Self-Harm, Poor Body Image, and Drug-Induced Weight Gain

August 10, 2020 Martyna Halas

Self-injury, poor body image, and eating disorders often travel together. After all, a poor body image is something many self-harmers often share in common, and that poor body image can turn into an eating disorder. Developing a healthy relationship with our bodies is a crucial step towards recovery.

Self-Harm and My Poor Body Image

Several years ago, I had a nervous breakdown. I was rushed to a psychiatric hospital where I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. The doctor gave me a life-changing prescription, and I was allowed to go home. 

The next few months were what I would call my “zombie phase.” I remember very little from that period other than feeling tired and empty, as if my insides and emotions were surgically removed. However, my clothes didn’t correspond to this feeling, as my waist was getting thicker and thicker. Soon I couldn’t fit into my jeans anymore.

It is not uncommon for bipolar patients to report sudden weight gain due to medication. In fact, your weight will likely fluctuate as you switch between different types of drugs. I wasn’t aware of it back then, so I blamed my poor metabolism and flawed genetics. 

Being a slim girl all my life, I struggled with my new overweight identity. Each time I looked in the mirror, I saw a caricature of myself looking back at me. Sure, my mental health was stabilized. However, my body image was worse than ever. So I started to purge.

I made a habit of forcing myself to vomit after every meal and exercising until I almost passed out. Still, the scale didn’t budge, and my hatred towards my body grew stronger every day. It didn’t respond to my efforts, so I punished it with self-harm. The vicious circle of self-hatred and self-harm seemed hard to escape. But let me tell you, there is hope.

How I Escaped Self-Harm and Negative Body Image

Even though I managed to lose weight eventually, there are days when I look in the mirror with disgust. 

But now, I’ve learned to appreciate my body and nourish it instead of ruin it with my purging habits. It took countless positive affirmations, mindfulness practice, and some crucial lifestyle changes. For many people, therapy is an essential part of their recovery plan, so figure out what's best for you.

Our bodies are not made of stone. They will fluctuate, change, and grow. We evolve, and our bodies develop with us, showing every inch of experience, wisdom, and life. Our outer shells carry us through all our battles and storms. Why is it that we are expected to stay lean at any age as if time didn’t exist? We've only got one body. Let's treat it with respect it deserves.

Learning to love yourself means cutting off negativity and understanding that our beauty standards are flawed. It may seem like there is no way out of this dark, depressing maze, but you can find the light again, and you don’t have to suffer alone.

Does your body image affect your self-harm urges? Let us know in the comments.

APA Reference
Halas, M. (2020, August 10). Self-Harm, Poor Body Image, and Drug-Induced Weight Gain, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 15 from

Author: Martyna Halas

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