Flaws can be minor or things that can’t be seen by others. A person with body dysmorphia may feel so embarrassed and ashamed about these flaws or their appearance that they avoid social interactions. Coping with body dysmorphia is unimaginably difficult. This disorder can make it difficult for a person to build and sustain relationships. Many people with BDD also go to extreme measures to “fix” their flaws, such as extreme diets or unhealthy eating patterns and numerous cosmetic procedures like plastic surgery. Some may even turn to substance abuse to cope with their symptoms. If you have a loved one with this disorder, then you may be at a loss for words. Our Banyan Mental Health center is sharing some ideas on what to say to someone with body dysmorphia that can help you be there for someone with BDD.
Knowing how to talk to someone with body dysmorphia can help you navigate your loved one’s condition and be sensitive to their symptoms. Especially if your loved one has displayed the signs of body dysmorphia, it’s important to learn how to talk to them in a way that will help them, encourage them to get mental health treatment, and show them that you care. It can be tough to find the right words, but researching this condition and putting effort into learning how to support someone with body dysmorphia is worth it. Below are some examples of what to say to someone with body dysmorphia to show them that you care and want them to get help.
Although you may think that your loved one already knows this, sometimes a person needs an invitation to speak. Body dysmorphia often produces feelings of embarrassment and shame, which lead to isolation. A person with this condition may be hesitant to speak about their symptoms and how they feel because they don’t want to burden anyone or because they’re afraid to be judged. Regardless of how long you’ve known this person or how close you are, remind them that you’re there to simply listen to them if they ever need to vent or if they need advice.
While you may not have body dysmorphia yourself, you can make your loved one feel better by reminding them that they don’t have to go through this condition alone. Loving someone with BDD is a 24/7 commitment, but they may not know that. Share with the person that you’re on their team, and you’ll be there for them no matter what.
Often, people say hurtful or dismissive things without realizing it. One of the most harmful things you can do is attempt to relate to the person’s condition if you don’t have it yourself. Saying things like “I know exactly how you feel” or trying to compare their symptoms with something you’ve felt before comes across as dismissive and makes it seem like you don’t care. Do not make the conversation about yourself. Instead, be honest with them. Tell them that while you don’t know exactly how they feel, you’re available to help them with whatever they need.
While this might sound like a simple thing to say, letting people with BDD know you’re sympathetic towards their condition is comforting and expressing your empathy shows them that you truly care for them. Many people who are informed about a loved one’s mental illness ask questions like, “But why do you feel that way? Can’t you just stop? Why don’t you snap out of it?” all of which can be extremely hurtful. Saying you’re sorry they’re suffering goes a long way because it shows that you believe them, accept what they’re saying and that you understand them.
It might be tempting to tell someone with body dysmorphia that their symptoms are all in their head, but this can be both dismissive and frustrating. To say that it’s all in their head minimizes the concern and makes them out to seem as if they’re making things up. Avoid this kind of language, and instead gently remind them that while they may see these flaws, their condition causes these symptoms.
The most important of these is to get your loved one body dysmorphia help. Therapy programs like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) are helpful for people with mental disorders like BDD. CBT specifically focuses on identifying negative thought patterns and behaviors that contribute to mental illness and replacing them with healthier ones.