Recognizing that there is a body image issue is the first step to making a positive difference in how body image is influencing your life or that of someone you care about. Individually the signs listed below do not mean the person has a disturbed image, but, if there are numerous signs present, it is a good indication that a distorted body image is having a negative impact on that person’s life.

It is important to address and rectify a negative or disturbed body image because it often plays a major role in the development of disordered eating patterns, and, if severe enough, can lead to a full-blown eating disorder. A distorted body image also affects self esteem and self confidence. Having a poor body image lowers self esteem and self confidence. The converse is also true…low self esteem and confidence feeds a negative body image. The complex interplay of these psychological factors can affect all areas of the individual’s life…from relationships with food, self and others to work to social interactions.

Signs that may point to a Disturbed Body Image:

- Symptoms of anxiety or depression may be a manifestation of a poor body image.

- Low self esteem and feelings of inferiority.

- Feel awkward and uncomfortable in their body.

- Body shape and size is viewed as a personal failure.

- Excessively seeks acceptance from peers, family members, and friends – needing constant reassurance.

- Relies on other people’s opinions rather than their own.

- Disordered eating, restricting food intake, weird eating habits.

- Unrealistic standards for themselves, their body, and their weight. (e.g. low body weight or the need to always look perfect)

- Negative focus on specific body parts or overall body shape, especially if they are not based in reality.

- Has a distorted perception of their shape and actual body dimensions.

- Frequent self-derogatory remarks about their weight, shape, or appearance.

- Excessively exercises, beyond what is appropriate for fitness and health.

- Self-consciousness about getting in front of others.

- Refuses to take the lead in work meetings.

- Refuses to participate in presentations or workshops.

- Avoids talking in groups.

- Refuses to play games like charades or pictionary.

- “Hides” behind desk, podium, or other people.

- Hates having picture taken.

- Avoidance of activities that put focus on the body.

*Activities that require revealing clothing – e.g. working out at a gym or swimming.
*Active sports, dancing, sex.

- Either avoids mirrors or spends an inordinate amount of time looking at self in the mirror.

- Refuses to leave the house without make up and has a tendency to be “heavy handed” when putting it on.

- Wears baggy, ill-fitting clothes.

- Isolates and turns down social invitations.

- Responds with negativity or discomfort when complimented.

- Is unable to list 3 of their favorite things about their body.

- Displays jealousy over the way other people look.

- Obsesses over media images and advertising that depicts cultural “ideals” of how people should look.

- Frequently weighs themselves and their mood is dependent on the number on the scale.

- Believes that only by changing their looks can they be happy and confident.

- Believes that how they look is the reason they haven’t been successful.

- Shows disrespect towards their body. (e’g. may engage in risky sexual behavior, binge eat, or starve themselves)

Some of these signs contradict each other. That is because symptoms of a distorted body image are not necessarily the same for everyone. For instance, a person who is predisposed toward controlling behavior who looks in the mirror and sees a “fat” person even though they are underweight and who has an extreme fear of getting fat is more likely to restrict their food intake, avoid sexual intimacy and weigh themselves obsessively. Another person with a distorted body image may binge eat to feed their emotions, purge later to ease their anxiety over weight gain, be hyper focused on the size of their thighs, and be sexually promiscuous. Both individuals have a disturbed body image, but the symptoms they present with are very different.

A disturbance in body image causes a ripple effect that touches all aspects of an individual’s life: psychological, physical, interpersonal, spiritual, and emotional. It affects their self esteem, self respect, self worth and self-confidence level. It affects their work, family, and social life. It affects how the individuals sees themselves and the world around them. Building, nurturing and maintaining a healthy, positive body image is foundational to living a healthy lifestyle and living a full and happy life.

If you are someone you care about is suffering from a disturbed body image issue seek help. For more information, suggestions and inspiration related to body image issues read relevant articles posted on the website below.

Knowing and being comfortable with yourself is the basis for living a happy life and embracing your own unique brand of beautiful.

*This article was originally published on

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Author's Bio: 

Stephanie Eissinger is a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor, Certified Professional Coach, and Self Help Book author. She's spent her professional career empowering individual's to overcome life's challenges to live happier, healthier lives. She has personal and professional experience dealing with disordered eating, body image issues, anorexia athletica, stress management, Divorce/Relationship Recovery, and grief issues. She's the author of several self help books including: "How To 'Rock' Your Body Image: Improve Body Image & Self Confidence," "The Fitness Goal Triad: How to Successfully Reach Your Fitness Goals," Journey To Self Empowerment: Increase Self Esteem & Self Confidence."