Tuesday, 24 October 2017

Coffee talk: Body Dysmorphia

Some children see only things to hate about the way they look. Their condition can lead to depression, anxiety, self-surgery and even suicide 
- Eva Wiseman, The Observer

Today's Coffee Talk's subject is something we don't ever really discuss, but we talk about it all the time.  Let me explain.  How many times have you heard your mum or your best friend say they look fat or that they don't like their arms or whatever the case may be, and you look at them - honestly not knowing what they are seeing?  

Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) is a serious problem.  I don't pretend at all to be affected by this so much that it affects my daily life, but I do know that it affects every woman in some kind of way whether they talk about it or not.  The reason I know that we all suffer from it,  is when I look back at old photos of times I remember thinking I was fat or I was worried that my outfit wasn't flattering enough etc.  

Since finding out that we are having a baby girl, it's definitely made me check myself every time I've said (or even so much as thought) something negative about my body.  Even though we don't mean to and we're not projecting these comments onto another person, we think it's ok to say it about ourselves. In doing this, we're not really realising that our comments can become damaging in the long term and cause the younger generation to look for things to pick at - because they've learned to.

When these thoughts become an obsession is when the real problems can start.  It can turn into a full-blown mental disorder that can lead sufferers to self mutilate in the hope that they can fix the 'problem' that they think they're seeing that sadly isn't even there in the first place.   After reading this article, one thing I thought was how reserved the estimated figures were.  Granted, not everyone is affected so much that they embark on surgery, but '1 in 50 people suffering in varying degrees' ? It seems somewhat conservative to me and the number has to be higher among women especially due to 'comparison culture' brought on by the success of social media.

What the article also reveals sadly is that bullying is a factor that can affect a child's psyche and make them question the way they look and no amount of positive reinforcement from a parent can counteract that, because we're seen as 'having to say that'.  It seems to me that the only solution is to take the focus off of looks altogether.  Things we say to girls include: you look beautiful, your hair looks nice, your make up looks good.  Have you ever noticed that when you're talking to a boy you are more likely to comment on his experiences, his toys/possessions, or what he'd been doing that day?

BDD is in my opinion definitely something we can all be aware of, and whilst I'm not saying that  commenting 'you look pretty' should be off the agenda completely, maybe it shouldn't be the first thing we say.


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