In an interview with the Mirror in April 2014, a British teen with body dysmorphic disorder described spending up to 10 hours a day taking hundreds of photos of himself at a time in pursuit of the perfect selfie.
He admitted that he eventually attempted suicide in response to his dissatisfaction with his appearance in selfies. Although taking selfies did not cause this young man’s body dysmorphic disorder, one way in which his disorder manifested itself was his preoccupation with taking an “ideal” selfie.
How Body Image Is Tied to Self-Esteem
Body image is a component of self-esteem and consists of a person’s thoughts, feelings and perceptions about their physical appearance.
Although a person’s mental representation of their body image is internal, it can be influenced by many external factors, including media and cultural standards of attractiveness, as well as appearance-related feedback from others.
For individuals with disordered body image, their mental representation of themselves can be significantly different from the way others actually perceive their appearance. Research on gender differences with regard to body image indicates that although women report more frequent experiences of body dissatisfaction, men place more importance on their physical appearance, particularly during adolescence.
There are a number of ways parents can help promote positive self-image for their child. Here are three tips from Celia Heppner, PsyD, a clinical psychologist in the Fogelson Plastic and Craniofacial Surgery Center at Children’s Health℠ and Assistant Professor at UT Southwestern Medical Center.
1. Provide some context with regard to the photos they see of friends online by reminding their children that what others are posting online is what they want to portray, with negative attributes or experiences filtered out.
2. Model healthy body image. Be mindful about the messages that you send your kids about your ideas about your own appearance, as this will shape how they think about their appearance to a large degree.
3. Encourage children and teens to participate in an activity that will provide them with a sense of accomplishment that is not appearance-based. Sport, art playing a musical instrument are all activities that can help kids focus more on behaviors than physical appearance as a source of self-worth.
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