Sunday, 29 April 2018

Are You Happy With Your Body ?

Last week a mother brought in her son  X to me for acne and hair loss. I was gobsmacked as I took in the pubescent teenager sitting in front of me with rippling muscles and a heavy frame . He was just seventeen years of age and was heavily into gymming and taking some supplements (probably steroid laced ) to get a heavily muscled body.He was probably( I say probably because some teenagers can actually take grave risks to achieve their ideal looks ) unaware that the use of steroids and too many protein supplements can cause acne, high blood pressure,hair loss,skin darkening and kidney problems .

I asked the mother the reason for allowing such a young boy whose bone development is not yet complete, to go for such heavy duty exercises .
The mother then confided that X was an only child and the whole family pampered him a lot .Most of the pampering came through a constant supply of  junk food and that lead to the child becoming a grossly obese teenager .

That child gradually became the butt of jokes at school for being 'fat ' and started feeling depressed and angry .
X threatened his parents of quitting his school or committing suicide unless he was allowed to go to a gym.The anxious parents gave in and you know the story after that.

The reason I bring up this case is to highlight a medical issue that is being increasingly reported and recognized as 'Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD)".
                                               




Sometimes we are not flawed - but it is our judgement that is flawed 

BDD is a mental disorder in which the affected person can't stop thinking about one or more perceived defects or flaws in their appearance — a flaw that, to others, is either minor or not observable. But the affected person  may feel so ashamed and anxious that he/she  may avoid many social situations or resort to drastic beautification procedures to correct the self perceived flaw.


The case I mentioned was of course not that of BDD but I  shared it to highlight how vulnerable our teens are to peer pressure and media idealisation of certain body types .

More and more people are seeking treatments for getting rids of scars,marks, hyper pigmentation,breast enhancement weight loss ,fairness ,hair fall etc etc.These are all actually non diseases or sometimes just signs of some underlying imbalance in the body's hormones. Even though they do not impair a person's physical abilities  they can affect a person's mental well being .

Role of MEDIA  and MEDICAL SCIENCE

Cosmetology is a flourishing industry reaping the benefits of media-portrayed Ideal body types.With Instagram and Facebook on most mobile phones ,suddenly how many people like and comment on your profile has become very important ,everyone now needs to look good .We get bombarded by images of perfect individuals (hence the popularity of beautification Apps)  which can lead to a constant comparison of the self with other individuals .The exercise ,diets, cosmetic surgery and digital enhancement that goes behind the making of these perfect models is hidden from our eyes.All we see is the perfect model beckoning us to try the miracle product they are endorsing.

As humans,as social animals, we do have the need to be validated in a group but how far we should go to achieve the validation and how do we know that any negative image of the self that we are harbouring is real or perceived is the question.
When it comes to youngsters it is even more important to recognise and understand the symptoms of negative body image so that they can be helped before they undertake any drastic measures .

Recognising a Negative body Image is the first step to fight it
                                               

Let us try to understand Body image ...

What is BODY IMAGE ?

The term ‘body image’ incorporates themes of body perception (the extent to which an
individual has an accurate perception of their body size, shape and weight) and body satisfaction
(the extent to which an individual is satisfied with their body size, shape and weight).

When a person has low body satisfaction they often suffer from a negative body image, where they imagine their imperfections to be of a greater magnitude than what it is . A woman may think she has too large a nose or has tiny breasts or big hips . A man may think he is too scrawny or too hairy etc etc .

Can we measure BODY IMAGE  Perception ?

Most cases can be diagnosed by keen observation and talking to the affected person and relatives.
Though there is no fool proof method devised yet there are some tests like a Body Image Score that can give us a rough idea of how healthy is an individual's perception and satisfaction of his/her body image. These tests are based on Self Report Questionnaire, Figure drawings and Actual body weight and shape of the person.



WHAT can cause a Negative Body Image ?


Studies done so far have thrown up some potential causes of negative body image .These include

A. Being overweight or obese : As mentioned in my previous example, being actually overweight and Obese can make them have a negative body image as being fat is socially not desirable in most cultures and looked down upon.


B. Portrayal of Desirable Body Image by Media -Though Media has often been painted as the sole culprit yet not all who  are watching are affected by images of thin and attractive women, or men with well-defined muscles.
But individuals who already have low body satisfaction are more likely to be negatively affected by images of idealised body shapes whereas individuals who have high body satisfaction are unlikely to be affected by images of idealised body shapes.
The duration of exposure to such images also plays a role in affecting the perception of the person seeing them .

Parents as responsible in shaping our views from the very onset
                                         

C.The influence of family and peers -As parents we influence the body satisfaction of our children both positively and negatively.
Children in a good quality relationships with parents and peers have higher body satisfaction whereas children with poor quality relationships (facing Rejection,discrimination or bullying ) by parents or peers are relatively less satisfied with their bodies.
Mothers and fathers are able to influence body image in positive directions through words of encouragement and negative directions through criticism and also through being role models   Mothers who are concerned about their weight are more likely to have daughters who are dissatisfied with their bodies and more likely to have both daughters and sons who try to control their weight.



D.Individual psychological factors - humans have a basic drive to evaluate their opinions and abilitiessuch as an increased tendency to compare yourself to others.
  Low body satisfaction is linked with low self-esteem and depression. Individuals who have low body satisfaction are more likely to also have low selfesteem or depression if they are female or overweight. People who have certain psychological patterns, such as believing they should have perfect bodies or an increased tendency to compare themselves to others, are more likely to have low body satisfact


The potential consequences of negative body image include low self esteem, depression, and the use of unhealthy weight control behaviours (such as crash dieting).Negative body image is linked to eating disorder symptoms, unhealthy weight control behaviours, and risky sexual practices like multiple sex
partners  and more likely to have had sex after drinking alcohol or using drug.

HOW  to combat Negative Body Image ?

There are some actions that can help in preventing and protecting a child from developing a negative body image.

1.Maintaining a healthy weight - A healthy weight for the age and height can help in creating an affirmative body image .

 2.Encouraging close relationships with parents and friends - Spending quality time with parents and frinds can improve your confidence and sense of well-being .

3.Avoid the practice to compare your child to others and discourage your child from comparing themselves  to others.

 4. Having healthy and positive attitude to your body will set forward a positive signal.If you follow a healthy lifestyle and have a positive body image, it helps your child in accepting their bodies better and following a healthy lifestyle

In case all fails , you may need to seek psychotherapeutic treatment with lifestyle changes .
                             
Love yourself !

Till then - Stay happy, stay healthy and love yourself !


12 comments:

  1. Reminds me of our late actress Sridevi who did a lot of things with her body just to look young because she had tremendous pressure.

    It is one thing to just use fashion tactics and another to go overboard...many people don’t know the difference.

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    1. Thank you Alok for your comments.As you can see ,it is deep seated psychological problem that needs recognition and remedy.

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  2. Very well written article preeti. An important issue which is highly neglected

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    1. Thank you so much Kriti for the kind words.

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  3. A much discussed topic for the present era, you have covered psychological and physical issues related to it very logically.

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    1. Thank you Jyotirmoy! I am happy that you found my post interesting.

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  4. Well written. Thos made me think many things

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    1. Thank you Monidipa.I am glad that you found it relevant.

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  5. School and nearest surrounding children are the critical points for the possibility of negative body image to rise. So parents hold the responsibility to ensure their kids safe from the hazards from outside..

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  6. Thanks for putting this information put here. We are so caught up in what society think about us, that we forget the only that matters is how we feel about ourselves.

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    1. Yes Tiffy,how we feel about ourselves is more important than what others judge about it and how we feel reflects in our outwardly attitude too.

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