Many people suffer from painful feelings about their own bodies. It’s an important thing to interrogate. We tend to blame our bodies for such feelings, but research has shown that attachment is closely associated with body image and dissatisfaction (Hui & Brown, 2013). Our body image develops through interactions with significant figures in our lives (Kearney-Cooke, 2002), and any body image issues tend to be sparked by early experiences of bullying, humiliation, and body image criticism by family members or peers (Boyda & Shevlin, 2011; Wolke & Sapouna,2008). Furthermore, an insecure attachment is associated with a greater investment in body image, greater dissatisfaction, and more negative feelings about the body overall (Cash et al., 2004).
ISTDP can help here, because it focuses on the causes of such issues by addressing attachment and our responses to it. This kind of work can facilitate a recognition of our conscious wish for affiliation and attachment with others, a conscious awareness of how we have learned to expect others to respond (Abbass, 2015) – and how we have learned to relate to ourselves as a result of this expectation.
Abbass, A. (2015). Reaching Through Resistance. Seven Leaves Press: Kansas City, MO.
Boyda, D. & Shevlin, M. (2011). Childhood victimisation as a predictor of muscle dysmorphia in adult male bodybuilders. The Irish Journal of Psychology, 32, pp. 105–115. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/03033910.2011.616289
Cash, T. F., Theriault, J. & Annis, N. M. (2004). Body image in an interpersonal context: Adult attachment, fear of intimacy and social anxiety. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 23, pp. 89–103. http://dx.doi.org/10.1521/jscp.18.104.22.168987
Hui, M. & Brown, J. (2013). Factors that influence body dissatisfaction: Comparisons across culture and gender. Journal of Human Behavior in the Social Environment, 23, pp. 312–329. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/10911359.2013.763710
Kearney-Cooke, A. (2002). Familial influence on body image development. In T. Cash & T. Pruzinsky (Eds.), Body image: A handbook of theory, research, and clinical practice (pp. 99–108). New York, NY: Guilford Press.
Wolke, D. & Sapouna, M. (2008). Big men feeling small: Childhood bullying experience, muscle dysmorphia and other mental health problems in bodybuilders. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 9, pp. 595–604. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.psychsport.2007.10.002
Thoughts on Therapy and Mental Health