Body Image & Self Esteem
Body image disorder is a belief that one’s body is unacceptable – something to be disparaged, hated and hidden. When these feelings interfere with social and/or occupational functioning, cause elevated levels of anxiety and depression, or the development of eating disorder behaviors, it’s time to seek professional help.
How Can I Love my Body From the Inside Out?
Research shows that talk therapy, especially cognitive therapy (also known as cognitive behavioral therapy), and exposure and response prevention are the most validated tools for treatment of body image disorders. Learning to identify the negative body image thoughts that drive the emotions and behaviors is step one. Step two is learning how to challenge those thoughts with more rational ones. Step three is the exposure therapy – gradually putting yourself in uncomfortable situations, feeling the discomfort and practicing how to tolerate it, and participating in life despite the discomfort. It takes steady and regular practice, and a willingness to go start slow and work your way up. For example, wearing clothing that is less baggy as a start. Eventually it could be enjoying a day at the beach again.
Tips From Top Experts
Tools recommended by top researchers in the field of body image treatment include the following:
- Create a self-assessment of how your negative body image developed
- Keep diaries about events that surround moments of body image dissatisfaction
- Relaxation training
- Desensitize yourself to body exposure through imagination and systematic desensitization
- Identify negative body image thoughts and begin the work of adjusting those errors in judgment
- Identify and challenge self-defeating and avoidant behaviors
- Develop new strategies to deal with difficult events and people that provoke negative body image
- Create and practice relapse prevention strategies, with a professional’s help