Negative body image: New treatment study

Therapies for those with a significant negative body image, which affects an individual's capacity to form close and affectionate friendships and relationships and may be associated with depression, low self-esteem, anxiety and fear, will be the focus of a new ANU study.

Mr Salih Ozgul and Ms Carolyn Deans, from the School of Psychology at ANU, are studying treatments for those with what is known as 'Body Image Disturbance' (BID) and are seeking participants from the Canberra region.

"Body Image Disturbance manifests as a significant preoccupation with a negative image of the body, or parts of the body," Mr Ozgul said.

"Without doubt negative body image is associated with a great deal of emotional distress and life disruption. It clearly impedes human happiness and well being by damaging a person's self-esteem, interfering in the person's capacity to engage meaningfully in life and develop a sense of belonging and acceptance," he said.

A 1997 body image survey of 4000 respondents found that the number of people who were dissatisfied with their overall body image had more than doubled over the past 25 years. The survey found that 56 per cent of women and 43 per cent of men were dissatisfied with their overall appearance.

In a recent study by ANU researchers on body image concern in the general public, 34 per cent of student participants indicated that they were very concerned about an aspect of their appearance, 26 per cent considered themselves misformed or misshapen, 20 per cent spent a lot of time worrying about their defect and 18 per cent spent a lot of time covering up perceived defects in appearance.

Although some level of dissatisfaction may be common, it is often only slight and transient with minimal impact on day-to-day functioning or their ability to form and maintain healthy relationships, Mr Ozgul said.

"But for some people negative body image has devastating consequences - including mental i

Contact: Amanda Morgan
Research Australia

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