Elena Darmenko

Expat Psychotherapist

Body Image Issues.
Red Flags, New Disorders, and Ways to Recover

Negative body image
Have you ever heard about a Zoom Boom? It's a quite new phenomena came in our lives in the past couple of years, making a significant effect on the body image issues. What is it about? I'm sure that most of us spend a lot of our time attending different online conferences, workshops, or even informal meetings with friends and family. And after months of conducting conversations via video call, lots of people have started to criticize their appearances more.

Were those crow's feet there before lockdown? Did my nose suddenly get bigger? Is one eyebrow higher than the other? Does any of this sound familiar?

Cosmetic doctors and plastic surgeons around the world have reported surges in bookings for surgical and non-surgical treatments following lockdown. It's being called a "Lockdown face" and referred to as the "Zoom Boom". It's driving interest in non-invasive facial procedures, like Botox or fillers, caused by the facial expressions we notice on video calls as well as to tackle wrinkles.

However, body image issues aren't a new disorder. It's well-know and there are proven and effective methods of recovering.

Negative Body Image – Why Does It Mean Much More Than Just "I Hate My Body?"

Our perception of our body plays a pivotal role in our self-esteem. If we are critical of our bodies, we are likely to feel inadequate, alienated from and ashamed of our bodies. Eating disorder sufferers often tend to disown uncomfortable feelings and turn toward negative body obsessing as a distraction.

In my practice I work with two main areas connected with a negative body image.

I support pregnant women. Their bodies are changing so fast, particularly in the second trimester and their biggest concern is about inability to take any control over these significant changes. You might develop stretch marks where your body gets larger. Sometimes your skin breaks out with acne. This also becomes a source of worries about relationships with their spouses – "What if I become less attractive for my spouse?". You may also be much more tired than usual and have mood swings more often. A negative mood may make you more likely to have unhealthy or negative thoughts about your body. Besides that, women tend to feel ashamed to discuss their worries with their spouses due to different reasons. So, creating a healthy attitude and accepting their new bodies, is very important for improving their mental well-being.

As an expat psychologist, I also work with body image issues, typical for this group of people. Different time zones, climate, environment, new food culture – all of this usually causes changes in eating behavior and eating habits. "How can I get my pre-expat body back?" is the most common question I'm asked. Yes, you can get your body back, but it's always a matter of finding a compromise between your previous habits and new environment. But I should be honest – this is a big job, and it requires time and discipline.

Therapy for Body Image Issues

In most of cases I use a complex of Art Therapy and CBT techniques. Art Therapy works perfect for visualization of client's thoughts and ideas about their ideal and real bodies. And CBT is an effective approach, where all irrational thoughts are recognized, analyzed, and restructured to a more neutral and rational self-talk.

Getting a qualified treatment for negative body image issues is a critical step to recovery. This problem won't just go away by itself.