Posted on: Tuesday, October 6th, 2020
Do you know what a Body-focused repetitive behaviour (BFRB) is? Many people have never heard of this common mental health disorder. You may be surprised to learn that about 1 in 20 people lives with a BFRB, which means you likely know someone who is impacted by this disorder. October 1-7th, 2020 is BFRB Awareness Week and is a great opportunity to learn more about these common conditions.
What Are BFRBs?
Body-Focused Repetitive Behaviours (BFRBs) include Trichotillomania (hair pulling) and Excoriation Disorder (skin picking) which are characterized by the repeated pulling out of one’s hair or picking one’s skin despite repeated attempts to stop or decrease the behaviour. The typical age of onset is 11-15 years old, though it may occur earlier or later depending on the individual. BFRBs are estimated to be nine times more prevalent in women than in men at this time. BFRBs are classified as an Obsessive-compulsive related disorder, similar to OCD.
More Than Just a Bad Habit
BFRBs are often characterized as “bad habits” that only require more will and determination to stop. The reality is that these behaviours are incredibly complex, and so it often requires much more complex solutions than just trying harder, or using fiddle toys. If you speak to someone with a BFRB they will tell you they have tried so many ways to stop that they may feel exhausted and discouraged. Additionally, many people who have BFRBs feel shame or embarrassment about their behaviours, which makes it difficult to reach out to others for support. It can be particularly difficult for parents of children with BFRBs as they watch their child struggle with these complex behaviours.
There is Help
In the past, BFRBs were often misunderstood and medical professionals were not very familiar with BFRBs. It can be a discouraging experience when you know more about your condition than the person you approach for help. However, Cognitive-behavioural therapy is currently shown to be the most effective treatment overall for BFRBs. In addition, therapy can be helpful for addressing the shame and low self-esteem that often comes with BFRBs. There are also peer support groups and organizations such as the TLC Foundation for BFRBs or the Canadian BFRB Support Network. You are not alone, and there is help available!
If you or someone you know is living with a BFRB and would like to connect to some support, please reach out to Journey Counselling and meet with a psychologist (403-619-8558).