This is a 5-minute read.
Lymphedema can have visible physical impacts, but the mental health effects are often invisible to the eye. It’s challenging to maintain your self-image when you have a chronic disease—but not impossible.
Maintaining your body image when you have lymphedema is a journey of self-acceptance, but it’s not one you need to make alone. The lymphedema community is full of welcoming and supportive people cheering you on.
The body positivity movement reframes how we see our bodies and encourages us to find joy in who we are, how we look, and what we can do. People of all shapes and abilities are exploring their vitality and reclaiming their health. Read on to learn more about how to increase your sense of body positivity when living with lymphedema.
The Visible and Invisible Effects of Lymphedema
The signs of lymphedema are visibly apparent and may include swelling, seeping lymph fluid, changing limb shapes, open wounds, and hardened fibrotic tissue. Over time, lymphedema can lead to reduced mobility due to difficulty moving swollen, heavy limbs with skin that’s prone to tightness and tearing.
Lymphedema can come with significant psychological effects including self-consciousness, a negative self-image, or psychological distress.
Building a better body image goes hand in hand with building a better quality of life through lymphedema treatment. Before-and-after studies of people engaged with lymphedema treatment plans have found that improvements in treatment and symptom relief lead to significant improvements in self-image. Coping with the physical and mental impact of lymphedema is much easier when someone has psychosocial support from friends, family members, colleagues, and healthcare providers, too.
Lymphedema doesn’t have to lead to a negative self-image. Looking at your lymphedema through a lens of body positivity encourages you to view yourself as someone who can not only survive but thrive with lymphedema. Successfully managing your condition can help you reach a point of self-acceptance and empowerment. There can be vast beauty and strength in your life with lymphedema.
What Does Body Positivity Mean?
Body positivity is a global movement empowering people to go beyond just accepting themselves and instead celebrating themselves and their abilities. This includes anyone with lymphedema who may struggle to cope with their diagnosis and body image.
A negative self-image focuses on perceived faults and imperfections and builds an internal dialogue of self-critical statements and ideas. Over time, negative self-talk can lead to stress, anxiety, depression, and other health consequences that may worsen many conditions, including lymphatic disorders.
Building a positive self-image is especially challenging for someone with significant and chronic health challenges. People with lymphedema are at an increased risk of body image disturbances and may need extra support from their healthcare providers and loved ones.
With proper support and symptom treatment, those with lymphedema can reduce negative psycho-social impacts and flip the script on lymphedema.
There are many techniques you can use to improve your body positivity whether you have lymphedema or not. Here are some of the top tips from psychologists who help people address body positivity and self-image.
Build a positive support network. Connecting with others who share the similar experience of living with lymphedema may help you in feeling less alone and “othered.” There is a large community of lymphedema patients and advocates on social media sharing their journeys, as well as virtual support groups for patients to connect with and uplift one another.
If body positivity feels impossible for you, strive for body neutrality. Some psychologists have found that their patients don’t feel a strong connection to the body positivity movement because it seems too trendy or out-of-reach for someone with a serious health condition. Instead, consider working toward building body neutrality, which is about setting realistic goals for yourself and bringing a halt to the cycle of internal criticism. When you feel body neutral, you accept your body’s challenges and gain freedom from ending self-judgments.
Focus on what you need, not what you are. This needs-focused technique helps you identify what is necessary for your body to continue thriving healthfully. Are you hungry? Do you need to elevate your limb? Is it time to use your at-home treatment device or garment? Do you just need to go to bed and get some rest? By focusing on your needs, you move the focus to nourishing yourself instead of criticizing yourself and build body positivity through self-care.
Lympha Press Supports You!
You deserve the best possible health, mobility, and self-esteem. When you connect with Lympha Press, you’re connecting with a team of patient-focused people who genuinely care about helping you thrive. We also provide a wide selection of innovative therapy options designed for size inclusivity.
For more information, you’re welcome to contact us or explore our online resources including our popular Lympha Press blog.