Hello friends! Welcome back to Good for You deep dives! Hopefully I’ll get over my little slump sooner rather than later and actually post on Tuesdays when the posts are supposed to go up as my Rubicon grade is counting on it. Anyway, this week I wanted to kick off a series about a topic that I think is rarely talked about even though it’s a common symptom among many people who suffer from anxiety disorders and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). That topic is Body-Focused Repetitive Behaviors, or BFRBs.

BFRBs are either individual mental illnesses or symptoms thereof which result in an individual touching or picking at various parts of their body repetitively, mindlessly, and in ways that could cause physical complications. Some more well-known examples of BFRBs are trichotillomania (hair pulling), excoriation (skin picking), and onychophagia (chronic nail biting). Less well known BFRBs include cheek biting, lip picking, and scab eating, though we’ll go more in-depth into the types of BFRB next week.

The prevalence of BFRBs is estimated between 3% (as stated by Psychology Today) and 5% (as stated by the TLC Foundation for BFRBs) of the population. They can be caused by many things, including genetic predisposition, but the most widely theorized causes for BFRBs are anxiety disorders and OCD. Currently, a few BFRBs like trichotillomania and excoriation disorder have separate diagnoses, but BFRBs are generally listed in the DSM-5 as being “Obsessive-Compulsive or Related Disorders.” BFRBs or obsessive body behaviors in general are also listed as a symptom of Body Dysmorphic Disorder.

As suggested by their relation to OCD, BFRBs are compulsive. People can notice them while their anxiety is worse, but they’re often mindless behaviors that one doesn’t know they’re engaging in. They typically begin to present later in childhood or during the teen years, when it becomes easier to distinguish a symptom of mental illness from behaviors many kids do, like biting their nails occasionally.

That’s all for tonight’s post on the basics of BFRBs. This series will be four parts- the posts following this one will be types of BFRB, treatment, and why we need to talk about BFRBs/ how they factor into the larger culture surrounding mental health. Thank you all for reading and I hope you have a great rest of your week!