Body dysmorphia, disordered eating, unhealthy exercise and cosmetic procedures | Gemma Sharp, PhD

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How does body image fit into our picture of overall health? When does negative self-image become body dysmorphic disorder? And does veganism align with a positive relationship with food? Join me in Episode #300 as I sit down with Associate Professor Gemma Sharp to answer these questions and many more.

“I actually social media’s more positive than negative… as much as it can unfortunately disseminate some negative messages, there’s so much opportunity to disseminate lots of different health campaigns via social media, including those focused on body image.”

Associate Professor Gemma Sharp is a leading figure in the field of body image and eating disorders from Monash University in Melbourne. With a unique background that spans from oncology to clinical psychology, A/Prof Sharp has dedicated her career to understanding and treating issues surrounding body image. Her innovative research, which has gained national and international recognition, explores the causes of negative body image and eating disorders, proposing novel treatment methods. As the Senior Clinical Psychologist and Research Lead at Alfred Health’s Statewide Women’s Mental Health Service, she brings a wealth of clinical and research experience to our discussion on the complex interplay between body image, mental health, and the influence of social media and cosmetic interventions.

In this episode, you’ll learn about body dysmorphic disorder (also called body dysmorphia), who falls into this category, and who is at risk for it. We discuss the impact of social media on body image, the prevalence and treatment of eating disorders, and harmful trends in the media.

We examine the facts about body image in vegans, how AI might be the answer to overwhelmed mental health services, and potential pharmaceutical interventions. Dr Sharp also sheds light on how cosmetic interventions, including labiaplasty and penile augmentation, might help or hinder body image.

Specifically, we discuss:

  • Introduction (00:00)
  • Exploring Interest in Body Dysmorphic Disorder with Gemma Sharp (01:35)
  • Understanding Body Dysmorphic Disorder: Definition, Prevalence, Onset, and Causes (04:20)
  • The Influence of Social Media on Body Image (09:01)
  • The Role of Social Media in Seeking External Validation (12:33)
  • Managing Social Media’s Impact on Body Image: Advice for Parents (18:08)
  • Practising Self-Compassion: The Compassionate Friend Exercise (20:03)
  • Effectiveness of Positive Self-Talk in Body Image Improvement (23:32)
  • Connection Between Eating Disorders and Body Dysmorphic Disorder (25:35)
  • Navigating Eating Disorders: Orthorexia, Anorexia vs Bulimia, Impacts Across Weight Spectrums, and Screening Tools (26:32)
  • Identifying Triggers for Developing Eating Disorders (31:02)
  • Harmful Media Trends Leading to Eating Disorders (33:14)
  • Medical Approaches to Treating Eating Disorders (34:41)
  • Comparing Dietary Patterns: Vegan vs Omnivorous Diets in Eating Disorders (38:04)
  • Evidence-Based Strategies for Treating Eating Disorders (43:36)
  • The Role of AI in Treating Eating Disorders (49:10)
  • Debunking Myths About Eating Disorders (53:48)
  • Eating Disorders in Athletics: The Interplay with Exercise (55:02)
  • Cosmetic Procedures and Body Image: Mental Health, Satisfaction, and Safety (1:02:05)
  • Insights into Labiaplasty from a Scientific Perspective (1:10:05)
  • Empowering Education: Understanding Female Anatomy and Overcoming Social Taboos
  • Understanding Male Motivations for Penile Augmentation (1:23:35)
  • Concluding Remarks (1:27:38)

I hope this conversation helps you expand your knowledge of mental health, eating disorders, and the role we all play in shaping safer online communities. Thank you to Dr Gemma Sharp for sharing her wealth of knowledge on this topic.

Learn more about Associate Professor Gemma Sharp here, and connect with her on Twitter/X.

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More about Associate Professor Gemma Sharp

Associate Professor Gemma Sharp established and leads Body Image & Eating Disorders Research at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia. She started her career as a biomedical scientist, graduating with a Master of Science degree in Oncology from the University of Cambridge, UK. This strong science background enhanced her transition to psychological science research focusing on body image and eating disorders, and she graduated with a PhD in Clinical Psychology from Flinders University in Adelaide, Australia. A/Prof Sharp holds multiple fellowships from the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council and is renowned nationally and internationally for her pioneering research investigating the causes of and developing novel treatments for negative body image and eating disorders from a multidisciplinary perspective. In addition to her research leadership at Monash University, she is also the Senior Clinical Psychologist and Research Lead at the Statewide Women’s Mental Health Service at Alfred Health which specialises in intensive eating disorder treatment. To support A/Prof Sharp’s research, please click here.

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