The destigmatization of mental illnesses in the past decade has had a profoundly positive impact on society's awareness and acceptance of mental health issues. Even so, body-focused repetitive behaviors (or BFRBs) are rarely discussed in the media.
BRFBs are behaviors that are focused on a certain part of the body. This could include someone's hair, skin, or nails.
It is important to stress that BFRBs are psychological disorders; they are not just "bad habits" or behaviors that are simple to quit. In fact, they may have genetic linkages, as well; the etiology of BRFBs is quite complex.
Common examples of BFRBs include trichotillomania and dermatillomania. These BFRBs affect numerous individuals throughout the world, but lack of focus on them has led to people feeling "lost" or "alone" in their quest to understand their behaviors.
Trichotillomania, also known as "trich" involves pulling out one's hair from a wide variety of regions of the body. People with "trich" may feel sudden "urges" or stress-relief/satisfaction in pulling out their hair. Sometimes, they may not know that they are pulling their hair out, and other times, tactile cues, such as texture, guide their pulling habits.
Dermatillomania, which is commonly known as excoriation disorder, involves picking at one's skin. This is a highly tactile disorder, focusing on scratching, peeling, or damaging one's skin in other ways.
There are various other forms or BFRBs, as well, each unique in their focus. It is important to note that impulse control for an individual with a BFRB may be difficult. The behaviors may also hurt the person as well, leading to things like bleeding, scars, scabs, and hair-loss. Behavioral therapy, medications (like SSRIs) and other integrative methods are excellent ways to treat BFRBs, but it is significant to address that these treatments may be costly or may not be effective in all situations.
It is important to treat people with BFRBs with compassion and love. Having a BFRB may be a very isolating experience, and may lead to fear of being judged by others. Keeping an open mind allows one to trust and confide in you, so you can serve as not only a person who is aware of BFRBs but also one who understands the situation one is going through if they have a BFRB.
This mini-series, "Let's Talk," will focus on a wide range of BFRBs and what one can do to help those with a BFRB, as well as various treatment options.