Body Dysmorphia, Fat Shaming and Current Society

Very triggering indeed are the terms being used in this title. Body dysmorphia is among the hottest topics in the world today, as is fat shaming. Although body dysmorphia is often thought of as women depressed about how fat they perceive themselves to be it is actually a much more comprehensive term that includes any obsession with any minor flaw or detail of yourself that is not actually problematic in reality. Fat shaming is a major subtopic here. I will dive deeper into these growing problems, why exactly they keep growing, and how to overcome them through self-love and grace. 

Body Dysmorphia

To see exactly where we’re at let us turn to the numbers. A study carried out in 2006 reported that BDD, or body dysmorphia disorder, affected 1.7% to 2.4% of the population.  Let’s compare that at the current rate. Currently the ranges have changed to 2.3% to a whopping 7% of the general American population. This is a sharp increase in a very short time. A medical study conducted as recently as January 2019 on 186 high school students aged 16 to 18 reported that Body Dysmorphia is rising among the youth. Upon surveying the students the findings were that females were most obsessed with body fat, acne, skin tone, height and body hair. Male concerns were mostly muscle build, height, acne, and thinning hair.

The scariest part about BDD? That an alarming 78% of those with the disease actually will contemplate suicide! This is clearly not a trivial disease. You will actually be pressed to find another disease with this high of a rate of suicidal ideation. And of course within in this very high number are all the stories of those who attempted to commit a suicide. The heartbreaking stories of failed suicidal attempts and beautiful people who stopped midway through their own suicide and had a last minute change of heart. These silent stories should be motivating enough for society to formulate courses of action to assist the public with this growing epidemic. Young and old, healthy and unhealthy, suffer from this silent killer. 

Fat Shaming

As mentioned fat shaming is a very significant cause of Body Dysmorphia Disorder and another evil society needs to address better. Fat shaming is when shame or judgement is brought upon people due to their weight. The victims may be content with their bodies but have to suffer unnecessarily and become vulnerable to feelings of low self-esteem. The problem of fat shaming has been compounded by society’s unhealthy eating culture which has given rise to obesity in this country. Larger numbers in obesity in the United States has made fat shaming more and more of a problem. This is not the root cause of the problem but has simply brought it to the forefront. Fat shaming is not okay and has to be shut down in any platform in society. Educators must implement this in their curriculums. Celebrities and other famous figures should discuss the issues publicly. And social media platforms should monitor possible fat shaming incidents and put a stop to them. Society must work together to end fat shaming and be accepting of all body shapes and sizes. There should not be any emphasized standard of beauty that shames those who do not fit it. Humanity is not made to fit into one type and that should be obvious.

Root Cause of Increasing Body Image Issues

The recent increase in body image issues can be attributed almost completely to social media and its prevalence in current society. Social media has many positive aspects and started out as a very helpful tool. With time however, it has begun to be a corrupting force on people of all ages. The most at risk are of course the younger generation and those with existing mental health issues. Social media platforms, and especially Instagram, have promoted a specific appearance based on current trends. Platforms are notorious for studying the market and bombarding users with what is popular in order to provoke a response. In this case the popular product is women with tiny waists, large backsides, round hips, full lips, and small noses. This push by Instagram to show photshopped and filtered images to young women combined with an extended quarantine and national shutdown has turned the focus from socializing with others to focusing on yourself and your appearance.

This has created the phenomenon we currently have of women having lower self esteem and getting cosmetic surgery at alarming rates. And this phenomenon has already been given a name by plastic surgeons: “Zoom Dysmorphia.”  Published in a survey of cosmetic dermatologists, “86% of respondents said patients had mentioned video conferencing as a reason to seek a cosmetic consultation And nearly as many said their patients were somewhat to significantly less happy with their appearance since using video conferencing during the pandemic.” And since the quarantine is still ongoing for the foreseen future, we must gain some control over this growing trend that is beneficial to plastic surgeons but detrimental to the mental health of the general public.

How to Combat this?

Because we know the cause of these very serious issues, we can take control of it. From everything mentioned above it is clear these social/mental issues need to be handled in an urgent and time-sensitive manner. So how to go about this? First of all limit your social media usage. Those who are consistently exposed to photoshopped or otherwise illusive images become more attached to these beauty standards and more determined to achieve them. Limiting exposure to social media in general will keep the images far way for longer. Out of sight, out of mind. 

The next thing you can do is work on your own self image and happiness. Being happy and valuing yourself will make you think twice about going under the knife for a risky, even deadly procedure. Did you know the ever-so-popular BBL, or Brazilian Butt Lift, has a fatality rate of 1 out of every 3000 procedures performed. So many known risks and yet young women all over the country are getting this trendy operation done to feel like they are attractive to others. Young people should care for and love their bodies by instead eating well and excersizing on a regular basis. In addition, take up hobbies you enjoy doing and go out of your way to enjoy life! Don’t forgo the pleasure of a nice day to sit alone and obsess over your appearance. You will only the regret the time, energ, and money you spent trying to fit into an ideal media standard. Lastly but very important, nourish your soul.  Many who get caught up in the social media frenzy surrounding beauty are lost and empty inside. Focus on this area of your growth.

A U.K. study on what triggers women to go for cosmetic surgery found that “females with low self-esteem, low life satisfaction, low self-rated attractiveness and little religious beliefs who were heavy television watchers reported a far greater likelihood of undergoing cosmetic surgery.  Further analyzing the data, scientists concluded “Stepwise regression analysis with the two attitude factors as criterion variables showed two major predictors for likelihood: religiousness and low self-esteem.” The lack of religion in life was found to be a major indicator of how likely someone would be open to going under the knife! The West’s decline in religious belief is having a truly negative impact on society. The importance of spirituality is not to be underestimated. Bringing it into your life can help you find more peace within yourself and look inward instead of on physical appearance.

The science backs up my recommendation. A military study conducted in 2016 further confirms that ” It is believed that the prevalence rate is higher in Western societies and is increasing because of society’s focus on body image and the media’s focus on beauty.”  That’s why those societies which are more religious also tend to be more confident and secure within themselves and less obsessed with appearance. Turn to God for peace of the spirit. Unlike society, God won’t discriminate appearances. And in the mean time, we’ll get society straightened out.

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