Encyclopedia of Behavioral Medicine

Living Edition
| Editors: Marc Gellman

Body Image and Appearance-Altering Conditions

Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4614-6439-6_102007-1



“Body image” is a multidimensional construct and refers to a person’s perceptions, thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, in relation to their body (Grogan 2008). This encompasses the body’s functions and capabilities, in addition to its appearance.


An altered appearance, or one considered different from the “norm,” can be a consequence of congenital conditions, injuries, disease, or treatments for disease. Some congenital conditions present appearance differences from birth, but their visibility may reduce over time following treatment. These include craniofacial irregularities (e.g., cleft lip and/or palate; Treacher Collins syndrome), vascular anomalies (e.g., hemangiomas; port-wine stains), and congenital limb defects (e.g., absence of a limb, fusion of fingers or toes). Other congenital...

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References and Further Reading

  1. Bessell, A., Brough, V., Clarke, A., Harcourt, D., Moss, T. P., & Rumsey, N. (2012). Evaluation of the effectiveness of Face IT, a computer-based psychosocial intervention for disfigurement-related distress. Psychology, Health & Medicine, 17(5), 565–577.  https://doi.org/10.1080/13548506.2011.647701.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Fingeret, M. C., Yuan, Y., Urbauer, D., Weston, J., Nipomnick, S., & Weber, R. (2012). The nature and extent of body image concerns among surgically treated patients with head and neck cancer. Psycho-Oncology, 21(8), 836–844.  https://doi.org/10.1002/pon.1990.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  3. Fingeret, M. C., Teo, I., & Epner, D. E. (2014). Managing body image difficulties of adult cancer patients: Lessons from available research. Cancer, 120(5), 633–641.  https://doi.org/10.1002/cncr.28469.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  4. Grogan, S. (2008). Body image: Understanding body dissatisfaction in men, women and children. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  5. Hunt, O., Burden, D., Hepper, P., & Johnston, C. (2005). The psychosocial effects of cleft lip and palate: A systematic review. European Journal of Orthodontics, 27(3), 274–285.  https://doi.org/10.1093/ejo/cji004.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  6. Lehmann, V., Hagedoorn, M., & Tuinman, M. A. (2015). Body image in cancer survivors: A systematic review of case–control studies. Journal of Cancer Survivorship, 9(2), 339–348.  https://doi.org/10.1007/s11764-014-0414-y.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  7. Norman, A., & Moss, T. P. (2015). Psychosocial interventions for adults with visible differences: A systematic review. PeerJ, 3, e870.  https://doi.org/10.7717/peerj.870.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  8. Rumsey, N., & Harcourt, D. (2011). Body image and congenital conditions resulting in visible difference. In T. F. Cash & L. Smolak (Eds.), Body image: A handbook of science, practice, and prevention (Vol. 1, 2nd ed., pp. 253–260). New York: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  9. Sherman, K. A., Woon, S., French, J., & Elder, E. (2017). Body image and psychological distress in nipple-sparing mastectomy: The roles of self-compassion and appearance investment. Psycho-Oncology, 26, 337–345.  https://doi.org/10.1002/pon.4138.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  10. Sherman, K. A., Przezdziecki, A., Alcorso, J., Kilby, C. J., Elder, E., Boyages, J., … Mackie, H. (2018). Reducing body image-related distress in women with breast cancer using a structured online writing exercise: Results from the My Changed Body randomized controlled trial. Journal of Clinical Oncology, 36(19), 1930–1940.  https://doi.org/10.1200/JCO.2017.76.3318.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Stock, N. M., Feragen, K. B., & Rumsey, N. (2016). Adults’ narratives of growing up with a cleft lip and/or palate: Factors associated with psychological adjustment. The Cleft Palate-Craniofacial Journal, 53(2), 222–239.  https://doi.org/10.1597/14-269.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for Appearance ResearchUniversity of the West of EnglandBristolUK
  2. 2.Department of Psychology, Centre for Emotional HealthMacquarie UniversitySydneyAustralia

Section editors and affiliations

  • Kerry A. Sherman
    • 1
  1. 1.Centre for Emotional Health, Department of PsychologyMacquarie UniversitySydneyAustralia