As we know, our addictions are often accompanied by mental illnesses, and they are connected and linked to one another, and often referred to as co-occurring disorders. One of the mental and emotional health issues that are often overlooked, forgotten and ignored is body image issues. We talk a lot about depression and anxiety, but we neglect the deeply rooted insecurities that are often a huge part of how depressed and anxious we feel. Our sadness and fear often come from a place of self-hatred, a lack of self-confidence, and a persistent self-rejection that causes us considerable pain. We use our drugs of choice to escape this pain, but as we know from examining our addictive patterns, we only end up compounding our pain and feeling worse about ourselves, exacerbating our feelings of unworthiness and inadequacy, and becoming more and more insecure and self-hating.
Our body image issues can come from multiple different sources, and when we try to pinpoint the cause of them we often can identify more than one. It’s important to note that while body image issues are commonly considered a women’s issue, men can suffer from them just as much as women can. Growing up, perhaps we had a parent or sibling constantly tease us for our body shape or maybe we internalized societal expectations around body size. We might have been bullied for our physical differences. In relationships, we might have been rejected for certain physical traits or experienced emotional abuse from partners and told we weren’t good enough, attractive enough, or worthy of love because of our weight or appearance.
In our society, it’s easy to absorb the constant programming around body image standards. Mainstream media outlets push certain images onto us and idealize those while rejecting, or totally excluding others. We grow up thinking something is inherently wrong with us, especially if we don’t see our body type, skin color or hair texture being represented. Women in some cultures grow up thinking they need to be thin in order to be attractive, while others are told that real women have curves and that if you’re thin, you should eat something, and men won’t want to be with you. Men grow up thinking they need to be muscular in order to be considered attractive. The “tall, dark, and handsome” male ideal can cause deep insecurity for the many men who don’t fit that profile. We believe these cultural myths of attractiveness and worthiness, and they create these inner demons and debilitating insecurities within us. We turn to our drugs of choice for solace and perhaps we develop depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and other mental health issues. We suppress our pain and believe that something must be wrong with us.
Recovering from our addictions and mental health issues means getting to a place of unconditional, radical self-love and self-acceptance. This is a long journey, but it’s possible! We want to be so comfortable with ourselves that we rejecting harmful cultural norms for the sake of inclusivity. As a society, we must strive to reflect the realities of the vast diversity of human life and this includes body shape and size.
Riverside Recovery understands all of the emotional challenges of addiction recovery and is here to support you. Call us today for more information: (800) 871-5440.