Northampton therapist discusses how 'dangerous' social media can affect body image in young people

"We’re bringing up a generation of perfection, which simply isn’t achievable because perfection in human beings just doesn’t exist"

By Megan Hillery
Tuesday, 11th May 2021, 4:15 pm
Updated Tuesday, 11th May 2021, 4:16 pm

A Northampton body image therapist speaks out about the dangerous effects of social media on mental health as cases of body dismorphia rise in young people.

Social media, celebrities and photoshopped images are continually feeding a 'generation of perfection', according to St Andrew's Healthcare in Northampton.

Self-care body image therapist, Liz Ritchie wants to raise awareness of body dismorphia, which sees people obsess about their appearance, as part of Mental Health Awareness Week.

Self-care body image therapist, Liz Ritchie.

She said: “It’s incredibly worrying that we’re living in a society where as many as one in five people feel shame about their body image, and 19% of us are disgusted with how we look.

“I’ve been a therapist for a long time and, in recent years, I’ve seen a huge increase in those who are extremely unhappy with their appearance.

"Social media can be quite dangerous, as some young people are so impressionable. They’re aspiring to look like their favourite celebrity and want to post the ideal picture online.

"We’re bringing up a generation of perfection, which simply isn’t achievable because perfection in human beings just doesn’t exist.”

Ms Ritchie has starred in a short online film explaining how body image issues can affect people. She explains that someone who may be struggling with their own body image could present as having a lack of self-worth and self-esteem; they could become depressed and a person might socially exclude themselves in some way.

The body image therapist provides some top tips for people scrolling through social media, who may be concerned about their own body image. She advises:

◾ Be mindful that social media posts often present an idealised picture and are often not real

◾ Try not to make comparisons as this can make you feel that you’re not good enough

◾ Look at your body as a whole rather than hyper focusing on perceived defects

The film is the latest addition of the #LetsTalkAbout series featuring mental health experts across St Andrew's Healthcare, who discuss a range of complex mental health conditions in a bid to break down stereotypes.

Peer support worker at St Andrew's hospital, Estelle Randle, uses her own lived experience of mental health to educate others. She has also participated in a short film about how living with body image issues has affected her.Ms Randle said: "I don’t think it’s something that ever goes away. I’ve gone through stages of comfort eating, stages of restrictive eating and they’re sort of like a self-harm because I do feel so bad about my body.

“There is so much pressure for women in this day and age from the media, on TV, everywhere you look. People are being scrutinised and I think we have quite an unrealistic view of what a woman should be. I think you have to learn to be ok with yourself.”

You can join in the conversation online using #LetsTalkAbout or follow St Andrew's Healthcare on social media.