Body – focused repetitive behaviours (BFRBs) such as chronic hair pulling, skin picking and nail biting were in essence always thought to be ‘nervous habits.’ Current research on the subject, however, confirms that those suffering from such behaviours only “engage in these behaviours when under stress or when they feel bored or frustrated.” Researchers from the University of Montreal, Canada, conducted a study on 48 individuals, half of whom were suffering from body-focused repetitive behaviours. Each participant was exposed to four different experimental situations designed to elicit one of 4 emotions: stress, relaxation, frustration or boredom. During the frustration and boredom experiments, those suffering from skin picking and other related disorders, felt a stronger desire to engage in such behaviours. Seemingly, these behaviours satisfy some sort of an urge where individuals feel they have no control over a situation, and grant a type of reward to sufferers. On the other hand, participants experiencing a situation designed to induce relaxation such as listening to waves breaking in the ocean were unlikely to indulge in such behaviours. The urge to pick their skin or bite their nails was practically non-existent when participants were calm and relaxed.
Online Test for Skin Picking
Find out the severity of your symptoms with this free online test
According to Kieran O’Connor, one of the senior researchers, individuals displaying these behaviours, “may be perfectionistic, meaning that they are unable to relax and to perform tasks at a ‘normal’ pace.” It is difficult for skin pickers to control their habit when they are exposed to situations in which they are unable to attain their goals. Frustration, impatience, dissatisfaction and eventually boredom will all lead to the continuation of body-focused repetitive behaviours. Skin picking is an impulse control disorder and sufferers often do not seek treatment. It may seem simplistic but it appears that individuals suffering from body-focused repetitive behaviours will benefit from situations in which they are stimulated and occupied, or calm and relaxed. If boredom is kept at bay and stress levels reduced, it is likely that these individuals, who are actually perfectionists, will be able to modify their behaviour to a level that is acceptable to society. However, it is crucial to note that each individual experiences skin picking differently. While the need for a sense of control may be a triggering factor for some, this does not box all skin pickers into the same description. It is still fundamental for each individual to become aware of their own unique triggers and precipitating factors in order to overcome it.