Anxiety is a reality that many people battle on a daily basis. For some, the struggle with anxiety is internalized and projected through a poor body image. When issues in life seem too difficult or overwhelming, internalizing feelings towards themselves can become a negative way of coping. For example, someone who feels bad about an occurrence in a relationship or nervous about the outcome of an unknown situation may channel those feelings towards how they feel about their body. Thoughts may evolve such as, “If I only looked a certain way, this wouldn’t have happened”, or “If only I was thinner, I would be loved and accepted”. Over time, this preoccupation can lead to obsessive-compulsive tendencies regarding their appearance and result in body image disorders.
Poor body image can have a range of negative social effects. Body image is how we think and feel about our bodies. While it’s all about our self-perceptions and not about our actual appearance, it still leads to low self-esteem. Relationships, social functioning, and mood can all be seriously affected by low self-esteem. It often causes people to decrease their social interactions, compounding the problem due to feelings of loneliness and isolation.
There’s a steady stream of media messages working to distort our views of how we should look. Numerous studies have proven that media can have a negative impact on self-image. TV, movies, magazines, and the internet all bombard us with images and pressures about how our faces and bodies “should” look. But those images aren’t realistic: they’re air-brushed versions of models who weigh 23% less than the average woman. Nevertheless, millions of people believe the lies and resort to unhealthy measures to try to fit themselves into that impossible mold, resulting in more anxiety and creating a vicious cycle.
Separating anxiety and feelings from body can be challenging. Like most issues, the longer the pattern has existed, the more difficult it becomes to change it. If this is the case for you or a loved one, know that there are resources and professional help available. Rebuilding body image is possible with the support of caring, knowledgeable professionals who can develop treatment plans to successfully deal with the underlying anxiety. Therapy, medication, and neurofeedback are all effective remedies that can bring welcome relief and put you or your loved one on the path to recovery.
By Andrew Walen, LCSW-C, LICSW, CEDS, Executive Director at The Better Brain Center. If you would like to get in touch with Andrew please call 833-964-8483 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.