Hair-Pulling and Nail Biting May Affect Our Life More Than We Think

Hair-Pulling and Nail Biting Affect Our Life More Than We Think

A lot of people are not familiar with the term called body-focused repetitive behaviors or BFRBs? It involves activities like nail-biting, hair pulling, mirror checking, and skin picking. In other words, repeated actions linked to one’s physical appearance, or, damaging their body.

These activities can interfere with one’s life – at home, work, school, and elsewhere. It is believed that BFRBs affect over ten million people only in North America.

But, why do these behaviors develop and how can you treat them?

The treatment of BFRBs has remained stagnant for years, although researchers are still trying to learn more about this condition.

You may think it’s not a big deal, but some of these repetitive behaviors can result in scars, bald patches, infections, anxiety, shame, and social isolation.

According to the TLC Foundation for BFRBs, 2-3% of the population has a hair-pulling disorder, and 2-5% have a skin picking disorder. When it comes to the most common body-focused repetitive behavior, nail-biting affects 20-30% of the population.

Right now, there are no effective treatments for BFRBs, although the current treatment strategies like SSRIs or Habit Reversal Therapy have a 10-20% long-term success rate.

Living with some of these repetitive behaviors can be emotionally painful, especially since the cause and treatment for these disorders are still unknown. They can make people secretive and ashamed, which can negatively impact all aspects of their life.

It usually begins during adolescence, and these years are really sensitive to one’s brain development.

People with different BFRBS say they feel like their life is a mess when their behaviors get out of control. That’s usually because these symptoms are aggravated by stress.

A person with BFRB can sometimes feel ambitious to quit the annoying habit of nail-biting for example, but it’s not that simple. They usually try different strategies, but some of them can work day or two, and the more effective ones up to a few months.

Still, some people can stop their BFRB completely, and many of them say their effective strategy was not having one at all and accepting themselves for what they are.

However, what works for one person may not be successful for another, as these are highly personalized habit disorders. So, if you have any BFRB, see what works for you and try to stick with it as long as it takes to become your new habit.

Here are a few suggestions you can try as a way to stop your damaging habit disorder:

Tips for Managing Your BFRB

Be Mindful of Your Thoughts

The truth is, the less you think about your habit, the less you do it. But, be prepared to handle it in any situation. For example, if you have a hair-pulling disorder, hide or get rid of your tweezers. Be mindful of your thoughts whenever you think you might be triggered, like when driving.

Keep gloves in your car and put them on when needed. Or, wear a headband over your hair at night. And, remind yourself all the time that your hair is beautiful and that you shouldn’t pull it.

Use an App to Track Your Progress

If you notice it’s been a while since you bite your nails, challenge yourself to keep going for as long as you can. Use an app to track your progress, remind you of your success, and motivate you to persist.

Learn More About Your Habit

First, accept your habit, and then try to learn and understand what you are dealing with. This will give you peace of mind, knowing that your damaging habit is not your fault. And, if you can’t stop it, acceptance will at least help you learn how to make the best of your life with your BFRB.

Turn Your Habit Into Art

You can use your urge to create art, thus finding a way to control it. For example, carry a piece of paper and a pencil in your pocket or purse, and use it to draw something whenever you feel the urge to pick your skin, pull your hair, or bite your nails.

This will help you refocus your fingers and relax even after a minute.

It’s never too late to try kicking your damaging habit.