The Link Between Body Image and Mental Health

Many factors impact our mental health, with body image being right at the top of the list. The link between body image and mental health is one that we have to pay close attention to if we want to stay healthy on all fronts. While many of us may start off with a healthy body image, many factors can change that perception, leading to negative effects on our mental health. We’re going to take a closer look at the body image and mental health connection to help you maintain a healthy lifestyle. We’ll also share some tips on how you can improve your body image and help your mental health in the process.

What is Body Image?

Body image is how you see yourself when you look in the mirror or when you picture yourself in your mind.[1] It includes the things that you believe about your appearance as well as how you feel about your body as a whole. It also covers how you feel in your skin. Body image starts at a young age as we begin to internalize messages that can either have a positive or negative impact.

What Causes Body Image Issues?

Many different factors can cause body image issues. Someone can get made fun of because of their body size, shape, or weight. This can lead someone to believe they are ugly or not worthy of people’s attention or respect.

Images that people see on TV and social media can also lead to body image issues. Always seeing pictures and videos of what appear to be ‘perfect bodies’ can result in a negative body image. What many people don’t realize is that the images they’re seeing may have been photoshopped or altered to appear perfect. In reality, the person in the photos may have imperfections that have been covered up. Since this normal image is not portrayed, many people fall into the vicious cycle of being negatively impacted by what they see.

Body Image and Mental Health: How They Are Connected

Having a healthy body image is an important part of our mental wellbeing. If you have a poor body image, it can negatively affect how you think about yourself. You may think you are not good enough or attractive enough and that people won’t like you because of it.

When you have a negative body image, it can lead to:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Guilt
  • Negative self-esteem
  • Obsession with body weight and type

With depression, it can be hard to determine if poor body image led to the depression or if someone was depressed and then started feeling bad about their body. Either way, it can be a dangerous situation when it comes to mental health.

Poor body image can also trigger other mental health issues, such as eating and mood disorders. When these types of issues arise, it’s important to seek professional help.

Body Dysmorphic Disorder

The link between body image and mental health can also be seen in a condition called body dysmorphic disorder.[2] This is a mental health condition that is related to preoccupied thoughts about your appearance. It is rare as it only impacts up to 3% of all people.

People with body dysmorphic disorder may have such an obsession with their appearance that it takes them hours to get ready because they are trying to reach perfection. They may also become obsessed with cosmetic procedures to change their appearance. Some with body dysmorphic disorder may become ashamed of how they look, impacting their social life.

Why a Healthy Body Image is Important

Having a healthy body image is important because it can impact your self-esteem as well as your attitude toward food and exercise. By maintaining a healthy body image, you are helping to keep your mental, physical, and emotional health in check. When one of these is unbalanced, it will throw off your entire mind and body, resulting in negative consequences.

How to Improve Body Image and Mental Health

There are several things you can do to improve your body image and, as a result, help your mental health[3]:

  • Don’t say negative things about yourself. Rather, focus on saying something positive all of the time.
  • Look in the mirror and focus on the things you do like about yourself. Write them down so you can look at the list when you start to feel a little down.
  • Do something nice for yourself that makes you feel good. These could be meeting up with friends or listening to music.
  • Put away the scale. If you weigh yourself every day, you’ll put too much focus on what’s on the scale rather than how you feel.
  • Eat healthy and fulfilling meals. This will leave you feeling good about your body and getting the energy you need for the day.
  • Don’t focus on the size of your clothes. This has nothing to do with who you are or your self-worth.

Seeking Help at Healing Foundations for Body Image and Mental Health

If you are suffering from a mental health disorder as a result of poor body image or another issue, Healing Foundations can help. We offer a variety of treatments to help people with their mental health disorders. Through therapy and other techniques, we can help people learn how to feel better about themselves and improve their mental health.

Call us today to learn more about our Scottsdale treatment center and how our team can help to improve your quality of life.