Body Image in the Media – Abnormal Psychology

Abnormal Psychology and Body Image in the Media

What is body image?

Simply stated, body image is a mental image someone creates of themself or their body. Body image can be what people see when they look in the mirror, what someone believes about their appearance, or feelings associated with thoughts regarding their body. According to Psychology Today, Body image is not only “subject to all kinds of distortion from internal elements such as our emotions, moods, early experiences, attitudes of our parents, and much more”, but is also greatly impacted by external elements… such as what we see or experience. Because body image can be distorted so easily, it can also create higher potential for eating disorders and anxiety.

Here is a quick introduction video on body image in the media:


Why is body image in the media important?

Body image is something that everyone experiences– it is unavoidable. While body image can be distorted through various internal elements, one of the ways that body image is formed is also through the media (media being social media, television, movies, advertisements, magazines, newspaper, etc.). While negative body image can lower self esteem, it can also create a vulnerable foundation for various eating disorders and anxiety through the portrayal of the “perfect body”. With highly edited images on social media, unrealistic body standards in advertising, and a constant topic of weight-loss in magazines, one’s body image is greatly impacted by the media. Not only is body image impacted, but it is impacted on a mass scale (to men and women of all ages). Because of body image, approximately 91% of women are unhappy with their bodies and resort to dieting to achieve their ideal body shape. In addition to this, 58% of college-aged girls feel pressured to be a certain weight. These strikingly high numbers are just a few of the many studies that show how many people are impacted. However, unfortunately, only 5% of women have the “ideal” body that is portrayed through the media, making it impossible for 95% of women to achieve the media’s “perfect body”.

How does body image in the media relate to abnormal psychology?

Continuing on the idea that body image can lead to eating disorders, a recent study showed that more than 1/3 of the participants who admit to “normal dieting,” will merge into pathological dieting. Roughly 1/4 of those will suffer from a partial or full-on eating disorder. Regarding eating disorders, body image can not only control the severity of an eating disorder, but it is also a major predictor of relapse in both anorexia and bulimia nervosa.

What are the “treatments” for body image?

Various methods have been used to attempt to correct distorted body size estimation. One method has been to provide corrective feedback to anorexia nervosa patients with the aim of improving accuracy over time. This can be accomplished in several ways. One strategy involves providing feedback on standardized measures of size estimation. Another involves directing patients to study their body in a mirror and try to develop a more objective or realistic view of their weight or shape. Some studies have shown that this exercise may have value in helping patients overcome denial of the severity of their disorder. However, most clinicians agree that directly changing body size perceptions has very limited role in the treatment of anorexia nervosa. It is not surprising that confronting patients with their own distorted self-perception has little therapeutic effect since most patients have a long history of feedback by friends, family and therapists that they are too thin and must gain weight.


Works Cited

  • Body Image. Psychology Today, Accessed 15 Apr. 2018.
  • Body Image in the Media. Mirror Mirror, Accessed 15 Apr. 2018.
  • “Do Something . Org.” Do Something . Org, Accessed 15 Apr. 2018.
  • Eating Disorders. Kids Helpline, Accessed 22 Apr. 2018.
  • Eating Disorders Statistics. National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, Accessed 24 Feb. 2014.
  • Media’s Effects on Body Image. Produced by William Lewis, 2013. YouTube, Accessed 13 Nov. 2013.
  • National Eating Disorder Hotline. Pinterest, Accessed 22 Apr. 2018.
  • 9 Body Image Truths You Need to Know. Trish Blackwell, WordPress, Accessed 10 Apr. 2013.
  • Palmer, Mario. “5 Facts About Body Image.” Amplify, Accessed 24 Feb. 2014.
  • Roxby, Philippa. “Does Social Media Impact on Body Image?” BBC, 13 Oct. 2014, Accessed 13 Oct. 2014.
  • Survey Finds That Women Are More Likely To Consider Plastic Surgery Than They Were Ten Years Ago. ASAPS: The American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, Accessed 24 Feb. 2014.
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  1. April 26, 2018 by Lindsey

    This is a very interesting and informative presentation. Great job! I just had a couple questions: Do you think that if somebody suffering from anorexia nervosa would understand that they are extremely underweight if they saw somebody else that was of a similar weight (rather than looking at themselves)? Do you think that people shouldn’t diet at all because it could potentially lead to an eating disorder or do you think that is only the case with drastic diets?

