Body Image

How can body image impact mental health?

Body image, or how you perceive yourself, can play a  significant role in one’s mental health, influencing thoughts, emotions, and behaviours.

When individuals experience negative perceptions of their bodies, it can profoundly affect their well-being in various ways.

This might include:

  1. Low Self-Esteem: Negative body image can lead to feelings of inadequacy and low self-worth, contributing to diminished self-esteem. Constant comparison to societal ideals or unrealistic standards exacerbates these feelings.

  2. Anxiety and Depression: Persistent dissatisfaction with one’s appearance can trigger anxiety and depression. Individuals may experience overwhelming stress or sadness due to their perceived flaws, leading to a decline in mental health.

  3. Eating Disorders: Negative body image is a significant risk factor for developing eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, or binge-eating disorder. Distorted perceptions of one’s body can fuel unhealthy behaviours related to food and exercise.

  4. Social Withdrawal: Feelings of shame or embarrassment about one’s body may lead to social withdrawal or avoidance of social situations. This isolation can further exacerbate feelings of loneliness and depression.

Coping with negative body image and low self esteem

Practice Self-Compassion: Be kind to yourself and practice self-compassion. Treat yourself with the same understanding and empathy you would offer to a friend going through a difficult time. Ask yourself if you would speak to them the way that you speak to yourself.

Challenge Negative Thoughts: Challenge negative thoughts about your body by questioning their validity. Ask yourself if there is evidence to support these thoughts or if they are based on unrealistic standards imposed by society or media.

Focus on Functionality: Shift your focus from appearance to functionality. Appreciate all the amazing things your body CAN do. List all the positive things about it every time you look in a mirror.

Engage in Self-Care: Engage in activities that make you feel good about yourself and promote well-being. This could include hobbies you enjoy, spending time with loved ones, or practicing relaxation techniques like meditation or deep breathing.

Limit Exposure to Triggers: Limit exposure to social media, advertisements, or other triggers that may exacerbate negative body image. Curate your social media feed to include content that promotes body positivity and diversity.

Surround Yourself with Support: Surround yourself with supportive friends, family members, or communities who uplift and validate you for who you are beyond your physical appearance.

Practice Mindfulness: Practice mindfulness techniques to stay present and grounded in the moment. Focus on sensations, sounds, or activities that bring you joy and peace.

Seek Professional Help: If negative body image significantly impacts your daily life and well-being, consider seeking support from a mental health professional. Therapy can provide valuable tools and strategies to address underlying issues and cultivate a healthier relationship with your body.

Celebrate Your Body: Celebrate your body for all its unique qualities and strengths. Embrace the diversity of human bodies and recognize that beauty comes in many shapes, sizes, and forms.

Set Realistic Goals: Set realistic and achievable goals that are not solely focused on changing your appearance. Instead, focus on goals related to health, well-being, and personal growth.

Get help

If you’re struggling with negative thoughts about body image and it’s impacting your mental health, know that help is available:

  1. Text TOUGH to 85258 for free and confidential support 24/7.
  2. General Practitioner (GP): Your GP can provide initial support and refer you to mental health services or specialists if needed. They can offer guidance on managing negative body image and its impact on mental health.

  3. Therapists or Counsellors: Mental health professionals, such as psychologists, counsellors, or therapists, specialise in addressing body image concerns and associated mental health issues. They offer evidence-based therapies like cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) or dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) to help individuals develop healthier perspectives on their bodies. Find a registered therapist here:

  4. Helplines and Charities: Organisations like Mind offer helplines and online resources for individuals struggling with body image issues and related mental health concerns. They provide confidential support, information, and guidance.