Thanks to the media’s dangerous portrayal of body image ‘ideals’, the development of Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) is affecting more people than ever.
If you don’t know much about BDD, it’s classed by the NHS as an ‘anxiety disorder that causes people to have a distorted view of how they look and to cause a lot of time worrying about their appearance’.
Body Dysmorphia now affects up to one in 100 people in the UK, and can be found in both males and females.
Although it’s getting more media coverage than ever before (and rightfully so), for non-sufferers, it can still be pretty difficult to understand. With that in mind, we’ve put together 9 things you should NEVER say to a BDD sufferer.
Some of these things might seem obvious, but you’d be surprised at the frequency sufferers hear this stuff said; and let us tell you, it is by no means helpful.
1. You’re so vain
We understand why you might think this, but if there’s anything BDD sufferers are not not, it’s vain.
The only reason we spend hours looking at ourselves and checking our appearance, is because we’re so caught up in the defects we obsess about, and when you’re worried that people are laughing at you because you’re ‘ugly’, it’s kind of difficult to ignore.
So please never call us vain, because you have no idea how upsetting it can be.
2. I don’t get why you’re worried, you’re so pretty!
One thing you really need to understand about us, is that we don’t see what you see. When we look in the mirror we see something completely different to what you see, and it’s an incredibly warped version of reality.
So, instead of commenting on how silly we’re being, just tell us we look beautiful every now and again. We might not believe you, and we’ll probably laugh it off, but we appreciate it all the same.
3. Comparing yourself with others is stupid
Honestly, it’d be really lovely to be able to get on a bus or walk down the street without feeling inferior to everyone else, but that’s just not possible.
Us BDD sufferers compare ourselves with absolutely everybody, and as much as we try not to, it’s very difficult to stop. Instead of telling us to stop comparing ourselves with others, make an effort to distract us from doing it while we’re out and about.
You might not succeed, but if you can make us forget about it for just 30 seconds, we’ll massively appreciate it.
4. You’re one of the most self-obsessed people I’ve ever met
Sure, we might spend a lot of time obsessing over how we look, but that doesn’t make us self-obsessed.
A lot of people don’t seem to realise that it’s our illness which makes us obsess over appearance, and not a self-indulgent personality.
Suggesting the latter will only make us feel more rubbish about ourselves, and we really could do without that.
5. You always bail on the stuff we plan. You’re such a bad friend
BDD sufferers are more often than not depressed, and usually suffer from social anxiety. Summoning up the courage to do anything when you feel like everyone is judging you or laughing at you can be really exhausting, so please don’t hate us when we have to bail on stuff last minute.
We really do try our best to keep up with the people we love most, but it can be very difficult – so why not come around every now and again for a movie night, or suggest something fun we could do at home instead.
6. Other people have it a lot worse than you
Okay, we’re not aliens and we haven’t been away visiting Mars for six years. We know there are people in the world who have it seriously tough, but that doesn’t make what we’re feeling right now any less difficult.
Try to imagine spending every waking moment loathing yourself, and letting it stop you from living your life properly, and you’ll have a good idea as to why we are so focused on our own problems.
7. You wear too much makeup
Makeup is (and always will be) a personal choice, regardless of whether we wear it to improve our confidence or cover up flaws. So thanks, but no thanks for your opinion – it was invalid from the word go.
8. I know how you feel, we can all be self-conscious sometimes
Feeling a bit down when you’re having a bad hair or eyebrow day is totally normal, but that’s not what BDD is about. Body Dysmorphia sufferers can spend pretty much every second worrying about their appearance, and it can stop us from doing all of the cool stuff we want to do.
While we appreciate your ‘empathy’, likening such a life-changing illness to trivial matters really does make us feel stupid.
9. It’s just a phase, you’ll get over it
For this one, we’re going to need to hit you with the facts. Body Dysmorphic Disorder is a serious condition, and if left untreated, it can lead sufferers to commit suicide.
You wouldn’t tell someone suffering with a visible, physical disease to ‘get over it’, so why would a mental health issue be any different?