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How Being Bullied Over Appearance Can Strain Mental Health

By HERWriter
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being bullied about how you look can put a strain on your mental health PS Productions/Photospin

In a world so focused on beauty and weight, it’s not surprising that many women are victims of appearance-related bullying.

Although October is National Bullying Prevention Month, that didn’t stop a recent incident of appearance-related bullying.

Jennifer Livingston, a morning news reporter, has been all over the news after she was bullied by a viewer via email about her weight.

Many people and even organizations are supporting Livingston’s decision to speak out about such a weighty issue, including the National Eating Disorders Association.

The association stated in a press release that appearance-related bullying, also called “bodysnarking,” is quite common in our society.

Although Livingston was able to publicly defend herself against an attack on her weight, not all bullying victims are so lucky.

Appearance-related bullying is not an isolated incident, and it can even go so far as to affect mental health of victims in a plethora of ways. Mental health professionals address the close link between bodysnarking and mental health.

Karen Koenig, a licensed clinical social worker, said in an email that bodysnarking can greatly affect the mental health of people who already don’t have good self-esteem, and sometimes even those who think highly of themselves.

People who do have decent self-esteem generally learn to ignore negative comments about their body though.

For victims of appearance-related bullying, mental health symptoms can vary from depression to cutting oneself. She also said victims can experience anxiety and suicidal thoughts. They might start dieting, over-exercising, purging, using laxatives, having cosmetic and bariatric surgery.

Koenig added that even if victims might experience mental health issues, they are not to blame. The bully is the one with the biggest problem.

She has some suggestions as to how victims can turn their situation around and improve their mental health as a result.

1) “The first thing to do is not internalize negative comments and to know that whatever comes out of a person’s mouth belongs to them, even if it has your name attached to it.”

Add a Comment1 Comments

Agree it hurts,I look like I am 75 years old, I am 61,the comments I get are so rude and painful,luckily I have armed myself over the years with some polite and harsh returns,
This only after I got caught giving a different birth date. (older).
The man was himself an survivor of bullies and we had a wonderful talk. Now I feel free of the nagging that stayed all day in my head when I heard those comments, Now I hear, I comment(or not )and it leaves my head. Thanks to that wonderful human being.

October 12, 2012 - 12:57pm
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.