What Is Body Image And How Does It Impact Your Mental Health

The body positivity movement which has gained popularity across social media  promotes love and acceptance of the body in an effort to improve body image.

Your body image is how you think, and feel about your body. This includes your body size, weight, shape, or more generally your appearance. It also includes how you behave as a result of the thoughts and feelings which arise because of your body. A healthy body image means you feel comfortable in your own body and with the way you look, and do not try to change it to fit in. 

On the other hand, a negative body image involves negative thoughts and feelings associated with your body. Having body image concerns can lead to mental health problems and higher body dissatisfaction can lead to poor quality of life, psychological distress, and unhealthy eating habits. When a person does not have an accurate view of themselves, they are said to have a distorted body image. 

There are several factors that affect your view of the body

  • Culture- Beauty standard varies from culture to culture. Western culture often focuses on dieting and body appearance, whereas certain other cultures celebrate and uphold a person's body. The culture in which you have been raised can affect your view on your body.Further, if everyone in your society or friend group has a similar body shape, you will naturally compare yourself to them and the way these people would talk about their bodies would directly affect your perception of body image.

  • Media- Media plays a huge role in keeping body standards. They set unrealistic standards and the lack of presence of different body shapes and sizes impacts our preferences. Comparing ourselves to these standards set by the media leads to a negative body image.

  • Family members- Judgmental family members and the comments passed on them can have a lasting effect on an individual's self-image. Parents who constantly diet and have an unhealthy body image, and sibling rivalry can also lead to negative images of the body and will be harsher on yourself about your weight and shape.

  • Trauma- Trauma is strongly associated with developing body dysmorphic disorder. Victims of repeated traumatic events often develop negative body-related attitudes such as shame and hatred towards certain parts of their body. 

When a person's body standards and their own realistic body do not match, it takes a toll on their mental health. Negative body image has been linked with various eating disorders, depression, and low self-esteem. Individuals with eating disorders such as bulimia and anorexia often engage in behaviors such as self-starvation, over-exercising, and self-induced puking. Oftentimes, their image and weight are the only things they have control over since they are continuously repressed from underlying depression or anxiety.

Some people with body image issues also have body dysmorphic disorder, a mental health condition that stems from preconceptions about your appearance. Triggers such as bullying, abuse, perfectionism, and even genetics can cause BDD. BDD is a serious mental health condition which starts around puberty and affects both men and women. Cognitive Behavior Therapy is highly effective for this condition.

Ways to improve body image

  • Take a break from women’s magazines and the mass media 
  • Talk with other people who have had similar feelings and experiences
  • Celebrate those positive qualities, skills, and interests that you have as a person, rather than focusing on appearance-related qualities
  • Change your eating and physical activity goals from weight loss to improving your health.
  • Be careful about how you treat your body and avoid negative body talk


Body image goes far beyond just like our bodies. If you feel dissatisfied with your body, feel constantly worried about it, or are engaging in unhealthy eating and exercise habits, it is important to seek professional help. It is also important to remember that there is no ideal body type, and it is you who define beauty, not the society


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