Castlewood Eating Disorder Treatment Center Blog

What is Body Image? Mind and Emotion at Work

Remember Bridget Jones repeatedly watching herself slide down the firehouse pole and proclaiming “bottom the size of Brazil!” According to cooperating research scientists in Australia and England, body image perceptions may be highly influenced by a tiny area of the brain called the insular cortex. This part of the brain is a workaholic, busily affecting attention, perception, awareness, pain, emotions, to list just a few. For some people with eating disorders, body image is affected when the insular cortex isn’t very good at its job, and it can’t correctly integrate how we realistically and accurately look as compared to our deeper perception of body image. This dysfunction in the insular cortex may have a particular effect on those with anorexia. No matter how much weight is lost, a person with anorexia legitimately sees themselves in the mirror as “fat.” The insular cortex may also explain why certain anatomical parts, such as Bridget’s Brazil, may be personally perceived in distressing and as having highly unrealistic proportions. More and more science is showing how closely the body and mind are related when it comes to eating disorders. Exciting treatments based on altering basic neurobiology are now being used. This helps correct some of the mischiefs done by the brain. But eating disorders aren’t only just about the insular cortex. Personal body image is reflected back from others, both in verbal and non-verbal ways. These reflections can feel good, feel neutral, or be deeply painful. Body image, either positive or negative, has an especially powerful effect on those with eating disorders. This constant mental image of ourselves, how we move about the world, and the perception of how others see us is a constant theme throughout our lives. The degree to which we are affected can result in an expansive range of reactions, from a mild “oh, well” on a bad hair day to bingeing and purging. Body image should be a soft reminder of just one part of who we are. Getting help for an eating disorder helps bring body image back into perspective. Contact Castlewood if you are concerned that you or someone you care for expresses concern about their body image through extreme eating behaviors. Help is essential, hope is possible! The #NoFilter movement is intended to stop artificial rules and regulations about beauty reflected in advertising and social thought. Share your thoughts and comments on this!