Five Signs & Symptoms of Unhealthy Body Image

Woman struggling with Body Dysmorphic Disorder

This Blog on Unhealthy Body Image Contributed by Canopy Cove

Body image is how you perceive your body when you look in the mirror or when you picture yourself in your mind. Unfortunately, many people have an unhealthy body image. There are at least five signs and symptoms that are exhibited when someone is struggling with a negative image of themselves.

Body image includes: [1]

  • What you believe about your own appearance (including your memories, assumptions, and generalizations).
  • How you feel about your body – including your height, shape, and weight.
  • How you sense and control your body as you move.
  • How you physically experience or feel in your body.

At a young age, we can begin to internalize messages we hear from our society, media, and those around us. In our western culture, these messages often revolve around an “ideal” body – for females, this is usually a thin yet curvaceous body type, and for males, this is often a lean yet muscular body type. These messages can powerfully impact our body image in an unhealthy way. [1, 2]

Having a healthy body image is an integral part of mental wellbeing and eating disorders prevention. Individuals who struggle with unhealthy or negative body image have a higher likelihood of developing an eating disorder and are more likely to suffer from feelings of depression, isolation, low self-esteem, and obsessions with weight loss. [1]

Here are five signs and symptoms of unhealthy body image: [2]

  1. Experiencing body dissatisfaction and being preoccupied with your body’s weight, shape, or appearance
  2. Having feelings of shame, anxiety, and self-consciousness about your body
  3. Frequently comparing your body to others’ and feeling that your body is flawed in comparison to others’
  4. Struggling with feelings of depression, isolation, low self-esteem, and/or disordered eating due to body dissatisfaction
  5. Using unhealthy behaviors as a means to change your weight or shape, such as dieting, skipping meals, fasting, smoking cigarettes, vomiting, and/or taking laxatives

The body positive and health at every size (HAES) movements are making great strides to promote size diversity, body acceptance, and a healthier body image for all ages, genders, races, abilities, etc.

As individuals and as a society, it is important that we embrace body diversity by recognizing all bodies as good bodies. While we all may have our days when we feel awkward or uncomfortable in our bodies, the key to developing positive body image is to recognize and respect our natural shape and learn to overpower those negative thoughts and feelings with positive, affirming, respectful, and accepting ones. [2]


  1. National Eating Disorder Association. Learn: Body Image. Retrieved from on Dec 3, 2018.
  2. National Eating Disorder Association. Learn: Body Image and Eating Disorders. Retrieved from Dec 3, 2018.

About Our Sponsor:

Canopy Cove Eating Disorder Treatment Center is a leading residential Eating Disorder Treatment Center with 25 years experience treating adults and teens who are seeking lasting recovery from Anorexia, Bulimia, Binge Eating Disorder and other related eating disorders.

About the Author:

Chelsea Fielder-JenksChelsea Fielder-Jenks is a Licensed Professional Counselor in private practice in Austin, Texas. Chelsea works with individuals, families, and groups primarily from a Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) framework.

She has extensive experience working with adolescents, families, and adults who struggle with eating, substance use, and various co-occurring mental health disorders. You can learn more about Chelsea and her private practice at

The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of eating disorders. These are not necessarily the views of Eating Disorder Hope but an effort to offer a discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

We at Eating Disorder Hope understand that eating disorders result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an eating disorder, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.

Published on December 5, 2018.
Reviewed & Approved on April 12, 2024, by Baxter Ekern, MBA

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