    • April 30, 2018 by CC Yin

      Hi Lindsey, to answer your questions, I don’t really have a definite answer to the first one. I think that everyone reacts to situations differently, so if someone suffering from anorexia saw someone else who was also extremely underweight, they could realize their own condition, but it could also be extremely triggering. I also think that people should diet, but it’s important to keep in mind why you’re dieting… for example, it’s much healthier (from a mental perspective) to diet with goals of being fit or healthy rather than trying to loose ____ pounds by a certain time. I mainly just think that it’s the intention and thought around it. I also don’t really think that dieting causes eating disorders because there are so many more factors than just dieting (socio-cultural, biological, cognitive, etc.). Thank you so much for the comment and thought provoking questions!!

  2. April 27, 2018 by Jane MacRae

    This is a very engaging presentation!! I really enjoyed all of the information you had included in it. The video especially was very informative. This is a very big problem in modern times–I know many friends who have dealt with eating disorders, and a lot of them are influenced by social media. I think it’s great how you’re shedding more light on this important topic! Great presentation!

    • April 30, 2018 by CC Yin

      Thank you so much Jane! I also have a few of friends that have been diagnosed with eating disorders and are highly impacted by social media (which is one of the reasons why I chose this topic). Again, thank you Jane!!

  3. April 27, 2018 by Juli.Fernandez

    Your presentation is super interesting and informative. I had no idea that up to 91% of women were unhappy with the way their body looks. Honestly, this makes me feel like your presentation was that much more important as this topic definitely needs more awareness.

    • April 30, 2018 by CC Yin

      Thank you so much Juli! Your comment actually means a lot because my main goal was to raise awareness. Again, thank you!

  4. April 27, 2018 by Mandy.Friedlander

    I really enjoyed this presentation. I think explaining exactly what you were addressing is super helpful for your viewers because many people understand what body image is supposed to mean, but not often do we address it in the same way. I like the awareness that you are bringing to your topic as I think this topic is talked about but never addressed. Do you have any statistics on how men are affected by body image in the media?

    • April 30, 2018 by CC Yin

      Hi Mandy! Thank you for the comment! I do not have any statistics on hand about men and body image, but men are impacted just at women are. While the statistics for men aren’t as high, men are still impacted by negative body image and even eating disorders as well.

  5. April 29, 2018 by hannah filby

    Hey CC! First of all I miss having you in photo and i hope you’re having the most amazing time in China! Your project is so well done and I just need to acknowledge how prevalent this issue still is and how important it is to address. I like how you defined body image at first and the psychology behind it. You did a great job of explaining how social media impacts this. Keep pushing for change!

    • April 30, 2018 by CC Yin

      Hi Hannnah! Thank you so much, I also miss you and photo!

  6. April 29, 2018 by Mailie Saito

    I liked how you included a short video at the top of your presentation, it was really informative. I think body image is a big problem and I think media is a big part of why so many people struggle with body image issues so I really liked how you created awareness for it. I also liked how you included a helpline at the end.

    • April 30, 2018 by CC Yin

      Thank you so much Mailie! I thought that it was important to add the helpline for anyone who needs it 🙂

  7. April 29, 2018 by Annika.Singh

    This was a super informative presentation! The statistics you included were really shocking. I think it would be super interesting to see statistics on men and the media, as Mandy pointed out. What do you think individual people can do to combat the media’s portrayal of women and body image?

    • April 30, 2018 by CC Yin

      Hi Annika thank you so much for the comment! I think that the main thing that individual people should do is actually just be respectful to others and themselves. One other problem with body image in the media is “fat-shaming” and I think that as an individual, you can choose where you want to stand on that. I also think loving yourself, practicing self care, and staying mindful of not being so centered around body image is important to keep up daily.

  8. April 29, 2018 by Marcus.Jackson

    I enjoyed your presentation!!! I didn’t know that 8 out of 10 women aren’t happy with their reflection. Great presentation and topic.

    • April 30, 2018 by CC Yin

      Yeah I was surprised by that statistic as well. Thank you so much Marcus!

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