In the United States there are many men and women who are constantly concerned about the shape and size of their body. For example, people who think they are overweight are actually within body weight for their age and height. To help understand where poor body image frequently stems from and what someone can do to overcome poor body image, I have interviewed psychoanalyst Lisa M. Correale, LCSW, BCD, NCPsyA.
Tell me a little bit about yourself.
“I am a trained psychoanalyst as well as sex therapist, and I have been in practice since 1992. I work with men, women, and couples around several core areas of concern: depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, poor body image, low sex drive, and relationship conflicts.”
Where does poor body image stem from?
“Distorted or poor body image usually has its roots in early childhood traumas such as emotional, physical, or sexual abuse. Sometimes it is a result of a person identifying with a parent who also has poor body image, in the same way other parental traits are passed down. Women are particularly prone to having a distorted body image because of our culture’s stringent standards about the female body. The cultural myth that only thin women are attractive gets repeatedly reinforced in the media, school and social venues, and sometimes in the family environment as well.”
What type of impact can poor body image have on someone’s overall life?
“The experience of hating, loathing, or feeling repulsed by one’s own body or specific parts of the body can be torturous for the person. It can prevent a person from engaging in social or physical activities because such activities can trigger powerful feelings of shame. Often someone with poor body image experiences bouts of depression and anxiety.”
How can someone overcome poor body image?
“Combating poor body image can take years and may require a combination of several types of therapy and self-help. Traditional psychotherapy is essential in order to help the person verbalize, discharge, and work through difficult feelings from those early childhood traumas.”
“Mirror exercises are exercises a person practices in the privacy of their home, usually naked or semi-clothed. A woman would practice looking at herself in the mirror while replacing negative thoughts with positive messages about her body. (The show “How To Look Good Naked” demonstrates this well).”
“Reading some of the numerous books written on the subject of poor body image can help the person feel connected to others with similar issues. At home reading, journaling, and mirror exercises can help supplement and enhance the person’s experience in psychotherapy.”
“Finally, it is usually helpful for someone with poor body image to find a form of physical exercise that most appeals to her or that she feels most comfortable with. Exercise is a wonderful way for the person to feel connected to her body. Through the release of endorphins the person can have a positive body experience in contrast with the day-to-day drudgery of self-loathing.”
What type of professional help is available for someone who has poor body image?
“As I mentioned earlier, finding a traditional psychotherapist or psychoanalyst can be most effective in addressing the underlying causes of poor body image. Also, a clinician who specializes in eating disorders would have knowledge and experience in this area. Additionally, sometimes yoga instructors, physical therapists, and acupuncturists address body image issues. Finally, there are a number of different self-help groups running throughout the country that address body image as well as eating problems.”
Thank you Lisa for the interview on how to overcome poor body image. For more information on Lisa Correale or her work check out her website on www.lisacorreale.com.
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