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Positive Mental Health

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The Dangers of
Body Checking

by Julianna Strano

Checking our appearance in the mirror as we get ready each morning is a common component of many of our daily routines. Looking in the mirror as we pass by to make sure we are ready to go is a simple habit. However, there are times when checking our reflection in the mirror can become unhealthy to our mental health and well-being.

When checking our appearances and bodies becomes an obsession, we can define the behavior as body checking. The National Eating Disorders Association defines body checking as, “obsessive, intrusive thoughts and behaviors about body shape and size that can involve repeatedly checking appearance in the mirror, checking the size and appearance of certain body parts, and/or asking others whether they look fat.”

An article from Verywellmind.com gives a few examples of body checking behaviors:

  • Pinching your abdomen

  • Trying to feel your bones

  • Weighing yourself frequently

  • Zeroing in on specific body parts in the mirror

  • Asking friends or family members’ opinions about your body

  •  Comparing your shape to others

 

Constantly checking our bodies and looking at our reflections in the mirror can lead to negative self-esteem and body image.

The National Eating Disorders Association explains what the term body image means. “Body image is how you see yourself when you look in the mirror or when you picture yourself in your mind. It encompasses:

  • What you believe about your own appearance (including your memories, assumptions, and generalizations).

  • How you feel about your body, including your height, shape, and weight.

  • How you sense and control your body as you move.  How you physically experience or feel in your body”

 

Body checking can be harmful to an individual's confidence, self-esteem, and mental health. It often goes hand in hand with eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa and binge eating.

Camille Williams, LCPC, Clinical Therapist at Timberline Knolls Residential Treatment Center describes body checking behaviors as “pre behaviors” in an article published by Eating Disorder Hope. Oftentimes the body checking behaviors that individuals develop can begin to lead them down various harmful paths.

Camille Williams writes, "In an eating disorder (ED), the behaviors that may first come to mind include binging, purging, restricting, exercise, diet pills, laxatives, chewing and spitting, etc. However, body checking behaviors are just as dangerous and need significant attention in recovery. Standard body checking behaviors include the use of the scales, measuring tape, hand measurements, or the mirror. These can be considered “pre-behaviors” because many of these behaviors can lead someone to the overt actions first listed."

Checking our bodies and appearances is a normal habit for most of us. However, the behaviors can become problematic and harmful if they begin to take a toll on our mental health, self-esteem, or get in the way of our day to day lives.

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Celebrating World
Mental Health Day

by Julianna Strano

Each year in October individuals come together to show support and spread awareness for mental health. October 10th is known as World Mental Health Day, and this year's theme is “Make mental health for all a global priority”.

The World Health Organization states, “The overall objective of World Mental Health Day is to raise awareness of mental health issues around the world and to mobilize efforts in support of mental health.”

 

Mental health is greatly important and it is beneficial to everyone when individuals are open and are able to have discussions and spread awareness about the topic.

The National Institute of Mental Health states that about one in five adults in The United States struggle with mental illness. The discussion of mental health can help show support and let those who may be struggling know that they are not alone. You never know who might be struggling and who might benefit from the support.

 

Starting discussions and spreading awareness on the topic of mental health can also help to break down and fight the stigmas that still surround the topic.

 

“Stigma and discrimination continue to be a barrier to social inclusion and access to the right care; importantly, we can all play our part in increasing awareness about which preventive mental health interventions work and World Mental Health Day is an opportunity to do that collectively,” as stated by The World Health Organization.

 

Many people believe that the stigma that is behind mental health comes from a lack of understanding on the topic. The more awareness that is spread and the more individuals educate themselves and each other on the topic, the easier it is for the stigmas to start to break.

 

Stigma and discrimination that surrounds the topic of mental health makes it difficult for individuals to feel comfortable opening up about their feelings and can make it difficult for individuals to want to reach out for help.

 

World Mental Health Day gives us as a society the opportunity to spread awareness, educate ourselves and others, and start conversations on the topic. It’s important that we talk about mental health not only on October 10th, but every day. Mental health is an important aspect of each and every one of our lives.

 

The World Health Organization explains the campaign and benefits of World Mental Health Day and states, “WHO will work with partners to launch a campaign around the theme of Making Mental Health & Well-Being for All a Global Priority. This will be an opportunity for people with mental health conditions, advocates, governments, employers, employees and other stakeholders to come together to recognize progress in this field and to be vocal about what we need to do to ensure Mental Health & Well-Being becomes a Global Priority for all.” 

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Julianna Strano is a recent graduate from The University of Arizona where she graduated with a degree in both journalism and sociology. Julianna is passionate about all topics related to health and wellness and has the goal of educating and informing others through her writing. Julianna joined the editorial staff of Today's Patient to have the opportunity to help educate others on patient rights and her many articles reflect that.

October 2022  page 3

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