Body Image: The truth behind body image disorders and dysmorphia

By Jordan Clouthier
May 1, 2017

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Video by Hope Daluisio and Chris Fonte

“I want everyone to be comfortable in their own skin,” Vanessa Lawrence-Fulton, president of Body Image Coalition, said.

Vanessa is a senior at Cabrini University. She joined Body Image her freshman year of college because of Dr. Michelle Filling Brown, a professor here at Cabrini University.

Vanessa Lawrence- Fulton was in a Living Learning Community her freshman year called Realizing Dreams. In this LLC she and the students got an understanding about what to do after they have graduated from Cabrini. She also learned about topics relating to privilege and how everyone is different and how they have to accept themselves for who they are.

Body image is something that a lot of teens and even adults deal with. Looking in the mirror and seeing something about oneself that one does not like is a very common.

Body Image though is not the only problem people struggle with. There are also eating disorders.

According to Eating Disorder Hope, an eating disorder is a mental illness when a person can either eat too much or not enough. There are two different types of eating disorders. The two most common types of Eating Disorders are anorexic or bulimic.

“When I was growing up my older sister had a binge eating disorder. I remember how obsessed she was with her weight and it killed me to see her go through that and continue to struggle with the disease because she is a beautiful person in my eyes,” Lawrence-Fulton said. “It made us closer as siblings. Even though it is something that she continues to struggle with, I am always there to support her. Her having this disease keeps me going with the work that I am trying to do with Body Image Coalition.”

Being anorexic means that a person sees themselves as overweight, when in fact anorexics are very underweight. Anorexics will limit their food to very little to hardly anything and almost starve themselves.

When one has bulimia, they binge eat. That means when one is bulimic they take in so much food that they actually make yourself sick to get rid of the weight that you just ate. Having bulimia, you have a fear of weight gain.

“There is no single cause of an eating disorder but instead one may have several contributing factors. Eating Disorders are complex conditions that often arise from a combination of long-standing behavioral, biological, emotional, psychological, interpersonal and social factors,” Sara Maggitti director of counseling and psychological services of Cabrini University said.

Graphic by Jordan


According to The National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders or  ANAD  these are just a few of the statistics that have been found in the health problems of Eating Disorders.

“In the United States, 20 million women and 10 million men suffer from a clinically significant eating disorder at some time in their life, including anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder or other type. For a variety of reasons, eating disorders remain underreported,” Maggitti said. “Additionally, many peoples struggle with body dissatisfaction and disordered eating attitudes and behaviors that does not meet the criteria of a diagnosis of an Eating Disorder. By age six, girls especially start to express concerns about their own weight or shape. 40 to 60 percent of elementary school girls between six and 12-years-old are concerned about their weight or about becoming too fat. This concern endures through life.”

Having an eating disorder is nothing anyone should ever have to go through.

According to Eating Disorder Victoria, when family members find out about a loved one having an eating disorder, they tend to feel many different things. They can sometimes feel responsible for what happened. They can feel guilty for not noticing what was happening to their loved one. They also can sometimes have a problem understanding why it happened and why their loved one did what they did to themselves.

Eating Disorders are not the only problem with body image. There is also a disease called Body Dysmorphia.

Body Dysmorphia is when a person will spend hours looking at their body and find everything wrong with their appearance. They do not like anything about their appearance or their body. One really does not believe anything about themselves looks okay and how it is  supposed to be. It can cause many psychological problems and that person could cause major damage to themselves.

“The primary symptoms of body dysmorphia are anxiety which result in compulsive preoccupation with the perceived flaw in one’s appearance. These flaws are often of the skin, hair or nose and lead to excessive checking behaviors including grooming, use of mirrors and more. It does not have a specific cause but is believed to be caused by a variety of factors,” Maggitti said.

According to the ADAA, people with Body Dysmorphia may even undergo unnecessary plastic surgeries to correct perceived imperfections, never finding satisfaction with the results.

Katharine Phillips, MD states that Body Dysmorphic Disorder affects 1.7 percent to 2.4 percent of the general population — about 1 in 50 people. This means that more than 5 million people to about 7.5 million people in the United States alone have BDD. BDD is about as common as obsessive-compulsive disorder and more common than disorders such as anorexia nervosa and Schizophrenia.

No one ever wants to go through something like this or watch someone go through this.

Sara Maggetti states that when approaching people about these diseases, people have to share and listen to one another. 

If they have an eating disorder, do not try to force them to eat or try to portion what they eat. For eating disorders, there are many treatments that a person can look into on the Eating Disorder Hope website.

For those who are suffering with Body Dysmorphic disease, Andrea Hartmann, PhD, Jennifer Greenberg, PsyD and Sabine Wilhelm, PhD have many recommendations on the International OCD Foundation website of where you can go and find treatments.

Jordan Clouthier

I am a sophomore at Cabrini University. This is my first year writing for the Loquitur. I may not be the strongest writer but I am here to learn and to give so much information to not only my school but to the public as well

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