to harbor such feelings of body dissatisfaction. An example of this can be seen in the case of an accident that leaves some kind of physical scar. The same also occurs when people undergo operations that leave some scars behind, such as a mastectomy. In such cases, the patient may develop a body image disturbance that leaves him or her with feelings of inadequacy and feelings that the body does not look good.

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