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Stretch Marks, Body Image, and Stress

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Stretch Marks, Body Image, and Stress

August 02, 2010

By Megan Straub and Body1 Staff

Stretch marks or striae are a form of scarring. They affect about eighty percent of people, and have been found to play a much larger role in a person’s life than just the mark left on their skin. These blemishes not only result in an altered physical appearance, they can also have negative psychological impacts.

Stretch marks occur when the tissue located just underneath the outer layer of skin expands at a faster rate than the skin. This rapid expansion has a number of potential causes, including weight gain, excessive muscle growth, and pregnancy. Growth spurts during puberty or corticosteroid treatment can even cause stretch marks. Scientific literature also suggests that an individual’s genes may predispose them to stretch marks.

Worried about getting stretch marks? Reduce your risk by…
  • Exercising to help ease the amount of fat on your body
  • Avoid abrupt weight loss or gain
  • Include protein and vitamins A, C, E in your diet
  • Using directed lotions and moisturizers to the areas that you think might develop these
  • It is widely known that physical appearance can affect emotions, either positively or negatively. Unfortunately, stretch marks often negatively affect someone’s life. They can cause stress, lower self-esteem, and even cause depression. In some cases, people will avoid certain activities, such as going to the beach, if it means publicly exposing their stretch marks.

    Teenagers especially have a hard time with stretch marks. For many, teenage years are full of awkwardness, and reduced self-esteem. Increased self-consciousness, hormonal changes, and development of stretch marks could potentially result in depression.

    For example, a recent scientific case study from Europe found that “Widely spread visual changes on the skin, including striae, are not serious diseases or disability, but only a cosmetic problem. However, they may lead to a persistent complex and feeling of inferiority or even cause serious depression states, especially in teenagers… Psychological treatment may benecessary in such cases”

    Expectant mothers are also prone to stretch marks. These marks usually appear towards the end of pregnancy when the abdominal area rapidly expands. Even for those maintaining a balanced diet and healthy lifestyle, these marks can reduce self-esteem and potentially lead to depression. However, while some pregnant women find stretch marks to be unwanted scars, others find them to symbolize motherhood and are proud of them.

    Stretch marks are blemishes that most people will experience at some point. For some, these marks can cause stress, decrease self-esteem, or even lead to depression. For those in this category, however, there are many treatment options available. These treatments can help minimize the visibility of stretch marks, and therefore, should be considered.

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