Body image

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Body image is a term which may refer to a person's perception of their own physical appearance, or the internal sense of having a body which is interpreted by the brain. Essentially a person's body image is how they perceive their appearance to be to others, which in many cases may be dramatically different from how they actually appear to them.


[edit] History

From the point of view of psychoanalysis, the French child psychoanalyst Francoise Dolto has developed a theory concerning the unconscious body image.[1] Negative feelings towards a fat person's body can in some cases lead to mental disorders such as depression or eating disorders, though there can be a variety of different reasons why these disorders can occur.

Within the media industry there have recently been popular debates focusing on how Size Zero models can negatively influence young people into feeling insecure about their own body image. It has been suggested that size zero models be banned from cat walks. Many celebrities are targeted by the media due to their often drastic weight loss and slender frames, examples of such personalities would be Victoria Beckham, Nicole Richie and British Super Model Kate Moss. Some examples of celebrity men targeted in a similar fashion can be found, but the media seem to focus principally on the effect that the Size Zero phenomenon has on young women. Media however, is generally quick to denounce celebrities endorsing fad diets, including popstars who describe girls who are not under a peer pressurized size, a "social suicide"[2].

Body image is often measured by asking the subject to rate their current and ideal body shape using a series of depictions. The difference between these two values is the amount of body dissatisfaction. Monteath and McCabe found that 44%[3] of women express negative feelings about both individual body parts and their bodies as a whole. Psychology Today found that 56% of the women and about 40% of the men who responded to their survey in 1997 were dissatisfied with their overall appearance.[4]

The desire to lose weight is highly correlated with poor body image, and more women than men desire to lose weight. Kashubeck-West et al. reported that when considering only men and women who desire to lose weight, sex differences in body image disappear.[5]

Men's body image is a topic of increasing interest in both academic articles and in the popular press. Current research indicates many men wish to become more muscular than they currently perceive themselves to be, often desiring up to 26 pounds of additional muscle mass.[6]

The desire for additional muscle has been linked to many men's concepts about masculinity. A variety of research has indicated a relationship between men's endorsement of traditionally masculine ideas and characteristics, and his desire for additional muscle[7]. Some research has suggested this relationship between muscle and masculinity may begin early in life, as boys' action figures are often depicted as super-muscular, often beyond the actual limits of human physiology. [8]

[edit] Body Image and the Brain

[edit] Definition and Origin

According to Vilayanur S. Ramachandran of the University of California, San Diego, the nature of self has five defining characteristics. One of them is the sense of embodiment and ownership of a body. Although we do in fact have a body, the brain is responsible for the construction of a "body-image," a term introduced in the writings of neurologist Henry Head. Your sense of having a body involves the visual system, the vestibular system, and proprioception: the sense of body position and movement (a term coined by Charles Scott Sherrington in his published work entitled, The Integrative Action of the Nervous System). Proprioception correlates with dynamic body maps in the somatosensory, motor, and parietal cortices. Most notable is the primary somatosensory receiving area (S1) in the somatosensory cortex, where the sensory homunculus or "little man" resides. The neurons in this region are responsible for cutaneous (skin), visceral (organ), and proprioceptive sensation, as they fire to represent each part of your body (from the genitalia to the internal organs) with the help of sensory input that travels from peripheral nerves, through the spinal cord, and into the brain.[9]

[edit] Neurological phenomenon

Ablation of those sensory nerves that carry sensory input from proprioceptors to the brain results in a loss of proprioception. A person may experience such a loss in certain limbs, or throughout the entire body. In Oliver Sacks book The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, he describes a patient named Christina who suffered from a selective neuritis—an infection in her spinal fluid that disconnected her entire body from the parietal cortices in her brain, causing a total loss of proprioception and therefore a sense of disembodiment. Christina would flail and overshoot her limbs. Her body flopped around like a rag doll. Standing or sitting straight was nearly impossible for her.

Many amputees who have lost limbs continue to sense the presence of them as their body image remains intact. Even those born without arms or legs can experience such phantoms. Often, the presence of these phantoms is so convincing that patients may attempt to step out of bed onto phantom legs or feet, or attempt to pick up cups with a phantom hand (Ronald Melzack, 1992-2006).

A phantom limb is integral to wearing a prosthetic, in which the phantom fits like a glove. The body image of the missing limb must be present, otherwise a prosthetic cannot be used effectively.

