Professor Nichola Rumsey, who co-directed the study, said: “It is a myth that older people don’t care what they look like: the ‘normal’ signs of ageing can prove very depressing.”
‘Normal signs of ageing’ include greying or thinning hair, wrinkles and sagging body parts, all of which are natural processes that tend to be treated by the media and beauty industries as something to be ashamed of.
In a study of 1,200 older adults, Prof Rumsey found a large number of patients who were preoccupied with how their illness or treatment would effect them aesthetically.
Particularly visible conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and skin infection can cause great distress to patients when they see the effects in the mirror but GPs are simply not trained to deal with the psychological impacts of age-related illnesses.
Body-image is something that has largely been treated as a ‘young person’s problem’, with the idea that vanity and self-consciousness disappear with age. Prof Rumsey argues that anxieties never disappear, they simply evolve into different types of concerns.
The sheer numbers of elderly people suffering from body dissatisfaction is, according to Dr Alex Yellowless of Glasgow Priory Clinic, indicative of an ‘epidemic of self-consciousness’.
Dr Yellowless has reported a worrying increase in older people suffering from eating disorders in an attempt to meet what he describes as ‘an unrealistic physical ideal’.
Where once old age was revered as a period of wisdom and enlightenment, it is now so deeply stigmatised that people measure their own self-worth by how slim, supple and youthful they appear to others.
As Dr Yellowless argues, if the older generations are so preoccupied with self-image, what impact will this have on our children?
Some hypnotherapists specialise in low self-esteem. Follow the link to find out more about how this works and how you might benefit from visiting a hypnotherapist.
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