Body image and mental health
Distorted body image has a significant impact on a person’s health and wellbeing. The issue affects people of all genders, both cis and trans, and is due, at least in part, to the media and wider society’s overemphasis of physical appearance. Women are more likely to be affected, with implications for older, BAME and disabled women, as these groups are particularly under-represented in the media. Men can also be affected by distorted body image though as, increasingly, they may feel pressure to look a certain way. Restrictive and/or disordered eating and anabolic steroid use are common actions people use to counteract their negative perceptions.
Distorted body image can contribute to higher-risk health behaviours including anabolic steroid misuse, self-harm and substance abuse. Sometimes distorted body image can lead to health problems; for example, depression, low self-esteem, body dysmorphic disorder and eating disorders.
Promoting a body positive messages is one way to counter negative body image; this approach is suitable for all ages and groups. However, body positive messages should be adapted to suit the audience in mind. Children and young people are particularly susceptible to media pressures of body image.
- Distorted body image affects people of all genders and ages.
- Distorted body image is linked to higher-risk health behaviours including anabolic steroid misuse and restrictive eating. It can also lead to serious mental health conditions.
- People exhibiting mental health conditions or misusing anabolic steroids should be signposted to reliable information sources and specialist local services (see our links flyer).
- A body positive approach is one way to counteract a negative body image. Promote positive body image. People of all ages should be encouraged to see their bodies in a positive way.
Leaflets to Download
- How to Look After Your Mental Health – Mental Health Foundation
- How to Look After Your Mental Health Using Mindfulness – Mental Health Foundation
- The Truth About Self Harm – Mental Health Foundation
- Food and Mood – Mind
- Understanding Eating Problems – Mind
- CAMHS Guide – Young Minds
- Eating Problems and Eating Disorders – Young Minds
- Eating Problems and Your Child – Young Minds
- Understanding Eating Problems – Beat
- Eating Disorder GP Appointment guide – Beat