Body Shaming: How it Affects Mental Illness

Daniela S. and Victoria M.

A problem that is affecting many American teens is body shaming. Teens can have a healthy body image or an unhealthy body image. A healthy body image is when you are happy about the way you look, but an unhealthy body image is being unhappy with the way you look. Body image changes throughout life and is connected to your self-esteem and choices for your lifestyle. The thing that can lead to an unhealthy body image is your family environment, media, attitudes of peers, and advertising. When adolescents get body shamed by a family member, friends or peers it could lead them down the wrong path. The risks that come down this path are anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, or binge-eating disorder.

Each of the health risks is connected in some way but are also very different. These risks don’t start at your body’s health but at your mental health. Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder that can happen when you have an unhealthy body image, and it will lead you to try and lose weight in an unhealthy was like starving. Bulimia nervosa is when you have an unhealthy body image, but still, allow yourself to eat very large amounts, and the only difference from before is that you puke up whatever you ate after eating it. Binge-eating disorder is when you overeat put don’t focus on getting rid of the food. These risks can get worse in the long run and damage your insides like ripping your stomach or

When individuals get body-shamed or judged because of the way they look, it might cause some good or bad thoughts depending on their current mental health. These opinions can affect teens self-image which is what people think of their physical appearance. When good opinions are shared, the outcome can also be good. For example, someone might say that they like someone’s hair, this would then trigger good thoughts about their own self-image. On the other hand, if these thoughts are bad, the person might get bad thoughts about their self-image leading to bad decisions just to reach the image they want to have. As another example, someone might say that the individual is too skinny. This opinion can lead to irrational thoughts such as binge eating just to gain weight and meet the standards of the other person. Even simple phrases like these can make a ginormous impact on people’s thoughts and decisions. The main three problems of saying these opinions to other people are the health, mental, and emotional effects that may happen after. Without choosing your words carefully, the person might choose to completely not eat at all, leading to a lack of nutrients, which can lead to further health conditions. For mental, again, the person’s self-image and self-esteem will most probably drop. Thoughts about themselves might be mostly negative and really low of themselves. This can connect with their emotional state also. Thinking too much about self-image can lead to anxiety and stress. Just know that a couple of words can cause a person to make tons of different decisions depending on their state.

As steps to decrease the risks of these problems, one should first be careful of what they say to other people. Even though one person can seem completely mentally stable, it can be very hard to tell from just looking at them. Without having to say these opinions, the individual can completely avoid the risks and health factors they could’ve put themselves in. As recommended, avoid saying any type of these comments. For the individual themselves, don’t take these thoughts seriously. If it gets to the point where you yourself can’t control it, there is help out there. First, tell your family or trusted adult and what you’re conflicting with right now. If you seek further help,  talk to a therapist that can help you with these problems and its risks. Just know, that you are not alone in this and there are helping hands willing to support you all the way to full recovery.

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