What are Body Focused Repetitive Behaviors?

By Timothy Re, Psy.D.  Ext. 317


Body Focused Repetitive Behaviors are a class of disorders which include things like Trichotillomania (hair pulling), nail biting, skin picking, as well as lesser known behaviors such as lip biting, finger biting, picking and others. These are common and may not be a subject of attention if mild, but may be a target of treatment and intervention depending on the severity and emotional impact.


Body Focused Repetitive Behaviors can cause serious impairment in self-esteem, relationships, and activities. There usually is associated secrecy, shame, isolation, stress, and of course, clinical degrees of depression and anxiety. Many sufferers have co-occuring disorders – 26% have Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, 23% have Major Depression and 23% have Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Over 55% of people with these report some type of social impairment and 55% of children with these disorders report some type of school impairment. Medical issues are also present in the form of infections, scarring and dermatological problems.


There is such shame and secrecy associated with these disorders that they are often hidden from family members and sufferers go through extensive cover-ups to hide these behaviors and their results.


Increasing research is being done to attempt to understand these behaviors and their causes. Treatments are advancing and being developed as therapists see more of these cases in their practice. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, as well as new advances in related theories, have shown to be most useful. Hair pulling and skin picking are difficult and complex behaviors that can be helped with treatment. Please feel free to contact me at 847-413-9700, ext. 317 with any questions.