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Klaske Glashouwer: how can you become more satisfied with your own body by looking at yourself in the mirror?

How can you become more satisfied with your own body by looking at yourself in the mirror?

People who are unsatisfied with their own bodies often look at the body parts that they find ugly. For this, we developed positive mirror exposure: a treatment during which people are exposed to seeing their body in a mirror for long periods of time. With the aid of a therapist, they learn to focus on the parts of their body that they like, and to talk about them in a positive, non-judgmental way.

Klaske Glashouwer

This treatment appears to lead to a more positive body image in many people, but not in everyone. This is unfortunate, because a negative body image is often associated with psychological problems such as depression, social anxiety and eating disorders. Therefore, we have chosen to study the mechanisms behind mirror exposure therapy and how it can allow people to look at themselves differently. This understanding could provide tools to further improve the treatment.

We compared differences in eye movements of women who had a negative body image before and after a few ‘mirror sessions’. After these sessions, women were a lot happier with their bodies on average than those who had not received treatment. Surprisingly enough, their eye movements were no different. It appears that looking less at ‘ugly’ body parts is not necessary to experience an improved body image.

If it had been possible to let participants actually look at different parts of their bodies, the results might have been even greater. Our research offers an interesting starting point to improve the treatment, for example by offering participants additional ‘looking practice’, until they literally start to look at themselves differently.

dr. K.A. (Klaske) Glashouwer
First name
Researcher / Lecturer Psychology
Eating disorders, anorexia nervosa, body image, experimental psychopathology, disgust, treatment
Last modified:03 September 2019 1.18 p.m.
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