Muscle Dysmorphia

Women using image filters - River Centre Clinic

Body Dysmorphia, Social Media & Image Filters

Social media is a popular tool for communication and entertainment. Few people would question the fact that people are spending an increasing amount of time on these new media platforms. In recent years, social media has become much more visual in presentation and layout. However, it is the evolution of the technology used to manipulate and alter images that have researchers concerned.

Social Media Dysmorphia:

The journalist Katie Couric made headlines when she shared an unedited selfie of herself without makeup. She shared the image of herself to draw attention to the distorted reality that photo editing software and applications can create. Couric was encouraging people to embrace their natural self and not be ashamed. Mental health professionals are concerned that unknowingly viewing heavily edited images can create a sense of body dysmorphia in the viewers. The term Snapchat Dysmorphia is now becoming an increasingly common phrase.

In the past decades, people are accustomed to seeing heavily edited images in advertisements. The fact that individuals in these ads have been airbrushed either physically or digitally is not a surprise. But now the technology has advanced to a level where the common social media platforms like Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat all have heavily edited photos. These images can portray an unrealistic and unattainable reality.

The question is whether social media users are aware that these images of average, everyday people are altered through the use of newer digital filters? The brain of the viewer who is looking at the image may not realize that it has been altered. This lack of awareness can have a negative impact on the viewer’s personal body image.

Photo Editing Apps:

Image and video editing software have been around for many years. These also could create an unrealistic expectation of beauty. What has changed is that now there are downloadable apps that offer high-tech image filtering capabilities. Now almost anybody can modify a photo on their smartphone, no previous experience required. Photo editing applications like Adobe Lightroom or Facetune make it easy for users to boost color saturation, clear up one’s complexion or whiten a person’s teeth.

The fact that software Lightroom can alter reality is not problematic. Issues occur when the people who are viewing the images are not aware that they are looking at a distorted reality. This images may present body image concepts that are physically unrealistic. Yet, due to the everyday, common feel of many social media platforms, viewers are sometimes tricked into believing they are looking at unedited photos.

Recent articles in the JAMA state that plastic surgeons are increasingly receiving requests to make patients look like their selfie images. Again, this is because photo editing software is becoming the norm, which is altering people’s perception of beauty and their overall body image.

The growth in cases of what some researchers are calling Snapchat dysmorphia can negatively impact people’s self-esteem. If severe enough, these self-esteem and body image issues can develop into body dysmorphic disorder.

Other Studies have already shown that there is a correlation between social media use and eating disorders like Orthorexia. People with this disease excessively focus on what they consider healthy eating. In doing this, they can actually start to damage their physical health. Studies have shown a correlation between orthorexia and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Some studies are pointing to a link between Instagram users and signs of orthorexia.

Broader research has shown that there is a definite correlation between social media usage and negative feelings. A recent study from the American Journal of Preventive Medicine indicated that the more time individuals spent on social media websites, the more isolated and lonely they felt. Researchers believe that social media websites expose people to “highly idealized representations” of other people’s lives. This, in turn, creates feelings of envy as well as a distorted belief that other people are happier and more successful.

As more studies are conducted, it appears that the heavy consumption of social media content can create negative consequences. Social media channels may not create eating disorders and other mental health concerns, but these websites can exacerbate a pre-existing problem. For comments or questions about this topic or eating disorders in general, please reach out to us.

Who We Are:

At River Centre Clinic, our focus is to provide high-quality medical treatment for eating disorders. Our therapies have a proven track record and are cost-effective. We provide specialized care for patients with eating disorders in a state-of-the-art treatment environment. The clinic follows a treatment philosophy designed to provide an affordable treatment alternative to inpatient care. Our clinic provides state-of-the-art treatment located in a modern, spacious and tranquil setting in Sylvania, Ohio (just outside of Toledo, OH). The facility provides an effective and safe alternative to hospitals or hospital-based programs. Living facilities are located in the main building to comfortably accommodate adults and adolescents in separate units.

