How Does Body Image Affect Mental Health? Tips from a New Jersey Eating Disorder Therapist

Shadow of an arm pointing at the stomach of a female body. Negative body image can impact your mental health. Call a body image therapist in New Jersey today to improve your mental health and self-esteem.

It’s hard to focus on the positive when you’re constantly looking at your appearance and pointing out your flaws. You feel disappointed as you look in the mirror and see something about you that you just don’t love. The criticisms that flood your thoughts as you look at your reflection make you feel like you’re not enough. Your body image is at an all-time low.

By Melody Smith, LAC

You’ve tried it all: a new diet, a special workout routine, changing hairstyles, buying new clothes and products. Nothing seems to work to fix the flaws you see in the mirror. You’re left feeling deflated as if there’s something inherently wrong with you. This battle between your appearance and confidence seems like it will never end. The truth is, the way we view ourselves begins in the mind, not the mirror.

What Causes Negative Body Image?

Body image incorporates your perceived and ideal body. It includes your beliefs about your appearance and the mental image that emerges when you imagine what you look like. It’s our attitude toward the characteristics we see in the mirror. Taking a neutral stance towards the body comes naturally for some. This is called body neutrality. For many of us, though, body neutrality feels impossible. Strong judgments and critical observations can leave us feeling unworthy.

How you feel about your body and feel in your body may vary from what others see. When our body doesn’t meet the standards that we set for ourselves or the ideal image we hope to attain, it can lead to body dissatisfaction. Negative views of the body occur internally–mentally and emotionally. Meanwhile, external influences can push people to meet certain body ideals.

Society tends to emphasize body image ideals, highlighting how a person “should” look. The pressure to be “perfect” (e.g. slim stomach, curvy hips) gets reinforced in our minds and fuels the idea that our appearance is something to be fixed. Many of us have something we wish we could change about ourselves.

The desire to change ourselves is not necessarily bad. Change and adaptation is a necessary part of life. But when our intent for changing our appearance is based on a desire to be loved and accepted, it can take a toll on our mental health. This can drive us towards unhealthy weight-control behaviors.

A person covering their eyes with their arm to hide. Body shaming can cause negative body image. Improve your body image by working with a body image therapist in New Jersey.

10 Factors That Influence Body Image

  1. Culture and media influences (i.e. exposure to body ideals through social media)
  2. Peers and loved one’s language surrounding body image
  3. Social pressures to look a certain way
  4. Family attitudes and values
  5. Past experiences such as abuse, trauma, bullying
  6. Puberty (i.e. changes in hormones and changes in physical appearance)
  7. Gender identity
  8. Sexual orientation
  9. Pregnancy and the postpartum period
  10. Aging, including the appearance of gray hair and wrinkles

What mental health issues are caused by negative body image?

Preoccupations with changing your body can lead to unhealthy habits with food, exercise, and supplements. These can increase the risk of developing disordered eating (NEDA, 2022). Such rigid habits can be difficult to sustain over time. When body ideals are not met, guilt and disappointment arise. Individuals with negative body image frequently isolate, lose self-confidence, and develop poor self-esteem. They also experience anxiety and depression (Rodgers, et al., 2023).

The issues with your body move beyond physical aspects when you start to question your worth. This can fuel negative beliefs as you allow yourself to think about the ways you’re not good enough. A drop in self-esteem can cause you to obsess over exercise and engage in extreme dieting practices. The stress about your body may cause isolation and interfere with your relationships.

You’ve found yourself missing out on experiences because your mind is busy comparing yourself to others. Taking pictures with friends, going to the pool, and any activity where someone might notice you is out of the question. You criticize your appearance and try to hide your body. You believe that altering your appearance will give you the happiness you’ve been searching for.

7 Indicators of Negative Body Image

  1. You feel shame and guilt regarding the food you ate
  2. You check your body repeatedly by using a scale and mirrors
  3. You stay home because you feel ashamed of how you look
  4. You’re preoccupied with certain body parts (e.g. stomach, thighs)
  5. You steer clear of activities because of how you feel about your body
  6. You’re preoccupied with weight, calories, diets, and workouts
  7. You take pictures to investigate and identify “imperfections”

How Can You Develop a Healthy Body Image?

