The theme for this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week, which takes place from Monday 13th to Sunday 19th May 2019 is body image: how we think and feel about our bodies.
Body image issues can affect any one of us at any age. It can impact not only on our physical health but also on how we feel, which can then affect our relationships, sleep, our stress levels and the way we deal with problems – our mental health.
All of us live with our bodies as they evolve and change over the years, just as all of us have a role in shaping an inclusive culture where we help others (and ourselves) feel comfortable in their own skin. Physical health conditions such as cancer and chronic pain can all change the way we relate to our bodies as well as living with mental health problems, learning disabilities and autism spectrum disorder. Ethnicity, race, culture and sexual identity are also impacted by specific issues in relation to body image.
The Mental Health Foundation found that 30% of all adults felt so stressed by body image and appearance that they felt overwhelmed or unable to cope. That’s almost one in every three people.
Read their full report: Body image: how we think and feel about our bodies.
Our bodies are wonderful things. And yet, some of us find our bodies shameful, ugly and distressing. Social media does not help – we’re bombarded with imagery telling us how we should look. Or perhaps we’ve been teased or bullied – by friends, colleagues or family.
Girls and young women are particularly vulnerable to poor body image. However, boys and men are increasingly affected too. There are various types of eating disorders including anorexia and bulimia. There is also a condition called body dysmorphic disorder where a person spends a lot of time worrying about flaws in their appearance, but these flaws are often unnoticeable to others and perception is distorted.
If you are concerned that you may have an eating disorder, there is a quick eating attitudes test.
Because most people hide eating disorders, it is hard to accurately quantify the levels; however various statistics indicate that:
The more comfortable you are with your body, the greater your overall wellbeing, and the less likely you are to engage in destructive behaviours. Sadly, eating disorders have the highest mortality rates among psychiatric disorders.
While cultural and social pressures do not directly cause eating disorders, they can make those particularly vulnerable to developing an eating disorder feel more pressure to look a certain way and they can trigger an eating disorder.
So let’s be kinder to our bodies as a guard against the individual, family and cultural influences that can lead to an overwhelming sense of dissatisfaction with our bodies.
We need to change our cultural values, parenting styles, schooling approaches, use of technology, advertising standards and the hurtful discrimination.
There’s so much more to life!
Each of us will have a positive body image when we have a realistic perception of our bodies when we enjoy, accept and celebrate how we are and let go of negative societal or media perpetuated conditioning.