Body-Focused Repetitive Behaviors (BFRB’s) is the term for a group of Obsessive- Compulsive and Related Disorders that describes someone who engages in a chronic behavior causing damage to oneself repetitively, often in order to feel psychological relief. These disorders are not yet well-known to the public which causes many roadblocks for sufferers who are seeking help. When I am asked, “Why do we need awareness for BFRB’s” I give out a similar answer to try and sum up all of the reasons, in short. Instead of lumping this into one general answer, I believe it is important for non-sufferers to understand just how much people with Trichotillomania, Dermatillomania, and other BFRB’s really struggle from a lack of awareness of these disorders.
We need friends, family, acquaintances, and EVERYONE to spread awareness so that:
1. every one of us can gain access to effective treatments
2. more treatment options can become available for these disorders
3. at least 1 BFRB non-profit for each country can be established
4. the above non-profits are government funded
5. conferences can be held worldwide
6. more than 1 training institute for professionals to specialize in treating BFRB’s can exist
7. peer support groups will be created and run worldwide
8. doctors will treat us (and non-judgmentally)
9. we aren’t told that we made this disorder up or that “there’s a disorder for everything these days”
10. we won’t be ashamed of “coming out” and do so without the fear of backlash
11. no sufferer has to feel alone with this disorder
12. the 1-3% of the population with a BFRB will learn who they can confide in and trust without being ostracized. (If you have 500 Facebook friends, this means at least 5 of them are battling a form of a BFRB).
13. we will have the support to feel less ashamed of having a condition that is not currently in our control
14. therapists/ counselor/ professionals will learn about how severe these disorders can become
15. BFRB’s can be taught in school (from grade school to medical school)
16. teachers can be understanding about and accommodating to their student’s needs
17. parents can be shown what they can do to help with their child’s BFRB
18. the reaction to these disorders isn’t one of disgust or shock
19. we won’t feel obligated to isolate ourselves in protecting ourselves from the outside world
20. preventative measures can be set in place so that children can have a better chance to reverse these behaviors
21. current non-sufferers can be informed and prevent themselves from engaging in these behaviors during stressful times.
22. treatments, physical and psychological, can be recognized as health necessities and therefore be covered financially
23. bullying us for our scars, lack of eyelashes, and bald patches will become the real taboo
24. there will be less suicide attempts within the community
25. more BFRB advocates will rise up and speak out about their experiences
26. research can be done to learn more about these disorders
27. more researchers learn about us and come on board with treatment efforts
28. the names of our disorders will be as universally known as all other mental health afflictions
29. more of us feel safe in reaching out for help, knowing it’s out there
30. we don’t have to hear these hurtful remarks from people who don’t understand
31. we don’t have to educate doctors about it when they ask us about any current medical conditions.
32. pamphlets can become readily available in all doctor’s offices and mental health organizations
33. more people WILL understand, or at least empathize with us
34. the media will stop addressing our disorders as “strange”, “bizarre”, and addressing us or any other dehumanizing context.
37. we don’t feel like “freaks”
38. we won’t have to spend hours covering up the results of this disorder with clothing and makeup in order to avoid questions and stares
39. negative self-talk can be challenged by sufferers connecting to each other and sharing their experiences, to put another human face to the disorder
40. we don’t feel defective and unworthy of being loved.
41. people will stop trying to shame us to “just stop”
42. half- hearted suggestions aren’t given upon learning about the disorder such as, “just try sitting on your hands” (if only we thought of that sooner!)
43. the disorders are explained thoroughly so people do not claim to have one just because they pick their skin or pull out a hair or two every once in awhile.
44. other mental health afflictions don’t need to worsen because of the untreated and stigmatizing nature of the BFRB.
45. our disorders aren’t confused with self-injurious behaviors such as cutting or burning.
46. people don’t think we have this problem because we are really looking for attention or just being rebellious.
47. we aren’t accused of being on drugs.
48. many other misconceptions can be erased.
49. hair salons, makeup artists/ skin care analysts, and manicurists can learn about our disorders and enforce a BFRB- friendly environment
50. the above professionals can also make suggestions about the best products for us.
51. appropriate products can be marketed to us in wellness stores (hair growth, scar treatments/ wound healing, fidget toys)
52. body-positive groups can learn about us and also advocate on our behalf.
53. those of us not knowing that there are others out there with this same battle can be liberated.
54. we don’t ever have to feel like we are our disorder. It can feel all-consuming, but we are much more than our disorders.
55. we can feel beautiful despite having scars or not having hair in socially-demanding places.
56. we learn how to live a productive life with the disorder until #1 and #2. can take place. Don’t wait on life in the meantime!
57. panic doesn’t take over when a friend takes a camera out- we can work the lens!
58. our BFRB ribbons can be proudly displayed as a symbol of refusing to be silenced with these very ribbons also being worn by non-sufferers who can become allies
59. we can gain more allies, individual and organizational.
60. awareness articles can be shared all over the Internet without feelings of fear in being “figured out” or “accused” if you are a non-sufferer (which can be very telling of our situation).
Can you think of other reasons why we need these disorders to have the attention of the public? By breaking down the list, it even becomes apparent to non-sufferers that there is a part of society that has been forgotten, ridiculed, teased, and have been left to fend for themselves when it comes to treatments- us.