Experts on body image say they are saddened and angered by the death of a young woman who received illegal injections to enhance her buttocks.
The aspiring British actress, who traveled to Philadelphia for the procedure, died of related complications Tuesday.
Susan Gordon, who directs the mood and eating disorders program at the Belmont Center for Comprehensive Treatment, said many people are somewhat unhappy with their appearance. But for some, she said, changing their looks becomes a dangerous obsession.
“The whole focus of the person’s life becomes, if I can change this aspect of myself, I will become a happier person. So it’s that unrealistic link between feeling good about yourself, happiness being linked to appearance,” said Gordon.
Experts say disorders related to body image can express themselves in different ways, such as extreme diets, excessive exercise or repeated plastic surgeries. Philadelphia family therapist Jane Shure said the desire to change one’s looks is really about deeper issues.
“It’s attempting to fill an emotional hunger and, in our culture, the media gives lots and lots of messages that if you look a certain way, you’ll get more attention,” said Shure.
Shure explained that she gets angry at the countless messages in pop culture and advertising that link being loved and accepted to appearance.
Janice Styer works with adolescents at Caron Treatment Centers. She said that, despite the influence of mass media, parents still play an important role in shaping body image early in life. She recommended that they have conversations with their kids about the topic.