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Maria Barron
Professor Bevill
ENGL 1302-06
4 November 2016
Distorted Body Image
Body Image in the twenty-first century has become quite an interesting topic for both
men and women. It is no secret that photo altered images in the mass media and social media
influence the way young adults view themselves. Digitally altered pictures are most often one of
the many reasons adolescents have body image and self esteem issues. Both genders set
unrealistic body expectations for themselves, unfortunately those expectations are upheld by
their peers. It is obvious that advertisements use Photoshop to polish the products, but this is also
done to the models. The internet is now one of the many breeding grounds for these illusion
ideals. Now filtering and Photoshop applications can even be downloaded on phones so all
imperfections can be blurred out and for a brief moment be “fixed.” These innocent habits of
Photo shopping images can affect the human mind in the long run. Constantly being dissatisfied
with one’s body will take a toll mentally and eventually will cause an individual to take action in
harmful ways to the body. Later, when it comes to social life it will be harder to accept natural
beauty and expect people to fit the unrealistic standards of beauty. Body standards created by the
mass media leads to adolescents with low self-esteem, problems in their physical, mental, and
social health.
Many will oppose that Photoshop images are the cause of dissatisfaction of body image,
and that the images are easy to detect and the best thing to do is ignore the pictures. While this
may be true, however, the experiences eye or professional photographer or graphic designer will

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only be able to tell apart from reality and fiction after the alterations. However, the majority of
people who view the pictures are the public, and for the most part, the ones who are impacted the
most by the altered images are adolescents. Simply ignoring the problem does not work,
especially when our society is fixed and judges based on looks. Also, many will agree that
models and celebrities are paid to look good and have the best hair and makeup stylists that
achieve the goal of the best picture, Photoshop is just a means of polishing the pictures. That
many mean that Photo shopping is not the problem but rather the individual. Nevertheless,
constantly being exposed to these images results in set punishment with heavy dieting and selfloathing thoughts.
It is important for a growing adolescents to eat and exercise normally, but it may be
easier for teens to skip a meal or two in order to obtain their ideal beauty. When it comes to the
overly altered images and excessive exposure to them, it makes adolescents question themselves
if they are in the beauty standards, which ultimately leads adolescents to wonder and determine,
“that’s how I am supposed to look?” Adolescents are still developing their self-esteem and body
image, and might develop the conclusion that thinness corresponds to healthy, when that may not
always be the case. Adolescents being exposed to altered images in both media and social media
have a tendency to diet frequently when they struggle with self-esteem issues. For example,
Jennifer O’Dea who is has a PHD, MPH, says, “In a large, longitudinal study of 514 school girls,
colleagues found that girls with low self esteem at age 11 to 12 years old were at a significantly
greater risk of developing severe eating problems by 15 to 16 years of age” (60). Self-esteem
issues can lead to many effects concerning body image. Sometimes adolescents may take on
dieting to address their concerns, but dieting short or long term will not be helpful for a growing
teen and instead promote malnutrition. There are extreme cases of restrictive dieting that lead to

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persistent irritability, poor concentration, sleep disturbances, menstrual irregularities, growth
retardation, and delayed sexual maturation (French 695). Many adolescents do not see the
consequences to dieting and many of them will continue this for a long period of time, in order to
control their weight and be satisfied with who they see in the mirror. In a study done by Simone
A. French and colleagues, it was hypothesized that frequent dieting would be correlation with
negative psychosocial and health behavior outcomes. 85% of never dieters reported a positive
body image compared with 33.1% and 34.7% of those who dieted ten or more times and who
always dieted. Binge eating was reported by half of those who did diet and only 15% of those
who never dieted. Fears of being unable to stop eating were seven times more prevalent in
frequent dieter compared with never dieters (French 698-699). Certainly when adolescents diet
extremely it can result in low nutritional intake and effect their physical development. Not only
is it important for adolescents to fully develop their physical health but also their mentality.
Adolescents may not realize it but their psychological growth is underdeveloped and is
dangerous to be tainted with unrealistic ideals. Self-esteem is a direct link to mental health and
constantly criticizing adolescents in their physical appearance will lead to low self-esteem.
Especially if the individual is low in their self-esteem, and often desires the approval of others to
feel accepted. Altered images and media encourage the notion of self worth to be attached to
appearance and body image, and sense of self-worth has an impact on mental health. A study by
Chad E. Lakey and colleagues of the Department of Psychology in the East Tennessee State
University, proved and supported that subjects with low self-esteem are more likely to
experience failures of self-regulation, become angry and hostile, and engage in certain forms of
health- compromising and self-defeating behaviors. Positive self-esteem appears to expert a
beneficial effect on mental health (Lakey 567). Many of the effects that low self-esteem can