Eating Attitudes Test (EAT-26)

The EAT-26 is the most widely cited standardized self-report screening measure that may be able to help you determine if you have an eating disorder that needs professional attention. Take the EAT-26 now and get immediate and anonymous feedback.

Follow on Twitter:  @River_Centre

Dysmorphia, Social Media, Body Image 

Contributor: ABCS RCM

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River Centre Clinic

Muscle Dysmorphia, Eating Disorders & Males

The term eating disorder is commonly associated with younger women, even though research has shown that eating disorder symptoms and behaviors also occur in women over 50. However, this stereotype that eating disorders only appear in females is a misconception. Studies have shown that eating disorders do not discriminate, with males also suffering from this potentially lethal disease. Some studies have shown that males account for an estimated 5 to 15 percent of patients with anorexia or bulimia. Symptoms of binge-eating disorder are displayed in 35 percent of males. In males, especially boys and young men, these illnesses create a distorted sense of body image. For males, this distortion is often in the form of muscle dysmorphia, a type of disorder characterized by an extreme concern with becoming more muscular.

For boys and young men with muscle dysmorphia and related disorders, they want to lose weight or gain weight in order to “bulk up.” Young men who believe they are physically too small may actually start using anabolic steroids or other dangerous substances in an attempt to increase their body’s muscle mass. Eating disorders and muscle dysmorphia are listed separately in the 5th edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. However, the occurrence of these disorders is often seen as a collection of related behaviors. Both are the direct result of over-evaluating an idealized body type, which fuels either a drive for leanness, muscle mass or both. These eating disorders and body image distortions can give rise to disordered eating behaviors in boys, young males or even older men. Yet, in pop culture and society at large, muscular bodies are encouraged for boys. In American sports, being lean and muscular is seen as a beneficial attribute for nearly all sports. In fact, in certain athletic activities such as wrestling and gymnastics, severe weight and eating control is almost encouraged. So how do parents and loved one identify what is healthy versus unhealthy eating in boys and young men?

One question to ask is whether the person with the potential eating disorder is prone to anxiety, depression and perfectionistic tendencies. Other warning signs include people who have been bullied, felt too skinny or have struggled with their weight. These are all contributing factors for boys to develop some type of eating disorder. People should also consider their family’s personal history when considering whether or not a loved one is struggling with some form of muscle dysmorphia or related eating disorder. Risks are increased if there is a family history of eating disorder behaviors or anxiety issues. What are the family norms surrounding food and body image? Adults in a family are often the role models for their children. If discussions of weight and body shaming are frequent topics, kids will notice. From a mental health standpoint, the goal is to have a healthy sense of self and body. Excessive behaviors are usually a sign of a deeper issue. With this in mind, here are four warning signs to watch for in boys and young males:

  • Engaging in extreme dieting.
  • Quickly losing or gaining body weight.
  • Obsessing over dieting.
  • Binge eating and vomiting.

The presence of these behaviors could indicate that an eating disorder is developing. If this is the case, it is better for an individual to receive treatment as soon as possible. Earlier treatment has a better likelihood of success since these disordered behaviors will have less time to become entrenched habits. The concern is not only for the boy’s emotional health, but also for his physical health. Good physical fitness is great, but obsessive behaviors and perfectionism are not. If all signs point to a problematic body image and the existence of an eating disorder, it is beneficial to see a mental health professional who specializes in treating these conditions. Sadly, this topic is rarely talked about among young males. There is still a stigma surrounding publicly discussing mental illness. An additional stigma exists due to the fact that eating disorders are still seen as a women’s issue.

For additional questions about eating disorders in boys and young men, contact the staff at River Centre Clinic. Their programs provide a full range of treatment options for children and adults with a primary diagnosis of an eating disorder. For immediate and confidential feedback, take River Centre Clinic’s EAT-26 (Eating Attitudes Test) assessment. It is a widely cited standardized self-report screening measure that can help determine whether an individual has an eating disorder that requires professional treatment.

Follow us on Twitter:  @River_Centre

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