We all have days when we look in the mirror and don’t like what we see. But for someone with body dysmorphic disorder, it’s not a fleeting thought, but a fixation that fills their mind with obsessive, negative thoughts.
“It’s where somebody has a fixation on some part of their body, coupled with a conviction that it is not “right”. It doesn’t look right, it’s too big, too small, too anything,” she tells Mamamia.
“They constantly check it. They constantly compare themselves to others. It’s a fixation of all their energies and attention… and it’s often coupled with attempts to try to change it.
“It’s not necessarily what your body looks like, it’s what you think it looks like.”
Listen: Thanks, gym owner, but your message is not motivational.
So what do you say to someone who’s feeling that bad about themselves?
Well, according to Morgan, definitely not “just stop worrying about it”.
“The most unhelpful thing is ‘just get over it’, ‘stop worrying about it’, ‘just let it go’. Because when it’s a mental disorder you can’t ‘just’ do anything. It truly is embedded in the way you think, the framework of your actions, so you can’t just ‘let it go’.”
“Telling someone to just let it go does not work, at all.”
Morgan adds that trying to argue logically that what they see is not true will not “jolt them out of it”.
Instead, Morgan suggests trying these tactics when your friend or loved one starts to mention what they don’t like about their body.
Steer the conversation, without dismissing them.
When your friend has just told you they “hate their fat arms”, it can be tricky to not immediately say: “don’t be silly, your arms a skinny”. While what you’re trying to do is tell them that’s not what you see, a better way is to shift their focus away from their external features and onto their positive non-physical traits.
“It’s steering the conversation away from what they’ve observed,” Morgan says.
“You could say something like, ‘I think you are gorgeous as you are. Not only do you look great, but I love your conversation, I love the way you speak, I love what you can do’.
“So, taking the conversation into a more positive place and trying to take it away from the physical appearance.”
Stop the negative spiral in its tracks.
Morgan says that trying to relate to them by talking about your own insecurities, isn’t going to be helpful, but understands that people aren’t robots and that it’s about making a conscious effort to stop the negative talk.
“We bully ourselves with our own comments about our bodies, we shame ourselves. When you feel a conversation heading the way of a competition about who can feel the worst about themselves, put a stop to it.”