Body image is all about self-perception. It has nothing to do with external sources and all about how a woman sees herself from within herself. A distorted body image (negative) refers to how a woman believes others see her. With conditions like eating disorders, women can feel they are not looking good enough for certain
reasons or are not at the weight or height they want, or they exercise more to
achieve a perfect physique. Women struggle more than men with negative body images (though men also have their challenges) and some of it goes back to trauma from childhood and violence committed against them.
Distorted Body Image Signs
A distorted body image is easy to spot for people who are looking for it. Unhealthy signs and symptoms of a negative body image can include some of the following and can also be found HERE:
- Watching themselves in mirrors or wherever their image appears like in windows
- Thinking or speaking negative comments about the body and comparing themselves to others
- Envy or self-shaming of their own body and desiring someone else’s (attainable or not)
The causes of negative body image can come from anywhere.
Sometimes it happens through someone who is mentoring or offering support
through athletics, performance-based activities, or group activities that
require coaching. If negative comments and feedback are given enough, the woman may believe it and begin self-shaming.
Body Weight and Image
A healthy weight for someone may be taken in a different way by someone else. Distorted body images change how a person views their bodies. In comparison to others, they may be too overweight or too skinny or too this or that, but it is not a realistic view of who they are. It is not uncommon for people who are considered obese to explain they did not realize they were that large and had perceived their body as much smaller until they saw themselves and felt shame about how they looked.
Eating disorders are another way body image gets distorted. Often, it is early dissatisfaction with how they look that leads them to conclude losing weight would help how they look and make them feel better. Restrictive eating and over-exercising are often next, leading to patterns of weight obsession that turn into compulsive eating conditions that negatively impact their lives.
Treatment and Recovery
Finding help for body image issues has to start with addressing multiple areas of the mind and body at once. A woman who has body images may have experienced trauma, may have mental health issues underlying the eating disorder, and may also have an addiction to deal with on top of the eating disorder or body image distortions. Recognizing and acknowledging how a woman feels will help them begin the journey of healing that is required to move forward.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) can be very helpful in identifying where thoughts are coming from, look at them, then turn them around into positive statements. Inside a woman’s head are many arguments, disagreements, and challenging statements that make her think she is not worthy or capable of being loved as she is. CBT can help turn off the negative messaging tapes and begin to reroute those messages to healthier thoughts and statements, which can turn her body image issues around over time.
A key component of healing in recovery is to find the pathway that works although many methods may be used to help get there. Women who are struggling with self-image need a multitude of approaches to support them in finding the best way forward from addiction to hope. Below find some ways to help a woman with negative body image issues get out of their head and body, and find a greater trust and appreciation of their body instead:
- Dance and Movement Therapy
- Theater & Improv
What is often missing in the dialogue around a woman’s recovery is family and community support. Women are more likely to recover well from addiction and co-occurring issues if they have family and loved ones supporting them. Where family is dysfunctional, they may have to recreate the community that is sober and clean to keep them from relapsing. They may need additional support in aftercare to help them find housing, support any children they have, and keep them from backsliding into old habits once they leave rehab. Community and family support and key dynamics that help improve the recovery journey but it takes rebuilding those networks to support a woman so she can stay the course in her recovery for the long haul.
Casa Capri Recovery gives women permission to be vulnerable and find healing with other women who share their struggles. Whether it is body image, drug use, alcohol addiction, or something else, women are invited to come as they are. We approach recovery from a holistic perspective. If you are looking for community and connection in rehab, call Casa Capri Recovery today 844-593-8020
Body Image Self-Test
Please answer “Yes” or “No” if you have engaged in or experienced any of the following over the past three months:
- Felt guilty after eating?
- Felt preoccupied by what I ate?
- Weighed myself multiple times each week?
- Ate to the point of feeling sick or uncomfortable?
- Skipped meals to avoid weight gain?
- Ate only “safe” foods with low calories, fat, etc.?
- Used laxatives, diuretics, or diet pills to control weight?
- Vomited after meals to keep from gaining weight?
- Hidden the fact that I ate or did not eat food?
- Ate to feel comfort or to feel better?
- Felt anxious or worried if not able to exercise?
- Felt ashamed of my body size, shape, or appearance?
If you answered “Yes” to 4 or more of these, then you might have disordered eating or negative body image. If you are concerned about your eating behavior or thoughts about your body, please seek medical and/or psychological support
Melissa Holmes Goodmon, Founder & CEO of Casa Capri Recovery, obtained her BA in Psychology and is a Licensed Drug and Alcohol Counselor (LAADC) specializing in women’s core issues. She is recognized as a leader in the field of mental health and substance abuse recovery where she has been an advocate since 2006.