This week I launched a webinar training series for those with BFRBs, and thought I’d recap the main points I shared here for those of you who missed it.
People with Body-Focused Repetitive Behaviors (BFRBs), such as skin picking or hair pulling, often struggle with these compulsive behaviors throughout their entire lives. Many have tried numerous strategies with little if any success.
One of the main reasons they haven’t gotten better yet is that the key to relief from the suffering their BFRB has caused is actually the opposite of what they might think. Instead of stopping the behavior, the first step is actually to accept its role in your life.
A major source of your suffering comes from the feelings you have about your behavior and yourself for doing the behavior. People who engage in these behaviors often feel guilt, shame, anger, sadness, and/or anxiety about doing the behavior. These feelings often lead you to pick or pull more, leading to more guilt and shame, leading to more picking or pulling, and down the rabbit hole of suffering you go. Since you cannot easily stop the behavior, because if you could have you already would have, the answer is to learn to accept the behavior.
Acceptance does not mean that we like it, or that we want it around. It just means that we acknowledge that it is a part of our lives right now, but that we also have many other parts of our lives that we do like and make us the wonderful human beings that we are.
The 3 key ingredients in managing a BFRB
In order to manage the behavior (whether that means stopping, reducing, or just keeping it from increasing) you must know more about the behavior and when you’re doing it. This includes being aware of your triggers, urges, when you are doing the behavior, and what may be underlying it. Mindfulness improves focus and teaches you to direct your attention to the present moment, which greatly increases your awareness, so it’s a good first step in becoming more aware. Another approach is tracking your behavior using some type of log or app like SkinPick or TrichStop.
BFRBs are different for everyone who does them. Sometimes they’re related to perfectionism – like being concerned about a bump on the skin making the skin not as smooth as it should be, or a hair being “out of place.” Sometimes they’re related to one of your five senses picking up on something that doesn’t feel right or needing something – like feeling a thicker hair, or the smell or sound related to popping a pimple that can be so rewarding that you want to continue doing it. Sometimes they’re related to an emotion – like picking or pulling when bored, or anxious, or sad.
In order to manage the behavior you need to know why you are doing it. What need it is fulfilling? What message is it giving you? Realizing that your BFRB may be serving a purpose, by letting you know that something isn’t right and needs to be addressed, can be pivotal in your recovery.
Acceptance / Self-Compassion
Acceptance can be learned and practiced through mindfulness, as mindfulness is in its essence all about acceptance. It teaches you how to tune into and sit with your urges, emotions, and thoughts so that you do not feel forced to act on them. Self-compassion training adds in self-acceptance by teaching you to embrace your imperfections and love yourself no matter what “mistakes” or “flaws” you have.
If you’re interested in learning more about how to become accepting of yourself and your BFRB, lucky for you, this is only part 1 of a series of trainings! In the next training you will learn a specific step-by-step plan to make that shift from stuck to acceptance, even if you’ve struggled with mindfulness or other types of acceptance-based strategies in the past. Click here to register for the next webinar on Thursday, October 25th at 5pm CST. If you cannot attend live, you will be emailed the replay, so click the link to join the list.