The human brain loves shortcuts. First impressions, stereotyping, schemas, and habits are all ways the brain demonstrates laziness. Another way to consider habits is that they free up brain resources that can be used for other things. In many cases, these shortcuts are helpful such as detecting dangerous places or people, helping us understand the world around us, and staying healthy. However, in some cases, habits get out of control and become stronger than our ability to stop them. The negative aspects of strong habits can be seen in people who try to quit smoking or stop eating sugar, and to some extent, body-focused repetitive behaviors (BFRBs). While BFRBs are more compulsory than habitual, researchers are trying to distinguish when a habit becomes a compulsion. If they can find that mechanism, then perhaps they can interrupt it or fix it thereby reversing the compulsion.
photo courtesy of The TLC Foundation http://www.bfrb.org/ecap
The TLC Foundation is now accepting applications for its Early Career Award Program (ECAP). ECAP is a mentorship and career development opportunity that supports rising stars in the field of body-focused repetitive behaviors, including trichotillomania (hair pulling) disorder, excoriation (skin picking)disorder, and related conditions.
A recent study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology suggests another approach BFRB treatment is quite effective. Results indicate that the CoPs treatment model was significantly effective in 74% of the 54 participants indicating this approach is a good option for people with BFRBs to try. Very promising!
CoPs is short for cognitive psychophysiological model, which is based on the science that combines cognitive science and physiology. Cognitive science is the study of thinking and knowing; psychophysiology is a way to measure psychological states using physical processes. One of the most common ways to do that is to measure the central nervous system (CNS) and autonomic nervous system (ANS) responses through heart rate, galvanic skin response, or sweating. With the widespread availability of brain imaging, cognitive psychophysiology can now measure psychological states using fMRI and other imaging techniques.
While perusing mental health-related news for potential blog postings, I noticed multiple announcements regarding transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) for treating obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Upon reading the press release from Achieve TMS which states “There are no systemic side effects, and patients are able to safely drive to school or work immediately afterward,” a fearful question from my inner skeptic popped into my head: Does anyone remember lobotomies?
Discovered during research on Parkinson’s disease, the FDA approved deep brain stimulation (DBS) for use in the treatment of treatment-resistant depression and now other forms of it are approved for OCD. It may not be long until variations of these treatments become available for other disorders such as dermatillomania and other BFRBs because they are included in the OCD spectrum of disorders despite significant differences.
Whoever created the saying “sticks and stones can break my bones but words will never hurt me” was either in complete denial or had no clue about the devastating effects of words. Things we hear in childhood echo in our minds for years to come, often shaping how we think and feel about ourselves. Some of it gets put there before we are conscious it.
Cognitive behavioral therapists work hard with clients to untangle words from beliefs that shape actions. One of my former clients, we’ll call her Jane, struggled with self-esteem and insecurity for most of her life. Growing up, she was told by her stepmother that her real mother didn’t want her over and over whenever she got in trouble, which was quite a lot. Jane was in her 30’s and coming to therapy for something else entirely, but through CBT work, discovered that those words shaped her entire life. She learned to believe that if her biological mother didn’t want her, then no one ever would. That shaped her destructive substance use, her emotional detachment in relationships, her distrust of others, her depression, anxiety, and eating disorder.
New research released this month about the prevalence of body-focused repetitive behaviors (BFRBs) suggests that these disorders are more common than previous research stated.
Prevalence? What’s prevalence?
Prevalence is a term used in epidemiology to describe a proportion of a population that has a condition. Mostly, it refers to the commonality of something. The numbers usually represent a fraction of a percentage of cases per 100,000 people but are specific to a given period.
While prevalence often suggests that the percentage provided is a real number, it is based on a sample population. Sample populations are smaller versions of the entire population which mean that even if there is the prevalence of 10% indicated for a condition, it does not mean that 10% of people have it. Instead, it means 10% of a sample population has it which implies that percentage reflects the general population.
The 26th Annual Conference on BFRBs will be held May 2-5, 2019, in Chantilly, VA.
The Annual Conference on Body-Focused Repetitive Behaviors brings together people of all ages affected by BFRBs and their families, treatment providers, researchers, and salon and service providers for a "life-changing" weekend of education and community.
We specifically seek workshops that:
For more information or to submit a presentation proposal, CLICK HERE.
Still a misunderstood condition, research is providing more ways for clinicians to diagnose excoriation disorder and its subtypes accurately. There are several ways to refer to compulsive skin picking including dermatillomania or excoriation disorder. They all mean the same thing and are often used interchangeably. No matter what it is called, there are many negative connotations with the word “diagnosis,” but there are also benefits to diagnostic accuracy.
Therapists have mixed feelings about the diagnostic process. Some believe it is essential and imperative for accurate treatment while others look at it as a means to facilitate treatment but not as important as what a client experiences. Some will require a client to participate in multiple types of assessments and tests to get the diagnosis right, while others will only rely on client self-report and then pick an appropriate label out of the DSM-5. Regardless of one’s therapeutic perspective, an accurate diagnosis is key to selecting evidence-based treatments for clients. For people with skin picking disorder, diagnosis can be even more important due to the prevalence of misdiagnosis which does not help clients at all.