Severe Body Image Problems

Severe Body Image Problems

Poor body image can cause significant psychological distress. A person can become preoccupied by a perceived defect in appearance, thereby damaging self-esteem and interfering with relationships. Adolescents and adults who have a negative body image are more likely to diet restrictively, eat compulsively, or develop some other form of disordered eating.

When dissatisfaction becomes extreme, the condition is called body dysmorphic disorder (BDD). BDD affects about 1% of Americans, males and females in equal numbers. BDD usually begins before age 18 but can begin in adulthood. Sufferers are overly concerned with physical appearance, often focusing on slight flaws that are not obvious to others. Individuals with BDD may spend hours every day thinking about their flaws and looking at themselves in mirrors; they may desire and seek repeated cosmetic surgeries. BDD is related to obsessive-compulsive disorder and can lead to depression, social phobia, and suicide if left untreated. Medication and therapy can help people with BDD.

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In some cases, body image may bear little resemblance to fact. A person with the eating disorder anorexia nervosa typically has a severely distorted body image, believing herself to be fat even when she has become emaciated (see the next section for more on anorexia). Distorted body image is also a hallmark of muscle dysmorphia, a disorder experienced by some bodybuilders and other active people who

Eating disorder A serious disturbance in eating TERMS patterns or eating-related behavior, characterized by a negative body image and concerns about body weight or body fat.

Anorexia nervosa An eating disorder characterized by a refusal to maintain body weight at a minimally healthy level and an intense fear of gaining weight or becoming fat; self-starvation.

Bulimia nervosa An eating disorder characterized by recurrent episodes of binge eating and then purging to prevent weight gain.

Purging The use of vomiting, laxatives, excessive exercise, restrictive dieting, enemas, diuretics, or diet pills to compensate for food that has been eaten and that the person fears will produce weight gain.

Binge-eating disorder An eating disorder characterized by binge eating and a lack of control over eating behavior in general.

See themselves as small and out of shape despite being very muscular. People with muscle dysmorphia may let obsessive weight training interfere with their work and relationships. They may also use potentially dangerous muscle-building drugs.

To assess your body image, complete the body image selftest in Lab 9.3.

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