Body image and mental health

Body image is the way we feel about how we look. Most of us experience dissatisfaction with how we see our body at different points in our life.

Very few people are 100% confident about their appearance at all times. However, if the way we feel about our body starts to impact what we do in a negative way, we need to address this.

Difficulty with body image affects people of any gender. In today’s society, there’s a focus on physical appearance and the ‘perfect body’ and social media can emphasise this.

Scrolling through Instagram and making comparisons between ourselves and what we see is very common. This can distort our sense of body image, creating unrealistic expectations of how we should look.

Gaming and mental health

Online gaming is a really popular activity that can be a healthy and enjoyable pastime.

There are many benefits to online gaming. It can be a way of connecting with others, making friends online and reducing isolation.

Gaming can be fun and a good distraction from current negative news and social media reports. It doesn’t have to be competitive, with many games encouraging teamwork. It can help develop problem solving skills and give us a sense of achievement.

However, for a small number of us, gaming can have a negative impact on mental health if we are not paying attention to how it affects us.

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Ask Jigsaw: I want to start loving myself

I’ve been told I might be suffering from body dysmorphia and I can see the signs, but despite that I seem to be getting worse? It’s gone to the point where I tear up when I see a recent picture of myself..and I do want to start loving myself but it’s just really hard to. I’ve been thinking of making an appointment, but I’m really scared of face to face interaction. I’m scared of my anxiety since it’s really hard for me to talk to strangers especially when I have to bring up my concerns.. Any recommendations on what I should do? 

– zwolfxo 

Hi zwolfxo, 

Sounds like it’s been really tough for you recently, but you did the right thing to reach out! At different points throughout life, body image can become more, or less important. But there’s no doubt that being unhappy with your physical body can have a big impact on your mental health.  

Time spent online

Time spent online and social media are commonly viewed as the root causes of any problem that young people face.

For a lot of us, work and education is tied into a stable internet connection. Digital communication is more important than ever.

When we ask young people how long they spend online, they often refer to this amount as bad or negative. We’re all guilty of mindless scrolling at times, but does that make it bad?

In this article, you will find:

Being the best

We live in a competitive world, where comparison is everywhere. It’s often present in school or college, on the sports field or in relation to social status.

There can be a focus on ‘being the best’ when we are ranked and compared to those around us.

At school or in college there is often competition, with exams designed to assess our academic ability. Ratings can be compared to every other person our age in Ireland.

Sports can come with pressure and a focus on winning. Even in non-competitive activities, such as the gym, we are encouraged to try to get a ‘personal best’. We might focus on doing more weights or improving our time, in competition with ourselves to be our best.

Online and on social media, we can usually see how many followers/friends, likes, or comments another person receives. We often compare our social media stats to those of others. Looking at posts and wondering why some got more support than others can become a habit. What stories are we telling ourselves about success and failure?

Feeling happy being single

Being single doesn’t seem like something to celebrate. Relationships are the focus of a lot of the popular culture we consume. 

It can also take a period of adjustment if we recently find ourselves single, through a break-up, or ending a relationship.

Our Instagram feeds are filled with snaps of ‘happy couples’ and #relationshipgoals. There’s a mountain of advice on how not to be single. So, you’d be forgiven for thinking everyone in the world is in a relationship except you.

However, that’s not the case. According to the most recent Irish Census, 41% of people over 15 years-old are single. Yet still, we can feel the pressure to ‘couple up’ and this can be challenging.

Feeling pressure

Life can feel full of pressure sometimes. Especially while we figure out who we are, what we want, and how we want our lives to be.

Young people who come to Jigsaw often talk to us about the pressure they’re feeling. Some of the things they feel pressure from include:

  • Fitting in – Having to change who they are to be included in a group.
  • Supporting friends – Feeling they have to respond to friends’ difficulties, even when it interferes with their own wellbeing.
  • Conforming – Falling in with an education system that feels unfair and out of line with everything else in their life.
  • Performing well in exams – Comparing results and achievements.
  • Competing and doing well in sports or other hobbies – This can be to the point where they no longer enjoy it.
  • Future plans – Feeling they should know what career path to choose.
  • Fulfilling the expectations of others – Living up to the expectations of parents. Or matching the achievements of siblings.

Porn and mental health

As technology advances, the accessibility of porn has increased. We know that many young people in Ireland are consuming porn.

The recent My World Survey, a study of young people in Ireland, had relevant results on this. It found that almost two-thirds of young adults had watched pornography on the internet.

How to talk about porn with young people

With advances in technology, pornography has become more and more accessible to young people. It is no longer confined to the top shelf of the newspaper shop, but can be accessed anywhere, anytime.

Although it might be awkward, we need to be having conversations with young people about porn and the impact it can have.