There are many types of phantoms. Some are paralyzed; frozen in unusual positions. Many phantoms are like photocopies: exact replicas of the missing limbs. Others are grossly distorted and disproportioned. They may even be disconnected from the rest of the body and dangle in mid-air. Some disappear, only to be resurrected decades later. Interestingly, a woman may have a phantom penis with phantom erections. While the overall sex of a human being is determined by DNA, it is possible that the sex of the brain itself is determined by the hormones an embryo is exposed to while in the womb. Nonetheless, a man may have a female brain, and a woman may have a male brain. This phenomenon may explain transsexualism, according to Vilayanur S. Ramachandran.

The somatosensory system has been known to be involved in phantom limb syndrome. According to V. S. Ramachandran, motor signals contribute to phantom limb phenomenon as well. The motor cortex is primarily responsible for voluntary movement. But when motor signals are sent to muscles, a duplicate signal is sent to the parietal lobes as well in a feedback loop, thereby eliciting a sense of proprioception in the missing limb.

[edit] Obesity a brain disorder?

There have been a lot of suggestions and treatments to prevent obesity, but it seems like the scale is still going up. In the article Issue for DSM- V: Should Obesity Be Included as a Brain Disorder by Nora Volkow and Charles O’ Brien the author challenge the American Psychiatric Association (APA) in whether obesity should be included in DSM V. They argue that “DSM- IV recognizes eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia as mental disorders with severe impairments and serious adverse outcomes, but does not recognize obesity despite its devastating medical and psychological consequences. Obesity characterized by compulsive consumption of food and the inability to restrain from eating despite the desire to do so. These symptoms are remarkably parallel to those described in DSM IV for substance abuse and drug dependence, which has led some to suggest that obesity may be considered “food addiction.”[10]

[edit] See also

[edit] Footnotes

  1. ^ Francoise Dolto, L'image inconscient du corps. Paris: Seuil, 1984.
  2. ^ Online audition website peaks traffic
  3. ^ The influence of societal factors on female body image. J Soc Psychol. 1997 Dec;137(6):708-27
  4. ^ Psychology Today: Body Image Poll Results
  5. ^ Separating the effects of sex and weight-loss desire on body satisfaction
  6. ^ Pope, Phillips, & Olivardia 2000
  7. ^ McCreary, Saucier, &Courtenay 2005; Kimmel & Mahalik, 2004
  8. ^ Pope, et al. 1999
  9. ^ Ramachandran, V(1996). Illusions of body image: What they reveal about human nature. [electronic version]The mind-brain continuum: Sensory processes. p.29-60
  10. ^ Issue for DSM V: Should Obesity Be Included as Brain disorder?

[edit] Sources

  • Blakeslee, S. "Out-of-Body Experience? Your Brain is to Blame." New York Times, October 3, 2006.
  • Debra L. Gimlin, Body Work: Beauty and Self Image in American Culture (University of California Press, 2002) ISBN 0520228561
  • Grogan, Sarah. Body Image: Understanding Body Dissatisfaction in Men, Women, and Children.
  • Melzack, R. “Phantom Limbs.” Scientific American, Secret of the Senses. 2006: 53-59.
  • Olivardia, R., Pope, H.G., Borowiecki, J.J., & Cohane, G.H. (2004). Biceps and body image: The relationship between muscularity and self-esteem, depression, and eating disorder symptoms. Psychology of men and masculinity, 5, 112-120.
  • Pope, H.G., Phillips, K.A., & Olivardia, R. (2000). The Adonis complex: The secret crisis of male body obsession. Sydney: The Free Press.
  • Ramachandran, V.S. A Brief Tour of Human Consciousness. New York: Pearson Education, 2004.
  • Ramachandran, V.S. and Rogers-Ramachandran, D. “Its All Done with Mirrors.” Scientific American Mind, August 2007: 16-18
  • Ridgeway, R.T., & Tylka, T.L. (2005). College men’s perceptions of ideal body composition and shape. Psychology of men and masculinity, 6, 209-220.
  • Sacks, Oliver. The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1985.
  • Sherrington, C. S. The Integrated Action of the Nervous System. C Scribner's Sons, 1906.
  • Smetacek V, Mechsner F (2004). "Making sense". Nature 432 (7013): 21. doi:10.1038/432021a. PMID 15525964. 
  • Volkow N., & O'brein C. "Issue For DSM V: Should Obesity Be Included as a Brain Disorder?" The American Journal of Psychiatry. Vol. 164, 5, 708 (May 2007)

[edit] External links

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