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Body Image Therapy and
Body Dysmophic Disorder Treatment

Office near me in Newtown, PA for body image therapy

At Beyond, our body image therapists offer offer body image therapy and therapy for Body Dysmorphic Disorder in a relationship, supportive, and Health at Every Size (HAES) lens. Our body image dietitians offer supportive nutrition counseling for body image distress!

Beyond Therapy and Nutrition Center can support you

if you're looking for body image therapy and

treatment for Body Dysmorphis Disorder!


What is Body Image?

Body image refers to how an individual perceives, thinks, and feels about their own body. This includes their thoughts, beliefs, attitudes, and feelings about their appearance, size, shape, and overall physical attributes. Miriam Webster defines body images as “a subjective picture of one's own physical appearance established both by self-observation and by noting the reactions of others.”

Societal beauty stands, cultural norms, media representation, personal experiences, and interactions with others can influence body image. Body image is not fixed and can change from day to day or even moment to moment and can vary throughout the lifespan. Factors other than physical appearance can influence body image, including psychological, emotional, and social factors. Life events, hormonal changes, and personal experiences can change how someone might feel about themselves and their body. Furthermore, social media has a huge impact on how someone may view themselves since it encourages comparison to others and depending on types of accounts followed can increase someone’s exposure to unrealistic beauty standards, diet culture, and wellness industry messaging. 

Someone with positive body image may feel comfortable, confident, and satisfied with their body, regardless of societal ideals or perceived flaws. Prioritizing overall well-being over unrealistic standards of beauty can encourage individuals to have a more positive body image and to have a healthier relationship with food, exercise, and self-care. 

Conversely, negative body image involves feeling dissatisfied, ashamed, or self-conscious about one's appearance. Negative body image sometimes leads to disordered eating, excessive exercise, or avoidance of social situations. Negative body image can also contribute to mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem.

It’s important to note that body image and self-esteem are not the same thing. Self-esteem is defined as how we perceive our strengths and limitations and our sense of value or worth. Body image and self-esteem certainly relate to each other and one can impact the other. For example, having a negative body image can have a detrimental impact on self-esteem. However, it’s also possible to not like the way your body looks and still believe yourself to have other strengths and be worthy as a person. 

Here at Beyond, we promote a positive body image by challenging unrealistic beauty standards, promoting diversity and inclusivity, and fostering self-acceptance. We recognize that beauty comes in all shapes, sizes, and forms, and that true happiness and fulfillment come from within, not from external validation or approval. While expanding one’s perception of beauty can be helpful, we believe that beyond that, humans are inherently worthy and their worthiness is not based on appearance or any other factor that can change. Cultural beauty standards and societal pressures are socially constructed control mechanisms and working to improve body image in the face of diet culture, anti-fat bias, capitalism, and other cultural norms is an act of social justice. 

 

What is Body Dysmorphic Disorder?

 

Body Dysmorphia or Body Dysmorphic Disorder is a condition in which an individual has significant distress about and spends a lot of time worrying about their perceived flaws in appearance. The preoccupation with these flaws may translate into behaviors in an attempt to change them or lessen the distress the individual feels about them. 

 

The DSM-5 lists the diagnostic criteria for Body Dysmorphic Disorder as:

  1. Preoccupation with one or more perceived defects or flaws in physical appearance that are not observable to appear slight to others. 

  2. At some point during the course of the disorder, the individual has performed repetitive behaviors (e.g. mirror checking, excessive grooming, skin picking, reassurance seeking) or mental acts (e.g. comparing their appearance with that of others) in response to the appearance concerns. 

  3. The preoccupation causes clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.

  4. The appearance preoccupation is not better explained by concerns with body fat or weight in an individual whose symptoms meet diagnostic criteria for an eating disorder.

 

Body dysmorphia can occur in all genders, race, ethnicities, and ages. Although the diagnostic criteria specifies that the perceived flaw may not be noticeable or perceivable to others, social media’s strong influence on body image concerns and trends in the media (i.e. having a “thigh gap”) may make it feel as if the flaw in appearance is recognizable to others. Body dysmorphia can include concerns about appearance that are perceivable to others but the amount of distress the individual experiences in relation to it is disproportionate to the level of recognition it receives from others. Experiencing body dysmorphia does not make a person vain or selfish. In our culture, beauty standards set by the media, diet culture, and the wellness industry create a heightened awareness of appearance and increase the sense that looks are important, so experiencing distress over appearance is normal and understandable. If you or someone you know is experiencing body image concerns or you suspect body dysmorphic disorder, reach out to our team at Beyond to see how we can support you!

 

There’s so many phrases about body image. What’s the difference?

 

There have been many different phrases circulating recently about body image and each person may have their own interpretation of these phrases and how they relate to their life- and that’s okay! Here are a few phrases commonly used when discussing body image and example definitions for each: 

 

Body image- Body image refers to how an individual perceives, thinks, and feels about their own body based on their experiences in the world and self-observation

 

Body positivity- Some people use this to refer to feeling positively towards your body regardless of how it looks or cultural beauty standards. At its core, it is a social movement that promotes acceptance of all bodies, regardless of size, shape, skin tone, physical abilities, or gender.

 

Body acceptance- Body acceptance refers to accepting your body despite not liking every aspect of it or being completely satisfied with it. 

 

Body neutrality- Includes accepting your body as it is and not focusing on the appearance of your body but rather its functionality or taking a neutral stance of not focusing on the flaws of your physical appearance but also not focusing energy on attempting to love or appreciate the way it looks either. 

 

Body respect- This is the idea that your body deserves respect and being cared for regardless of how you feel towards its appearance or limitations. 

 

How do you relate to these terms and which ones do you resonate with? 


 

How can Health At Every Size (HAES) be applied to body image distress?

 

The Health At Every Size paradigm promotes body respect and caring for your body and health status regardless of the shape or size of your body. It seeks to encourage individuals to emphasize overall health and well-being without controlling body weight or size. The HAES philosophy can support individuals in reconnecting to their body cues to strengthen their relationship to their body and food. By finding ways to move one’s body that feel good without the function of controlling one’s body shape can also support an individual in reconnecting with their body in a more functional way. Furthermore, HAES encourages individuals to look at a broad picture of health and not equate weight or body size to health status (the scientific data to support that weight is a determinant of health is very weak, btw!). Addressing your health without attempting to control the way it looks can increase overall wellbeing and improve body image. 

How can Intuitive Eating support body image concerns?

 

The Intuitive Eating model encourages individuals to reconnect with their body cues to support their nutritional and fuel requirements without following strict rules or in ways that aim to control body size or shape. Intuitive Eating can support an individual in increasing body respect by learning to adequately fuel and find ways to move their body that feels good to support the overall wellbeing of their body regardless of what it looks like. This model encourages individuals to make peace with food and respond to their needs and feelings with kindness and respect. Learning how to adequately fuel your body, making peace with food and movement (if it’s your goal), and responding to your emotions and body’s needs with respect and kindness can foster a stronger relationship with your body.

Beyond's body image therapists offer in person therapy and body image treatment Pennslvania, New Jersey, Delaware, and Florida and in person body image therapy in Bucks County, PA in Newtown, Pennslyvania.

Beyond's body image dietitians provide nutrition cousneling that supports body image distress via in-person nutrition counseling in Newtown, Pennsylvania and online nutrition counseling for eating disorders in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Virginia, Colorado, Texas, California, Connecticut, Florida and Arizona.

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