Body Image: The Role of Body Dissatisfaction on Self-Esteem

Body Image: The Role of Body Dissatisfaction on Self-Esteem

By Kim Simone

Body dissatisfaction is characterized by an individual’s persistent negative thoughts and feelings about his or her body. It is commonly influenced by external factors such as societal norms and perceived pressure from other individuals. High levels of body dissatisfaction can lead to low self-esteem and ultimately lead to harmful eating and exercising behaviors.

On the contrary, having a positive body image is associated with self-acceptance, higher self-esteem, and having healthier practices in regards to eating and exercising.

The Four Primary Elements of Body Image:

  1. Perceptual body image:  the way you see your body
  2. Cognitive body image:  the way you think about your body
  3. Affective body image: the way you feel about your body (often characterized by satisfaction or dissatisfaction)
  4. Behavioral body image: the behaviors you engage in as a result of your body image (may include unhealthy eating behaviors and exercising habits)

Body dissatisfaction fluctuates throughout the lifespan and is correlated with lower levels of self-esteem. These concerns are linked with poor self-concept, which not only affects physical and mental health, but also impacts individuals socially and academically. Since body dissatisfaction often leads to low self-esteem, individuals may be at risk for developing more serious disorders. A poor self-concept, and consequently a poor body image, may influence eating behaviors, making individuals more at risk for developing an eating disorder.

Given that the chance for recovery from an eating disorder increases the earlier it is detected, diagnosed, and treated, it is important to seek help as soon as warning signs appear. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a commonly used psychotherapeutic approach for eating disorder treatment. The approach emphasizes having the individual understand the interaction and inter relatedness between his or her thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. This therapy focuses on shifting negative thoughts and behaviors to more positive thoughts and healthier alternatives. Furthermore, a mental health care provider can screen and treat for other underlying issues, such as anxiety and depression, as these can influence treatment outcomes.  

If you or someone you know is struggling with body dissatisfaction, self-esteem, and/or eating disorders, please contact our psychotherapy offices in New York or New Jersey to talk to one of our licensed professional psychologists, psychiatrists, psychiatric nurse practitioners, or psychotherapists at Arista Counseling & Psychotherapy. Contact our Paramus, NJ or Manhattan, NY offices respectively, at (201) 368-3700 or (212) 722-1920 to set up an appointment. For more information, please visit


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