Many of us want to share our body-focused repetitive behaviour stories on large platforms such as news sites and take the plunge, only to be subject to the stories being exploited as sensationalistic clickbait. We’ve seen the heartbreak of people having their stories twisted into something they’re not and wanted to share some tips on how to avoid that. These tips are based on our own insight as people who have shared our stories on various platforms — print and digital alike — as well as my personal insight as a journalist in the field.
Here are eight things to keep in mind if you’re thinking about being interviewed about your BFRB. If you’re reading this as someone who’s already had your story taken advantage of, keep reading to the end.
Check out the website, newspaper, book, television show, or wherever it is where you’re going to share your story.
Make sure you’re comfortable with the other content that’s already available, including reading and watching the way that similar stories or other sensitive issues are addressed and discussed. Are they treated as sensationalist viewer- or clickbait or even simply like they’re not important? Those are big red flags.
Read/watch other from the journalist, writer, or interviewer who says they want to share your story.
Like with the platform, see how the journalist/interviewer presents similar and sensitive stories. Do they approach them with compassion? Do they seem sympathetic to people’s issues? Is it done for views? Ask them why they want to share your story and share it with their audience — what is their goal and does that seem genuine?
Pay attention to what kinds of questions they’re asking and how they approach you.
Again, sensationalism is a large part of why some sources take on BFRB stories. If you’re not comfortable with the questions (including their wording and the language used) or even how the interviewer initially asks you to share your story, you’re not obligated to disclosing anything to them.
Ask where the information about BFRBs is coming from.
One of the issues and challenges with BFRBs is there is a ton of incorrect or outdated information on the internet. Suggest sources to the interviewer (such as CBSN, the TLC Foundation for BFRBs, or even the DSM-5 itself) and check any that they mention they’re consulting to make sure the information is accurate. Make sure your own information isn’t outdated or incorrect, too.
Avoid journalists that make you sign contracts.
As a journalist, I’ve never heard of this practice. They might claim it’s for exclusivity purposes, but that’s not how the journalism, print or digital, world works. They can ask you not to share with any other journalist or source, but they can’t make you not do it.
When confronted with a contract, read it carefully.
If you’re contributing to a book, for instance, you may be asked to sign a waiver or contract, which will probably state what payment you are receiving (if any) and that you have given permission to share the story. This is common practice and is more so people don’t come back asking for royalties or trying to sue the editor of the book.
If you are not comfortable, you are allowed to back out.
Full stop. If you don’t like where it’s going, you’re allowed to say goodbye. You don’t have to answer questions you’re not comfortable with, you don’t have to provide pictures you don’t want to, you don’t have to say or do anything. To go back to contracts, if you’re faced with one that says you have to follow through no matter what, I would avoid it.
A note: Depending on the where you’re sharing your story, the author may not show you the story for your seal of approval ahead of time. Many journalists do not let the subjects of their stories vet the story beforehand, which can understandably be a scary thing. A legitimate journalist with a genuine interest in sharing human interest stories will handle your story with absolute delicacy and respect. Again, researching the writer, interviewer, and source beforehand is a big part of finding out who you can trust.
If you’ve come here thinking you wish you had known all of that beforehand and that hindsight is 20/20, you’re likely not alone. As I said at the beginning of this, we’ve seen many in the BFRB community lamenting how their story was twisted and regretting being so trusting. It’s a heartbreaking scenario, but know this: the community stands with you.
It’s probably going to feel super sucky for a while, but take it as a learning experience and lean on us in the meantime. We understand your pain because we have each shared fears of opening up and we can help you through this. Reach out. We’re here for you.