Love the skin you’re in – The importance of body image and mental health.


Love the skin you’re in – The importance of body image and mental health.


By Emily Ruse,  Deputy Registered Manager


Body image has the ability to affect all of us at any age. We all live with our bodies as they evolve and change throughout our lives and most of us could probably admit to having a certain feature(s) on our body which we would choose to change if we got the opportunity.

For many of us, our bodies are sources of shame and distress. From an early age, we are bombarded with images that define what an ‘ideal body’ should look like. Sometimes we have even faced stigma or cruelty as friends and family have used how we look to put us down for a cheap laugh. We all have an internalised sense of ‘should’ when it comes to our bodies. This is only heightened by the fact that we are living in a world obsessed with women’s bodies and we bombarded with images every day on various social media platforms, magazines, TV adverts and reality shows (to name a few). But although we see women’s bodies everywhere, it’s only really one body that we’re seeing, over and over again – young, thin, toned, large-breasted and long-legged. Funnily enough, that’s not what most women’s bodies look like. But the airbrushed media ideal is so powerful and so widespread that many women find themselves comparing their own bodies to it anyway and wondering “why don’t I look like that?” The results can be devastating.

 

Body image is closely linked with mental health

Body image is how you think and feel about your body. People who have a positive body image are more likely to have good mental health, greater overall wellbeing and are therefore less likely to engage in destructive behaviours. But many men and women across the world have a negative body image which can put them at a higher risk of depression, eating disorders, body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) or other mental and physical health problems.

Last year, the Mental Health Foundation found that 30% of all adults have felt so stressed by body image and their appearance that they felt overwhelmed or unable to cope. That’s almost 1 in every 3 people.

Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) is a mental health condition which is sadly becoming more and more apparent in the Aesthetics industry. For many medical professionals, patients with BDD are recognised by the significant emotional distress which they attribute to an imagined or minor physical irregularity, but in a world where we are bombarded with ‘insta-perfect’ faces and bodies every single hour of the day, recognising individuals who demonstrate the typical characteristics of BDD is becoming harder and harder to do.

In a 2007 study into what motivated aesthetic patients to enhance their physical appearance, the findings seem to suggest that the primary motivation for aesthetic treatments was rooted in low self-esteem and reduced body confidence. A worrying report, especially considering the American Society of Plastic Surgeons reported that 7.2 million people in the US underwent Botox injections in 2017 – and that’s just one treatment offered by Aesthetic Professionals.

From our experience in the aesthetics industry, the majority of us would like to have minimal facial wrinkles and premature signs of ageing, preferably without having the apply a full face of make-up first. However, as a medical clinic, we must also work hard to ensure every client understands that the airbrushed ideals or physical perfection we see on Instagram and television are not a realistic beauty goal to set yourself (unless you plan on living your whole life through a snapchat filter)!

We work with our clients to enhance their innate features and minimise visible signs of skin ageing. However, at the same time, we also have an important duty to safeguard the health and well-being of our patients and if their ‘goals’ are unrealistic or accompanied by an unnatural fixation upon their physical features, we will recommend they visit their GP before undergoing any treatment, so that any underlying psychological symptoms can be appropriately and effectively targeted by the appropriately skilled professionals.

A positive breakthrough with tackling body image was seen last year when a cosmetic surgery advertisement shown around the ‘Love Island’ TV show was banned by the Advertising Standards Authority due to claims that it ‘painted a false picture of perfection’ and ‘exacerbated young people’s insecurities’.

Although there has been a rise of body positive social media campaigns in recent years, there is still a lack of much-needed research and understanding around this topic. The fact that changes must be made to tackle the body image crisis goes without saying and we all have a role in shaping an inclusive society where we help others feel comfortable in their own skin.

 


If you are struggling with mental health or are worried about someone you know – help is available.

You’re not alone. Talk to someone you trust or call ‘Mind’ on 0300 123 3393.

Sharing a problem is often the first step to recovery.



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