Image Disorders and Social Pressure
As seen previously, the issue of social and aesthetic standards cross our relationship with the world and with our own body, which can sometimes end up becoming an aggravating factor, resulting in psychic illness.
Even though there is no single and definitive cause, disturbances and image disorders are directly related to the notions of norma e social standard. Individuals affected by psychological image problems tend to perceive their appearance in a distorted way, often focusing on imperfections or flaws that may not even be evident or important to others. Anorexia nervosa and bulimia, for example, are extreme manifestations of social pressure to meet aesthetic and beauty standards. It is known that society often rewards extreme thinness with praise and admiration, encouraging harmful behaviors in pursuit of this unattainable ideal.
According to the Institute of Applied Psychology (INPA):
“Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) is a psychological disorder in which the person has a distortion of their own image. The patient becomes preoccupied with small details and defects in his body, causing strong anguish. […].
BDD has been in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V) since 1987. Thus, it is estimated that the disorder affects 1.7% to 2.4% of the population, making it a very common disorder.
There is no specific cause for Body Dysmorphic Disorder. However, some researchers believe that genetic factors and family history are related to the development of BDD. The environment in which the person is inserted can affect the onset of the disorder. Furthermore, patients with OCD, anxiety disorders or depression are more likely to develop BDD.”
Considering the INPA information, we can see that there is a correlation between anxiety and depression with image disorders. Given the understanding that body image is inadequate to society, it is not only the external body that suffers from it, but everything that makes up our inner body as well. However, there are many cases of psychic suffering that do not add up to the index of people with the disorder, but that should also put us on alert.
An article by Taise Spolti, in the column Viva Bem da Uol, demonstrates how the use of social networks can end up enhancing the psychic suffering derived from the thought of inadequacy of the body:
“A trigger for body dysmorphic disorder is the perfection that the internet constantly brings us. We are attacked second by second by perfections, which include: bodies, faces, lives, cars, routines, families, clothes, lifestyle and motivational profiles. The latter, for example, constantly try to show that your life can improve at all costs, that where you are is not your place and that you can get better if you follow the tips they have to sell for a few monthly installments (of money, but also of life, which fades away).”
Taíse also warns about the beautification filters used on networks like Instagram that propagate an unreal image in everyday posts, reinforcing the idea that the natural is not welcome. The use of filters has become so normal that when the user posts an image without a filter, it is accompanied by the hashtag “without filter”, sounding almost like a reinforcement that it is possible for something beautiful to exist without artificial embellishment.
I spoke in another text about how our life seems to be buoyed by social networks and our “virtual self”. We live in an era in which we only exist if we post and when we post, but what is published must always be done from an aesthetic point of view and a falsification of reality. It’s as if, even when we want to look real and share our lives through the networks, this is only possible when we artificialize the moment, whether through filters, poses, etc. We are facing a complex problem, since there is an urgent need to be seen and shown, but not in a real and natural way. It is necessary to be within the aesthetic and instagrammable standards, otherwise the “like” does not come!!!
Realizing this causal web is urgent, as we consume what we post and thus are jointly feeding standardizing notions and idealized bodies.
The construction of identities often involves the internalization of messages and social norms, which can lead to conflicts between the authentic self and the self shaped by external expectations. It is important to understand that image disorders are not merely individual problems, but the result of a social system that distortedly values aesthetic conformity.
By questioning the social and aesthetic norms that contribute to image disorders, we can create a foundation for healing and transformation. This involves recognizing that beauty and identity cannot be defined by one-dimensional standards, but rather must be explored and celebrated in their diversity.
We must create alternative paths to the oppressive norms of society. This implies exploring new forms of identity, expression and relationship with the body and image. An inspiring example of promoting transformations through social networks is the Body Positive movement, which celebrates bodies of all shapes, sizes and colors. This approach challenges conventional aesthetic norms and promotes acceptance of the body as it is. Through Body Positive, people can rebuild a healthier and more compassionate relationship with their own bodies, breaking with hegemonic patterns that enhance the emergence of image disorders.
This type of movement is important mainly because it brings us together and reminds us that the standard is based and fed by the capitalist system, which, through the propagation of idealized bodies, sells the image of perfect lives. In this way, promoting the acceptance and diversity of our bodies is also a moment of social struggle, which challenges power structures seeking to subvert established norms.
But for this movement to become even more expressive, it is necessary that we continue to question everything that is established as norma e standard. The acceptance of the plurality of bodies depends on the promotion of education and critical awareness in relation to social and aesthetic standards. By understanding how these norms are constructed and maintained, we can resist their influence and work to challenge them. Education about the manipulation of images in the media, for example, can enable people to question idealized representations that often cause dissatisfaction and image disturbance.
By challenging compliance and questioning norms, we can work to create a more inclusive, diverse and compassionate culture. Through this critical analysis, we are invited to recognize the complexity of the relationships between body, identity and society, and to cultivate a space of transformation and authenticity.