Fighting the Stigma of BFRBs
Throughout media history, popular culture has had a major impact on the youth and how they interact and perceive the world. In all industries the media has been blamed for having a negative influence the youth and the evolving way the new generation socializes in the world. Mental illness has had a particularly hard time contending with negative stereotypes and the stigmatization of being ‘different’. So it is no surprise that with the rise in awareness of body-focussed repetitive behaviours, that one of these conditions would bear the brunt of one of these socially irresponsible media campaigns.
In October 2014 popular culture channel MTV posted an offensive article on their website featuring a young woman with a life threatening trichobezoar (mass of ingested hair in the intestinal tract), who suffers with a condition called trichophagia (hair eating disorder). The article came to the attention of Leslie Lee from the Trichotillomania Learning Centre (TLC) outreach programs, who proactively pointed out the role MTV was playing in perpetuating a damaging stigma about a very real and difficult condition.
MTV consequently removed the offending article within 24 hours and posted a new article with the hope of creating more positive awareness about BFRBs. The new article titled, “What It’s Like When You Can’t Stop Pulling Out Your Hair” featured the personal experiences of some TLC members struggling with trichotillomania. The lesson to be gained by all of us is to not be silent in the face of stigma, and to each do our bit to raise awareness and break the silence about skin picking disorder and other BFRBs.