Body-Focused Repetitive Behaviors

Revive Wellness Therapy - Conshohocken Counseling

Body-Focused Repetitive Behaviors (BFRBs) is a broad term for a group of disorders that involve an individual to repeatedly touch parts of their body to where it results in dysfunction and physical damage. Among these disorders are:

  • Trichotillomania or Hair Pulling: an individual will identify a hair and feel an urge to pull it from their body. This results in a short term feeling of relief followed by emotional distress and noticeable bald patches over time. Common areas to pull from are the scalp, eyebrows and eyelashes, and pubic hair. Some individuals may also hold the hair or swallow the hair after it is pulled.
  • Excoriation or Compulsive Skin Picking: an individual will repeatedly touch, rub, or pick at areas of their skin to the point where scarring, tissue damage, or infection will develop. Additional BFRBs include cheek and lip-biting.
  • Onychophagia or Nail Biting: an individual will continually bite their nails past the nail bed resulting in pain, bleeding, and infection.

Life with a BFRB can feel very debilitating. They can affect one’s ability to function in public spaces, impact their school or work performance, and their relationships. BFRBs can also cause feelings of shame and embarrassment, low self-esteem, avoidance of people or places, feelings of loss of control over their BFRB. Research has identified evidence-based treatments are most effective in treating BFRBs. This involves some habit reversal and behavioral training, as well as improving the individual’s cognitive understanding and ability to cope with difficult emotions. We understand that the individual is more than just their BFRB, and so treatment works to gain insight and improve control over the behavior, while also considering the needs of each individual person as a whole. For more information and resources about Body-Focused Repetitive Behaviors, visit