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Body-Focused Repetitive Behaviors and OCD

repetitive behavior

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) is a professionally curated list of mental health disorders often used by clinicians to diagnose patients. Within DSM-5, obsessive-compulsive and related disorders list body-focused repetitive behaviors (BFRB) as part of that group. This can lead many people to think that OCD and BFRBs are the same. In reality, each disorder's key differences include what drives them, how they are performed, and why. Banyan Treatment Center Boca explores these concepts and what can be done to treat them.  

What Is BFRB? 

These are a collection of conditions that are characterized by compulsive and repetitive self-grooming behaviors. Often associated with ADHD, OCD, and anxiety, these behaviors are likely to begin around an individual's late childhood or early teenage years. They involve causing damage to the physical appearance of the sufferer, typically as a ritual to relieve tension.  

Examples of repetitive body-focused behaviors include: 

  • Trichotillomania - Pulling out one’s hair. This can include eyelashes, eyebrows, or hair from the head or any other part of the body. 
  • Trichophagia - With how common pulling out hair is, as many as 20% of those individuals also feel the impulse to eat it. This impulse could be especially dangerous if a hairball were to form in the stomach and go untreated. 
  • Onychophagia (aka nail-biting) - Can not only hurt the nails and surrounding skin but can also damage the teeth. 
  • Morsicatio Buccarum - A term for chronic cheek biting, this can result in swelling and soreness, despite being a method of self-soothing.  
  • Dermatillomania - Sometimes referred to as excoriation disorder, this is when a person can’t help but pick at their skin. This can include scabs, bumps, pimples, and so on.  

Hair pulling and skin picking are the only two BFRBs that are listed within the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, although that does not decrease the damage that other behaviors can lead to. While many would presume that its classification under obsessive-compulsive and related disorders in DSM-5 would signal a connection, BFRB and OCD are differentiated by what exactly results in the damaging behaviors and cycles.  

What Causes Body-Focused Repetitive Behavior? 

It is not completely understood what causes these behaviors, although many professionals agree it is done as a form of stress relief. Despite having some similarities, it is generally accepted that BFRBs are somewhat different from obsessive-compulsive disorder due to the latter having cycles being initiated by unwanted intrusive thoughts.   

A person likely does not pick up these self-grooming habits out of choice. Rather, many studies have shown that BFRBs are hereditary. They highlight that individuals with skin-picking or hair-pulling disorders are more likely to share these habits with immediate family members. This inheritance is not the only factor that contributes to this disorder. The affected individual’s age, temperament, and environment can all have an effect on the person and their condition. Banyan’s Boca Behavioral Health Center is equipped with a number of effective therapies that can help to identify what exactly is the cause of a patient's disorder and can teach them beneficial alternatives to the damaging behaviors. 

Body-Focused Repetitive Behavior Treatment 

While these rituals and habits may be difficult to break away from, for many of them, it is absolutely possible and necessary. Writing these tendencies off as bad habits will only perpetuate the cycle of bodily harm. They should be taken seriously, considering the potential danger that can result from continual physical damage.  

Gaining a clear understanding of what triggers you, identifying alternative stress relievers, and continual upkeep and accountability can all contribute to a successful recovery. Our Banyan Boca mental health programs are designed to treat a variety of disorders that can contribute to a patient's body-harming rituals. Cognitive behavioral therapy is considered one of the most effective treatment methods for BFRB.  

Residential therapy is another inventive option that can assist in reworking the harmful cycles that patients are struggling with. An OCD-specific residential program is available for patients of our Florida mental health rehab, which can focus on the similar tendencies of individuals with either disorder. Don’t wait until something becomes more of an issue than it needs to be.  

To learn more about our Florida mental health services, contact Banyan Boca at 888-280-4763 today.  


Related Readings 

OCD Coping Methods 

7 Common OCD Myths Debunked 

Alyssa, Director of Digital Marketing
Alyssa, Director of Digital Marketing
Alyssa is the National Director of Digital Marketing and is responsible for a multitude of integrated campaigns and events in the behavioral health and addictions field. All articles have been written by Alyssa and medically reviewed by our Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Darrin Mangiacarne.
Body-Focused Repetitive Behaviors and OCD
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