The Role of Emotions in BFRBs

Emotions are communicators and play a big role in Body-focused Repetitive Behaviors. Even if we are not always aware of our feelings, they strongly influence our picking, pulling, and biting behavior.

It’s essential to be in tune with our emotions when an urge occurs to help recognize what may have triggered it.

Anxiety, stress, and nervousness are the most common feelings associated with BFRBs.

But our emotions are much more than that. We even engage in our BFRB when we seem to be feeling just fine. Therefore, becoming aware of our feelings and their reasons is crucial for BFRB recovery.

Put emotions into words to better understand your BFRB

I didn’t have the vocabulary to name my feelings. In my family, there are two emotions: “I’m fine” and “not so fine.” It was an interesting experience to dig deeper to answer questions in therapy like “how did that make you feel” or “what are you feeling right now?”.

When we verbalize our feelings, our fears, worries, and pain become less intense. That’s why talking to a friend or therapist can make us feel better about getting the most out of our system.

See your BFRBs as inner alarms telling you to take a break, not take things too seriously, set boundaries, or focus on your mental health to heal and feel better. Jeez, sometimes I think my BFRBs know me better than I do!


3 Ways to Track Emotions

Tracking our emotions is almost as important as logging the BFRBs themselves. This encourages us to reflect on why we feel a certain way, which can help us find a solution to prevent picking, pulling, or biting.

1.     Log Your Emotions Using a Mood Tracker App

At the beginning of my BFRB healing journey, I used Mood-Log (by Barry Langdon-Lassagne). It is an app where you can choose from many emotions and make notes. I tracked the overall summary of my feelings at the end of the day. This app has helped me name my emotions and look for patterns in how my moods changeover time based on different situations and circumstances.

Emotion tracker app

2.     Simultaneously log your emotions and BFRB

As mentioned above, emotions and BFRBs are closely intertwined. And because logging both is super helpful for my BFRB recovery, I created the BFRB Awareness JournalNow I have this one place where I can put my emotions into words and analyze the situation that triggered my BFRB.

3.     Journal Speak

Set a timer for 10–20 minutes, and just vent by writing whatever comes to mind. I like to delete what I’ve written after the timer runs out. Shredding the paper or permanently deleting the file makes me feel safer and freer to put my thoughts and feelings into words. I learned this super helpful technique on the podcast The Cure for Chronic Pain.


Feelings, thoughts, and urges won’t last forever. They come and go like the clouds in the sky. So try to locate your emotions in your body and stay with them until they go away. I know this can be difficult but becoming aware of and accepting them makes this process more manageable over time.

Do you track your emotions or your BFRBs? Let me know in the comments below!

Sending you much love, 

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