Body Image | Symptoms & Treatment Options | Zencare — Zencare

Body Image

Body image is how we think and feel about our body’s appearance, and how we think other people see our body. Our body image falls somewhere along a continuum; we can feel different degrees of positivity or negativity towards our bodies, and this can change over time.

In reality, bodies come in all shapes and sizes and there is no one ‘normal’ body type. Unfortunately, however, we are exposed regularly to images of a ‘desired’ body type, which can lead to body dissatisfaction for many. For some, this can cause distress and may lead to symptoms of mental health challenges such as anxiety, depression or eating disorders.

Prevalence of body dissatisfaction

Body dissatisfaction appears to be very common in both males and females. That said, females do tend to have lower body satisfaction than males. Between 13.4% and 31.8% of women and 9% and 28.4% of men in the United States are dissatisfied with their bodies. (1)

All age groups and ethnicities can be affected by poor body image. (2)

Why and how people develop poor body image

The reasons differ from person-to-person, but the following factors have been associated with low body satisfaction: (2)

Signs of low body satisfaction

A negative or unhealthy body image can affect people in different ways. Some signs of body dissatisfaction might include:

Challenges associated with negative body image

Body dissatisfaction can impact on people in diverse ways. Some examples of associated challenges include:

What to do if you are struggling with negative body image

Many people struggle with how they look at some point during their lives. If this is happening for you, consider a combination of the following actions:

Therapy types to consider for improving body image

Many types of therapy could be considered for helping to develop a more positive body image, including:

What to look for in a therapist for body image

The best-fitting type of therapist for you will depend on individual factors, symptoms, your location and finances. When selecting a mental health professional, it can be helpful to consider the following factors:

Personal fit: As is the case when you are seeking therapy for any reason, it’s important to consider the potential for developing a strong working relationship with your therapist. The trusting working relationship with a therapist is called the therapeutic alliance, and it’s the number one indicator of treatment efficacy.

Qualifications and experience: It is important to look for a licensed mental health professional. This ensures that the therapist you work with has undertaken the appropriate education and training. Also, ask your prospective therapist ahead of time whether they have training and experience in treating body dissatisfaction.

Talk in advance: The best way to judge how you might feel about your prospective therapist is to ask for a preliminary phone call. Most therapists will be happy to oblige. This enables you to ask about:

Try to speak to a few different therapists before making your mind up.

New to therapy? Learn about how to find a therapist here.

Sources and references

  1. Prevalence of body dissatisfaction among a United States adult sample
  2. Body image - a rapid evidence assessment of the literature (PDF)
  3. Effects of exercise interventions on body image: a meta-analysis