Body-Focused Repetitive Behaviors

After completing my master’s thesis I discovered Body-Focused Repetitive Behaviors (BFRBs). Through my research, involvement with the TLC Foundation for BFRBs, and working with clients, I have discovered this population is often misunderstood and seen by others as attention-seeking or manipulation. This myth often preventions people with BFRBs from seeking assistance. It is my goal to provide services that understand and help those struggling with this behavior.

BFRBs are not considered self-injury in the Diagnostic Statistical Manual-5 (DSM-5). There are five aspects of BFRBs: genetic, cognitive, sensory, emotion, and location. BFRBs are mislabeled in our society as self-injury. These behaviors have some similarities to self-injury, but the reason for the behaviors differ, as do the treatments. Counseling and support groups can be helpful to those who have BFRBs. Understandably, many individuals may feel uncomfortable talking about their issues to friends and family, but in support groups, everyone has a basic understanding of BFRBs even though there is a variety of manifestations.

Some Body-Focused Repetitive Behaviors are:

Trichotillomania (hair-pulling)

-A hair-pulling disorder by the non-cosmetic pulling of hair, resulting in significant hair loss. Often those who have hair pull have rituals after the hair is pulled. These rituals can be biting, chewing, playing with, and swallowing hair. Swallowing hair can be life-threatening by blocking the intestine tract, if not treated it can require surgery.

Skin picking

-Individuals who repetitively touch, rub, scratch, pick at or dig into their skin. The person may be trying to remove irregularities or received imperfections in their skin. Skin picking can result in scarring or skin discoloration.

Biting Insides of the Cheeks/Nail/Cuticle Biting

-The action of biting parts on one’s mouth or finger/toenails.