Young people are highly susceptible to shame and sensitivity. Body shaming, in particular, can lead to various mental health and behavioral issues. Some people resort to substance use to cope with different forms of shaming. To prevent substance use disorder (SUD) and relapses, we must better understand the relationship between body shaming and substance use.
What Is Body Shaming?
Issuing negative comments regarding a person’s weight, size, or appearance is called body shaming. Body image is an important part of the developmental process for young people. Body shaming and comparison can occur in today’s media-saturated world, where people spend excessive amounts of time browsing the internet or virtually connecting with friends.
Body shaming is ubiquitous even when no adverse comments are present. TV shows, magazines, movies, and social media posts glorify “perfect” body images that few people can attain. Take models or influencers who advertise fashion or swimwear. Most of these images are manufactured or altered in some way to make them seem more attractive. Because even the models don’t look like they do in the photos, many young people feel bad about their bodies in this media environment.
Sometimes body shaming can become a subtle form of bullying. For example, weight-based jokes are common in many social atmospheres. We’re desensitized to this behavior, allowing such bullying to fester. Through appearance-related teasing or verbal bullying, body shaming can be a source of emotional damage and even trauma for young people.
Why Is Body Shaming Harmful?
First of all, body shaming can undermine physical health. Many young people, especially girls, can develop eating disorders because of body shaming experiences. Furthermore, when young people feel ashamed of their bodies and appearance, they develop low self-esteem, which can be at the root of many mental health and behavioral issues.
Shame is an often hidden but intense feeling about the self, leading to self-loathing and inadequacy. Shame, low self-esteem, and adolescent impulsivity create the perfect conditions for high substance use risk. Research shows that poor body image is highly correlated with substance use among youth, especially for ethnic minority groups.
Coping With Body-Shaming During Recovery
Recovery is a time for people to reconnect with themselves from a perspective of self-love. Recovering individuals who struggle with low self-esteem must address the harmful effects of body shaming. They may have become used to this distorted reality, but the deep-seated feelings associated with it can undermine their progress in recovery.
Shame can cause a vicious cycle of emotional stress, triggering intense negative emotions which put people at risk for relapse. Once recovering individuals can identify it and treat the cognitive distortions behind it, they can make changes in a positive direction.
Coping Mechanisms for Dealing With Body Shaming
Although we cannot control other people’s comments, we can undoubtedly stop ourselves from engaging in the vicious cycle of body shaming. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a good way to start this process. During recovery, those who struggle with body shaming should share this with their therapist, who can help them identify triggers and recognize cognitive distortions that drive a negative view of themselves.
Body shaming has become increasingly prevalent and harmful. Individuals who struggle with body image may need to try media detox to pull themselves from the toxic media environment. Additionally, social media addiction during recovery can be harmful, so limiting time spent on it can be beneficial. Individuals can use this time instead for enriching and uplifting activities, such as exercise, support group meetings, or healthy hobbies.
The ultimate defense against body shaming is a deep belief in one’s self-worth. Recovering individuals must not let outside opinions sway their commitment to unconditional self-love. They can focus on what they can control and the things that contribute to their well-being. Staying away from toxic people or environments that bring negative feelings about oneself is an important aspect of recovery.
Ground Yourself in Unconditional Self-Love
Individuals need to relearn unconditional self-love to establish social boundaries that guard against body shaming practices. This is a cornerstone of full recovery. As recovering individuals transition to life after rehab, many tend to doubt their self-worth. Unconditional self-love means they hold themselves in high esteem no matter what happens.
A key practice to self-love is connecting with and viewing oneself in a positive light. Journaling positive thoughts and affirmations are excellent ways to promote this practice. It is also important to be selective about who to hang out with. Individuals can benefit greatly from spending time with loving people who genuinely see and appreciate them for exactly who they are.
Most importantly, recovering individuals need to learn how to forgive themselves. This tends to be the last stretch to achieve unconditional self-love. Forgiveness means accepting imperfections, including a history of addiction. Working with a therapist can help individuals make strides in this area. They can help individuals identify healthy coping strategies and self-love practices.
Low self-esteem is one of the root causes of substance use disorder. Many people develop low self-esteem due to the widespread body-shaming practices in society and media. Laguna Shores Recovery offers counseling programs to address this root cause of addiction and mental health issues. We offer treatment plans that include detox, medication, 12-Step groups, and relationship skills coaching in addition to our stellar aftercare and alumni programs that help you stay on track. Most of our staff are in recovery themselves, so they know the importance of achieving a healthier body image and more self-love. Schedule an appointment with a licensed mental healthcare professional or therapist at Laguna Shores Recovery today. Call us at (866) 229-9923.