The social and cultural changes that have taken place in recent years have led to the emergence of various studies on obsession with physical appearance. Surveys conducted by the magazine „Psychology Today” confirm a disproportionate increase in the percentage of men and women who report dissatisfaction with their bodies. This fixation on achieving the desired body leads many people, but especially young populations, to a „tyranny of beauty”. In this way, the coexistence with other relevant values in human formation and individual and social identity is made difficult, ultimately altering the experiential order of the hierarchy of values. Along the same lines, one of the social changes most linked to this problem is advertising. Likewise, advertisements related to beauty services and products have significantly increased, reaching the third place in terms of total turnover. This advertising shows unrealistic bodies associated with success, happiness, and health, generating sociocultural pressure and erroneous beliefs associated with the „ideal body”. Other related elements have also been highlighted, such as the abundance of „light” products, the popularity of fad diets, fitness magazines, or the massive increase in people in gyms, especially in the months leading up to summer. In this way, these elements characteristic of current society promote a „body cult” where image is associated with pleasure, success, relationships, and even job opportunities or social acceptance. As a consequence, narcissism becomes linked to physical appearance, resulting in a great „need” for consumption in an attempt to increase personal satisfaction with individual appearance and reduce the level of distress experienced when feeling distant from the current beauty ideal. Along these lines, the body, silhouette, and image have acquired great relevance in the development of the self and self-concept, becoming, for many people, a true reference of their own identity. Various sociocultural theories argue that the ideal of physical appearance, shown massively through different media, is internalized by many people, generating a correlation between attractiveness and self-esteem. This ideal promotes that beauty is found in thinness, bodily symmetry, and tanned skin… contributing to a great discrepancy between real and ideal characteristics, which ultimately promotes constant dissatisfaction with personal image. Implicated Factors In the development of problems associated with physical appearance, various risk factors have been described that contribute to the development of greater vulnerability. Some of the elements linked to the origin of this type of problem are as follows: Sociocultural factors. The influence of fashion and advertising is undoubtedly one of the elements that have been most associated with the increase in the prevalence of these pathologies. Family and social environment. Close relationships, especially family, play a relevant role from childhood in establishing aesthetic and behavioral parameters. The social circle can transmit through their comments and opinions (implicit or explicit) the importance of thinness, diets, muscle, beauty… In this way, the emphasis that society places on physical attractiveness can be exacerbated. Individual factors. The experience of teasing about appearance or failures in socialization contribute to the development of inaccurate or exaggerated cognitions about one’s image, as well as the development of problems related to self-esteem, fear of failure or ridicule, and perfectionism. The Body Cult and Psychopathology Excessive concern for personal appearance has been linked to various problems that underline notable physical and/or emotional consequences. Some of the pathologies that have been most related are anorexia and bulimia, vigorexia (characterized by an obsession with achieving a muscular body) and tanorexia (also known as „addiction to tanning”). Despite being very different syndromes, they all share one thing in common: fixation on an unrealistic beauty ideal and a possible distortion of personal perception. On the other hand, these pathologies have been linked to obsessive-compulsive disorder due to the presence of recurrent intrusive thoughts about one’s own image, as well as methods to improve it. Likewise, in many cases, similar to this pathology, the procedures used by various individuals to achieve the ideal body do not consist of reinforcing or pleasurable behaviors. Instead, these methods act as a negative reinforcer capable of alleviating anxiety experienced and avoiding the anxiety or discomfort associated with not performing those behaviors. Likewise, these pathologies have also been associated with somatoform disorders, characterized by an excessive concern for an imaginary defect or alteration of one’s own body or an exaggerated reaction in the case of actual physical alterations. Within this category, body dysmorphic disorder has been directly linked to vigorexia due to the focus and distorted perception of a small and/or weak body. Likewise, it has also been associated with tanorexia as a result of a mistaken perception of overly pale skin. Tanorexia Tanorexia refers to a person’s obsessive need to achieve a darker skin tone, either through natural methods (sunbathing) or artificial means (tanning beds, self-tanning creams…). These individuals usually see themselves as too pale, creating an „obsessive need” to achieve a more bronzed skin tone. They also desire to maintain this tan throughout the year, engaging in habits and behaviors that endanger their physical or psychological well-being. Like other issues related to physical appearance, these individuals are never satisfied with their skin tone. As a result, their desire to achieve a more tanned skin tone tends to persist excessively. On the other hand, this term has not been universally accepted. However, certain scientific communities related to the health field have used this term to describe a new „addiction.” In this sense, a study conducted in 2005 showed that these individuals could experience a loss of boundaries that made it difficult to stop the tanning process when the skin has reached a brown tone. This pattern has been compared to other addictions such as alcoholism or smoking. The fashion imposed by today’s society highlights tanning as synonymous with beauty, which generates a pressure to conform to this ideal. In this case, exposure to sunlight contributes to the appearance of various problems such as spots, wrinkles, and a greater likelihood of developing skin cancer. The desire to fit the current beauty standard drives men and women to undergo various transformations of their bodies (extreme diets, excessive exercise, cosmetic surgery…). It is also important to highlight that many of these methods pose a risk to people’s health. In conclusion, the number of people developing problems related to body image is increasing significantly. For this reason, the need to carry out preventive tasks that enable young people to develop resources to defend themselves against the media that encourage and promote the body cult is emphasized. Rafael Fenoy Castaño
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