You Could Be Suffering From Distorted Body Image and Not Know It

If you were asked to describe yourself physically, how much of that description would be negative? Would just the attempt to list your physical attributes be difficult—perhaps painful—because you are unhappy about your looks?

Most of us could list things about ourselves we're unhappy about, or that we'd like to change. If the image you have of yourself is largely negative, it's probably not because of how you look; you might be too hard on yourself. In some cases, you might even have a serious condition without even realizing it.

What Is Distorted Body Image?

Distorted body image, sometimes known as negative body image, is a serious disorder that causes people to view themselves through an overly-critical, excessively negative lens. It's like having funhouse mirror vision—when you look at yourself in a mirror, you see a distortion of reality rather than what everyone else sees.

The seeds for this condition are usually sown in childhood. Whether intentional or unintended, the people we know during our formative years may say or do things that help us develop a negative self-image. People can develop the problem at any stage in life, though, due to circumstances that may take a toll on their mental health.

People suffering from distorted body image are at risk of developing eating disorders, which can be life-threatening.

How Can You Tell If Somone Suffers From Distorted Body Image?

Someone suffering from distorted body image is highly critical of herself (or himself—men are not immune from this condition). She sees few, if any, redeeming characteristics in her appearance.

The person may feel shame based on what she perceives as problem areas. Weight is often a significant issue for people with distorted body image, but it's not the only thing that could be the focus of criticism. A person might also be obsessed with wanting plastic surgery to correct what they perceive as imperfections.

A sufferer may find her sense of self-worth is tied to her appearance. She can't find happiness because she obsesses over her appearance; she feels that if she could only truly be happy if she changed her looks.

What to Do About It

The thing to keep in mind is that the problem is not your looks; the problem is your brain's perception of your looks. The distortion comes from the brain's circuitry.

It can take time to change the wiring so that you can look at yourself through a more realistic lens. Focusing on health, achievements, and self-acceptance would be a step in the right direction. If you have trouble with these things, you should talk to your health care professional about getting help or finding a support group.

Sources: Eating Disorders Hope, Womens Running, National Eating Disorders Association

Photo: Pexels

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