From The New England Journal of Medicine
"Body image, the multifaceted psychological experience of embodiment, profoundly influences the quality of human life," state the editors in the preface to this book. Thomas Cash and Thomas Pruzinsky have managed to pull together a collection of writing to support this powerful statement. The past decade has witnessed a considerable increase in the attention paid by clinicians and researchers to body image. Body Image consists of 57 chapters written by recognized experts, who provide concise, authoritative, state-of-the-art summaries of each topic. This book should prove to be of considerable interest to the many physicians who encounter the complexities of body image in their patients. Although contemporary scholarship concerning body image dates back to the seminal writings of neurologist Paul Schilder, who espoused a biopsychosocial approach to body image, it was not until the 1990s that this topic aroused broad attention. The intervening years were not without scholarship. Seymour Fisher's work and rigorous reviews of relevant concepts, primarily from a psychodynamic perspective, are especially noteworthy. Movement back to a broader, multifaceted view of body image can be attributed in part to Franklin Shontz's influential Perceptual and Cognitive Aspects of Body Experience, published in 1969, and to Body Images: Development, Deviance, and Change, also edited by Cash and Pruzinsky and published in 1990. In that book, the multidimensional and diverse nature of body image was a salient theme explored with an appreciation of broader contexts, such as medical conditions. Several excellent books pertaining to body-image issues were published in the 1990s, but this new book is unique. The editors' stated aims were to produce "an informative and inspiring new volume" that provides contemporary views and "comprehensive coverage" of body image with "clinical perspectives" for practice and "constructive ideas" for future research. The editors succeeded in meeting these ambitious aims. The concise chapters provide balanced views of the myriad topics presented. Although most of the chapters were written by experts in their respective fields, it is refreshing that for some of them the editors enlisted newer clinicians and researchers. The result is that the material is not simply recycled information. The 57 chapters are divided into eight sections (on conceptual foundations, developmental perspectives, assessment, individual and cultural differences, body-image disorders, medical contexts, medical and surgical interventions, and psychosocial interventions), which are followed by a chapter offering conclusions and future directions. The chapters provide brief authoritative accounts, and the annotated referencing points interested readers to key works. The referencing is judicious, and careful editing seems to have minimized duplication and redundancy. Diverse perspectives on body image (including sociocultural, perceptional and cognitive, psychological, familial, and feminist views) are detailed, as are body-image issues across the entire life span. One of the strongest aspects of this book is its consideration of body image in so many different groups (for instance, boys, girls, men, women, persons of various races, and persons with physical disabilities) and of persons with eating disorders and weight-related problems. Particularly impressive is the coverage of body image in medical contexts, including dermatology, dentistry, obstetrics, urology, endocrinology, oncology, and management of human immunodeficiency virus infection and AIDS. The book has practical information for clinicians and clinical researchers. For example, the chapter by Thompson and van den Berg, on measuring body-image attitudes in adolescents and adults, contains concise summaries of relevant methods and instruments along with their strengths, weaknesses, and sources. The chapters on medical, surgical, and psychosocial interventions present balanced summaries of current knowledge and offer suggestions for sensitive clinical care, intervention options, and future research. The chapter by Sarwer is particularly timely given the continued rise in cosmetic surgery. Pruzinsky's chapter on responses to reconstructive surgery for acquired disfigurement offers some valuable observations for those in the healing professions. This timely book may encourage greater communication and cross-fertilization among disciplines and fields. It provides a wealth of ideas for those interested in this fascinating topic and will serve as a valuable and frequently referenced resource. Carlos M. Grilo, Ph.D.
Copyright © 2003 Massachusetts Medical Society. All rights reserved. The New England Journal of Medicine is a registered trademark of the MMS.
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"The subjective representation and experience of the physical body is an essential ingredient of our personality. While most often an adaptive and silent aspect of normal functioning, the 'body image' may become deeply embroiled in conflict and pathology--most notably in anorexia and bulimia--but in many other common psycho-medical conditions as well. Drs. Cash and Pruzinsky have brought to bear years of specialized experience."--Leo Goldberger, PhD, Department of Psychology, New York University
"It is a pleasure to find a book that so ably fulfills its purpose with authority and thoroughness, and without pedantry or tedium. This well-edited volume will be helpful--even indispensable--to students and professionals concerned with body image and its alterations: real or imagined, congenital, developmental, or acquired. Pediatricians, psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers, plastic surgeons, dermatologists, endocrinologists, gynecologists, urologists, oncologists, internists, and others will find the range of the chapters extensive and their readability admirable."--Robert M. Goldwyn, MD, Clinical Professor of Surgery, Harvard Medical School; Editor, Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery
"Everyone has heard that body image dissatisfaction is common enough in teenage girls to be considered a normative discontent. Few, however, know exactly what body image is, how it changes over the life cycle, or how best to measure it. Moreover, few realize that body image is as relevant to such fields as dentistry, dermatology, and oncology as it is to psychology and psychiatry. Cash and Pruzinsky have assembled the world's experts to produce this definitive volume. It will be read eagerly by undergraduate and graduate students, but particularly by practitioners who seek to alleviate the distress associated with negative body image in its many manifestations. This is a 'must read.'"--Thomas A. Wadden, PhD, Department of Psychology, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine
"This remarkable handbook is encyclopedic in scope. It manages to cover in one volume all aspects of body image--from developmental and cultural aspects to psychological, pharmacological, and surgical interventions. It will be an invaluable resource for all those interested in body image and its disorders."--Christopher G. Fairburn, DM, FRCPsych, FMedSci, Professor of Psychiatry, University of Oxford, UK