Firstly, before we discuss how body image affects our mental health, we should define what body image is. Body image is the sum up of how a person feels, thinks, behaves and views their body . The way each person visualises and behaves towards their body is unique to everyone and manifest in a wide variety of ways. The reason for this huge variation if how we behave and think about our bodies is be we are different. We all come from different backgrounds and are influenced by society, including our family, friends, and media, which all contribute to how we think about ourselves and what is the ideal body.
We experience feelings of negative body image when body that we want to have does not match up with our actual body . This mismatch leading to negative body image is typically more prevalent and severe in women compared to men . However, this is not to say that men do not also experience negative body image. Negative body image typically peaks in teenage years and is often rated as one of the top three concerns that young girls experience in Australia . Having negative body image has been frequently found to be predictive of mental health problems such as eating disorder , depression , anxiety  and low self-esteem. These mental health problems can also lead to issues in other aspects of life such as a lack of confidence in asserting yourself, avoid social interactions, struggle to achieve and perform to the best of your ability, whether that be in work or school, and often also leads to very unhealthy eating habits that can cause physical illness.
On the other hand, positive body image is not simply the absence of negative body image. But rather, it is the active acceptance, care and love for our bodies . Having active appreciation for our bodies can lead to important healthy physical changes in our lifestyle. For instance, positive body image is linked to being more physically active, less smoking, alcohol consumption and less negative eating habits . However, more significantly, positive body image is linked to higher self-esteem, resiliency, and overall better mood and greater life satisfaction. People who are more confident in their bodies also have that confidence influence how they communicate with people and feel with social interactions. Often feeling that people are easier to speak to and that they are more interested in what you have to say, which in return further boosts your mood . These elevated moods and confidence help to decrease symptoms of mental health problems such as depression and anxiety. People with positive body image often also become more resilient to negative messages that are displayed in society and media that often lead to more negative feelings about their body e.g. unrealistic portrayals of ideal body shapes .
To summarise, body image goes far beyond simply whether we like our bodies or not. The way we view our body and how we feel towards it, can have significant impacts on our mental health, in both positive and negative ways. Therefore, it is important we look after ourselves so we can try and live a life that is as healthy and fulfilled as possible.
If you or someone you know is experiencing issues with body image, please contact your GP or Psychologist. You can also
You can also contact on of our friendly staff members if you would like to book in with one of our Psychologists, Counsellors, and Dietitians on (02) 8733 3169 or 0477 118 184.
You may also visit or contact one of the services below for support:
- Butterfly Foundation- Focus on supporting those who suffer from eating disorders or body image issues and their families.https://butterfly.org.au/
Ph: 1800 33 4673
- ReachOut- Provide self-help tools and information for young people, adults and parents.https://au.reachout.com/
- Lifeline- Provides anonymous 24-hour counselling assistance for all ages.https://www.lifeline.org.au/Ph: 131 114
- Kids Helpline- Provides 24-hour counselling for young people aged 5-25. Also provides information for parents.https://kidshelpline.com.au/Ph: 1800 55 1800