How Negative Body Image Can Impact Addiction
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For years, women have compared themselves with other women in the media, especially celebrities. With the advent of social media, this trend became more dangerous, as women were comparing themselves with other women all over the world. From this trend, many women have developed a negative body image. Much has been written about how negative body image affects self-esteem and can influence eating disorders, but can negative body image also impact addiction?

The Far-Reaching Impact of Negative Body Image

Having a negative body image may begin as not liking your appearance, most commonly weight, size, or body type. However, your body image quickly becomes more than just not liking what you look like. Those negative messages that you constantly send yourself not only stay with you, but they also multiply and create other negative messages about yourself, eroding away at your self-esteem.

The reverse can also be true. Self-esteem can also be low as a result of trauma, abuse, or other causes, which can lead to negative thoughts and a negative body image. Low self-esteem can result in negative or self-destructive behaviors. Coupled with poor self-esteem and negative body image, these behaviors can lead to anxiety, depression, and even suicidal ideation.

The Correlation Between Eating Disorders and Addiction

Another known consequence of a negative body image is disordered eating or developing an eating disorder. Disordered eating stems from faulty beliefs about food and exercise that often come from distorted or negative views about your body. Eating disorders are actually mental health disorders that create serious health issues and can even cause death.

According to one government report, up to 50 percent of people with eating disorders also abuse substances. Likewise, up to 35 percent of those who abuse substances also have eating disorders. Both of those figures represent five to ten times the percentages in the average population. What often begins as a negative body image can end up as both an eating disorder and an addiction.

Making an Existing Substance Use Disorder Worse

For those who already have a substance use disorder, having a negative body image only feeds the negative thoughts and behaviors. A vicious cycle is created of substance abuse, negative body image, poor self-esteem, and negative thoughts and behaviors. All of those components feed off of one another and compound one another, worsening the substance use disorder as well as everything else.

When there are so many components feeding into this cycle and contributing to the addiction, it can reinforce the substance use and make it that much more difficult to stop using substances. Breaking those negative thought patterns and behaviors becomes that much more difficult when a negative body image has reinforced them over and over again. Using substances to try to cope with the pain that those negative thoughts and behaviors have reinforced can simply make everything worse.

Addiction Created by the Pain of Negative Body Image

For some women, the negative thoughts about their bodies take root and grow, causing pain and shame about themselves. This pain can become unbearable, and some women will turn to substances to try to numb or escape the negative thoughts and pain. By using substances as an attempt to escape the pain, an addiction can develop.

Other women may use certain substances, such as cocaine, also known as “the skinny drug,” in an effort to lose weight due to their negative body image. Despite their original ideas being image-related, they end up with an addiction. What started out as negative thoughts about your image can create a serious substance use disorder.

Is Healing Possible for Body Image and Addiction?

When you are ready to stop the cycle of negative thoughts and behaviors, you can find treatment for addiction and find healing. While you are in treatment, you will explore the reasons that you developed a substance use disorder in therapy. Looking at the negative thoughts and behaviors surrounding your body image will allow you to find acceptance and healing. You can forgive yourself and start fresh with a new perspective on how you view yourself and your body.

You can make new decisions about your body image and about how you think about yourself. By changing your perspective on how you think and talk to yourself and how you view yourself, you can learn self-acceptance. As you experience the healing of self-acceptance, you can repair your self-esteem. These will help to fortify your recovery and help to prevent relapse. Changing how you feel about your image can change your life.

Negative body image can erode your self-esteem and lead to negative thinking and behaviors. You may develop anxiety, depression, disordered eating, an eating disorder, or a substance use disorder from having a negative body image. Finding healing from addiction and negative thinking and behaviors can help change your life. The Ho Tai Way – Recovery For Women understands the impact having a negative body image can have on addiction. Our detox and residential treatment program offer group and individual therapy, including education about nutrition with a licensed nutritionist for those with eating disorders. Located between the cool, calming mountains and the warm, sunny beaches in Costa Mesa, California, our facility provides trauma-informed care in a safe, tranquil refuge for healing. Our staff offers wisdom and compassion in a non-judgmental space as you begin your recovery. Please call us at (714) 581-3974 to learn more about our program.