If you’ve noticed your adolescent obsessively engaging in harmful behaviors such as hair-pulling, nail-biting, or picking at their skin, you may have already tried to stop the behavior in its tracks, but to no avail. Fortunately, these types of behaviors are recognized in psychology and there are ways to combat the need to engage in these habits. To learn more about how you can help your teen with these issues, continue reading for an in-depth guide on what body-focused repetitive behaviors are and the treatments that teens can use in order to alleviate and eliminate these habits.

What Are Body-Focused Repetitive Behaviors or BFRBs?

Body-focused repetitive behaviors, also known as BFRBs for short, refer to a group of disorders that pertain to self-grooming behaviors that cause damage to the person experiencing the disorder. Some of the most common body-focused behaviors include:

Trichotillomania – Trichotillomania is a disorder in which the people feel the need to compulsively pull their hair. This hair can be pulled from anywhere in the body but those suffering from this disorder will often have noticeable bald patches on their body where the hair is being pulled from.

Dermatillomania – Dermatillomania, also known as excoriation disorder, refers to a need to touch or pick at the skin in such a way that it is removed from the body. With this disorder, problems can range from mild to severe and may result in infections, scarring, or damage to the tissue and possible disfigurement.

Onychophagia – Onychophagia is a condition in which a person compulsively bites their nails. Nail biting is a problem on its own but individuals suffering from this disorder may continue biting their nails or cuticles until bleeding, pain, and infection occur.

Keep in mind that this is by no means an extensive list of BFRBs. Other BFRBs include self-grooming behaviors such as biting the skin off of lips, removing and ingesting scabs and biting on the cheeks until the damage is done.

What Causes Body-Focused Repetitive Behaviors?

It is still up to debate as to what causes a BFRB, although it is often speculated that a BFRB is formed as a result of an individual attempting to fix a perceived issue in their physical appearance. Through the positive experience that they have when they engage in this type of behavior, it becomes a coping mechanism that helps them get through intense feelings of overwhelm, anger, sadness, and other negative emotions. For the moment, a BFRB is considered to fall into the OCD spectrum of behaviors as one must have made several attempts to stop without the ability to follow through.

What Can I Do to Help My Teen Overcome Their Body-Focused Repetitive Behavior?

Although BFRBs are compulsive behaviors, there are several treatments that can help your teen overcome their BFRB. Here are some of the most common and effective courses of treatment that your teen can use to overcome these behaviors.

  1. Habit Reversal Training – Habit reversal training focuses on replacing the behavior with a different habit each time an individual feels the urge to engage in their BFRB. This type of treatment is better in the short-term and will help teens cope while learning additional methods.
  2. Speaking to a Therapist/Going to Group – A solid support system is necessary to get through any mental health issue. Going to a group as well going to therapy will help your teen to feel more supported and less alone in their struggle and healing journey.
  3. Medication – A BFRB does not always call for medication but it can be beneficial in some cases where anxiety or depression are driving forces behind the behavior.
  4. Developing and Implementing a Safety Plan – A teen can better tackle these types of behaviors if they have a safety plan in place. Cultivating mindfulness, knowing how to recognize triggers, having other habits to engage in to prevent from engaging in habits subconsciously, and using other self-help methods will keep them on the right track in between therapy sessions.

BFRBs can be difficult for you and your teen to handle but the hope of recovery is very much alive! If you’ve noticed any of the body-focused repetitive behaviors in your child and have made an effort to end them but have had not had any success, contact us to get a better idea of how we can help you and your teen put an end to these behaviors.