When I discovered that skin picking, nail-biting, and cheek biting fall under the same umbrella called Body-Focused Repetitive Behaviors, I was surprised but also kinda relieved.
Suddenly I had the feeling that I only had to fight one battle instead of three different ones.
After more than 20 years, I was finally able to get to the bottom of my behaviors and seek specific help. After some research, I found the book: “Overcoming Body-Focused Repetitive Behaviors: A Comprehensive Behavioral Treatment for Hair Pulling and Skin Picking.”
The BFRB self-help book in a nutshell
This self-help book teaches how to improve BFRBs in three steps:
- Building awareness and recognizing patterns: Become aware of when and where your body-focused repetitive behaviors occur. What are the triggers – locations, experiences, feelings, things that cause your behaviors.
- Planning and preparation: Find out what tips and tricks can help you with your BFRBs. Have a strategy when faced with triggers.
- Putting the plan in action: Use your custom plan and tricks to prevent the BFRB from happening.
An example of me using the three steps to prevent picking the fingers and nail-biting:
Trigger: writing copy on my computer in a sitting position.
Writing copy is super stressful for me. I get nervous, impatient, and distorted thoughts and self-doubt work against me. Plus, I overthink everything. You’re probably wondering why on earth am I writing this blog then. Yes, this BFRB Coping project is a massive challenge for me. But if I gave in to my anxiety, I wouldn’t achieve anything in my life.
Now back to the implementation of the book’s guideline for nail-biting and picking my fingers:
- I’m aware that writing copy is nerve-wracking for me. My fingers keep moving over each other, checking for something to scratch and pick.
- I plan to use different tricks to prevent picking my fingers and biting my nails. I switch between BFRB tricks, but the most effective so far have been taping my finger, using the finger protector and the DIY fidget ring.
- On my desk, I have a box of all kinds of BFRB tools that are always ready to use. I’ll put the plan into action as soon as I sit down at my computer. If I plan to write copy or answer emails, I put on my BFRB gear beforehand – see picture below.
Examples of BFRB trigger situations
BFRBs are the result of stress, anxiety, or even boredom. Other trigger situations can be:
- Looking in the mirror, especially in the bathroom
- Watching TV
- Driving or getting stuck in traffic
- Thinking of a problem
- Talking on the phone
- Reading a book
- Making decisions
- Stress at work, at school
- Sometimes it’s not even possible to pinpoint a situation…
What are your trigger situations and locations? Observe yourself and write down when, where and how your BFRBs take place. You might be surprised some of these were not known because your BFRBs are so automated.
The BFRB self-help book “Overcoming Body-Focused Repetitive Behaviors” has much more detailed examples and better explanations. I can’t do the book justice with this post.
I recommend reading this BFRB self-help book and trying the recommended three steps to a better life with BFRBs: awareness – planning – implementation.