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develop are depression and anxiety, which may increase the chance of other severe disorders.
According to the Gale Encyclopedia of Diets, Body dysmorphic disorder was recognized as a
psychiatric disorder in 1997, although its symptoms have been exhibited in patients for more
than 100 years. The disorder involves obsession and complete preoccupation with an imagined or
mild physical flaw. It is known to occur in 1%–2% of Americans, but it is thought to be
underdiagnosed because it often occurs in conjunction with other psychiatric disorders such as
major depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder (Atkins). It is unfortunate for many to be
misdiagnosed and may not find the help they need. It all comes down to the effects of low selfesteem and the effect of the adolescents’ mental well-being. Not only is this problem apparent in
a psychological level but it effects the social aspect of teen’s life.
Lastly, low self-esteem will take a hold of the social health of a teen, this can lead to
social anxiety and a fear of negative judgement by peers. Comparing one self to unrealistic ideals
and pictures will ultimately lead the adolescent to fear and experience anxiety when in public or
around other. Based on a study by Natalie Hulme, Colette Hirsch, and Lusia Stopa, when
participants hold a negative self image in mind, they demonstrate less positive implicit self
esteem, and reported lower positive explicit and higher negative explicit state self esteem
irrespective to group membership (Hulme 169). It is unfortunate to know that many struggle with
self esteem can ultimately conclude that they are insufficient as a social member and potentially
limit the youth to successes. This study also provided that holding negative self images in mind
is detrimental for both high and low socially anxious participants, which is consistent with the
suggestions that imagery may have a causal role in the development of social anxiety (Hulme
169). Imagery and appearances distort body image, which effects social growth in adolescents.

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Altered images and unrealistic body image expectations ultimately lead to low self
esteem in adolescents that will react negatively towards physical, mental, and social growth.
Unknowingly adolescents will consequently hurt themselves in the long run. Evidently,
knowledge and education is key in rebuilding and preventing unnecessary low self esteem
amongst adolescents. If we do not reinforce positive body image and self esteem, generation
after generation, will result in extreme measures to accomplish the unrealistic body standards.

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Works Cited
Atkins, William Arthur, and Laura Jean Cataldo. "Body Image." The Gale Encyclopedia of Diets:
A Guide to Healthand Nutrition, edited by Kristin Key, Gale, 2013. Credo Reference, Accessed 18 Oct
French, Simone A., et al. “Frequent Dieting Among Adolescents: Psychosocial and Health
Behavior Correlates.” American Journal of Public Health 85.5 (1995): 695-701. Health
Source: Nursing/Academic Edition. Accessed 25 Oct.2016.
Hulme, Natalie, Colette Hirsch, and Lusia Stopa. "Images Of The Self And Self-Esteem: Do
Positive Self-Images Improve Self-Esteem In Social Anxiety?" Cognitive Behaviour
Therapy 41.2 (2012): 163-173. Academic Search Complete. Accessed 27 Oct. 2016
Lakey, Chad E., et al. "Effects of Contingent Self-Esteem on Depressive Symptoms and Suicidal
Behavior." Death Studies 38.9 (2014): 563-570. Health Source: Nursing/Academic
Edition. Accessed 18 Oct. 2016.
O'Dea, Jennifer. "The New Self-Esteem Approach for The Prevention of Body Image and Eating
Problems in Children and Adolescents." Healthy Weight Journal 16.6 (2002): 89.
Academic Search Complete. Accessed 17 Oct. 2016.