Your body doesn’t have to look perfect to have a positive or neutral view of your body. It might feel like “fixing” yourself will help you to accept your body, but it could be helpful to start the other way around. By creating new ways of thinking, you’ll start to feel better about who you are and the body you already have. Establishing new practices geared toward self-care and self-compassion can help. You can create healthier ways of looking at yourself and your body.

Person sitting cross-legged on the ground looking out on the water. Body image therapy in New Jersey can help improve your self-eesteem and help you find peace. Call us to improve your body image.

10 Ways to Improve Your Body Image

  1. Be kind and respectful to yourself, rather than body-shaming
  2. Find things you like about your body instead of zeroing in on your flaws
  3. Be aware of your body by focusing on how your body feels, rather than how it looks
  4. Make a list of things you like about your own body rather than comparing yourself with others
  5. Limit mirror use
  6. Clear out any social media pages or platforms that cause body-shaming thoughts
  7. Spend time with people who love you for you, rather than your appearance
  8. Eat and exercise to nourish your body
  9. Stay aware of how you talk about your body
  10. Avoid fat talk and shaming from yourself or others

Therapy for Body Image Issues in New Jersey

Many people feel dissatisfied or unhappy with how they look. Getting stuck on your flaws can feel draining and the idea of embracing your body can feel impossible. You’re not alone. If you are struggling with body image issues in New Jersey, there are resources and support out there for you.

Body image therapy in New Jersey can help you to address your concerns. You can explore the factors that have fostered negative views about yourself and your body. Find a body image therapist in New Jersey that can help you change harmful beliefs and practices. Loving and accepting yourself starts within. We’re here to help you step away from judgment and move towards acceptance of all that you already are.

Start Body Image Therapy in New Jersey

At Mindful Connections Counseling, we help clients move from feeling “not enough” to feeling grounded, confident, and excited about life. We blend traditional therapies, such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, with alternative methods that are focused on wellness.

We can help you embrace your body and enhance your mind’s positive impact on the body. This can shift the body’s response to stress. In other words, this can transform how you relate to events and experiences. We can find an approach that fits your needs.

To get started with body image therapy in New Jersey, ​​fill out a request form on our contact page. Our compassionate team members will contact you to discuss your individual needs with you over the phone. From there, we’ll make recommendations about what type of therapy, or which kind of therapist, would be most fitting to reach your goals. If we’re a good fit for your needs, we match you with one of our in person or online New Jersey therapists. If either of us feel we are not the right fit, we can provide the names of other providers who may be able to help.

Body Image Therapy for Teens in New Jersey

When it comes to body image and disordered eating, teens and young adults are some of the most suseptable populations. Beyond biological factors, teens and young adults struggle with body image due to:

  • Social influences including:
    • Bullying
    • Weight stigma
    • Socially-defined body ideals
  • Psychological issues including:
    • Low self-esteem
    • Perfectionism
    • Mental health issues like anxiety, depression, or obsessive-compulsive disorders
  • History of sexual abuse or other trauma
  • Challenges in relationships with family or friends, and more.

If your teen is struggling with body image and disordered eating, you’re likely concerned and don’t know where to turn. We’re here to help. New Jersey body image therapy with a compassionate eating disorder therapist in New Jersey is available for your teen or young adult.

You Don’t Have To Suffer With Negative Body Image Forever. If You’re Ready To Start Body Image Therapy In New Jersey, Contact Us By Filling Out A Request Form.

-National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA). (2022). Body Image and Eating Disorders.

-Rodgers, R. F., Laveway, K., Campos, P., & De Carvalho, P. H. (2023). Body image as a global mental health concern. Cambridge Prisms: Global Mental Health, 10.
-Utah State University. (2021). How body image affects mental health. Utah State University Extension | USU.

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