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Body Image Issues

Body image is a person's perception of the aesthetics or sexual attractiveness of their own body. The phrase body image was first coined by the Austrian neurologist and psychoanalyst Paul Schilder in his book The Image and Appearance of the Human Body (1935). Human society has at all times placed great value on beauty of the human body, but a person's perception of their own body may not correspond to society's standards. The concept of body image is used in a number of disciplines, including psychology, medicine, psychiatry, psychoanalysis, philosophy and cultural and feminist studies. The term is also often used in the media. Across these disciplines and media there is no consensus definition, but body image may be expressed as how one views themselves in the mirror, or in their minds. It incorporates the memories, experiences, assumptions, and comparisons of one’s own appearance, and overall attitudes towards their height, shape, and weight.[2] An individual’s impression of their body is also assumed to be a product of ideals cultivated by various social and cultural ideals.

Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) is a mental disorder characterized by the obsessive idea that some aspect of one's own appearance is severely flawed and warrants exceptional measures to hide or fix it. In BDD's delusional variant, the flaw is imagined.[2] If the flaw is actual, its importance is severely exaggerated. Either way, one's thoughts about it are pervasive and intrusive, occupying up to several hours a day. The DSM-5 categorizes BDD in the obsessive–compulsive spectrum, and distinguishes it from anorexia nervosa. BDD is estimated to affect up to 2.4% of the population.[2] It usually starts during adolescence, and affects men and women roughly equally. The BDD subtype muscle dysmorphia, perceiving the body as too small, affects mostly males.[4] Besides thinking about it, one repetitively checks and compares the perceived flaw, and can adopt unusual routines to avoid social contact that exposes it. Fearing the stigma of vanity, one usually hides the preoccupation.[2] Commonly unsuspected even by psychiatrists, BDD has been greatly underdiagnosed.[2] Severely impairing quality of life via educational and occupational dysfunction and social isolation, BDD involves especially high rates of suicidal ideation and suicide attempts.

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