Body-focused repetitive behaviors include a range of symptoms such as hair pulling, skin picking, nail biting, nose picking, and cheek biting. These actions are often performed to reduce a sense of built up tension and often result in an immediate sense of relief and satisfaction. However, after the immediate sense of relief people often feel secondary emotions of shame, disappointment, and hopelessness. Overtime, the body-focused repetitive behaviors often also occur out of habit and are not only done to relieve tension. The frequency and consistency in which an individual engages in the behaviors determines how noticeable the actions are to others. For example, it is common for people who struggle with hair pulling to have noticeable bald spots due to their picking.
Treatment focuses on breaking the picking, pulling, and/or scratching behavioral patterns. A first step is awareness training, which focuses on helping the individual increase their ability to detect situations that increase their likelihood to engage in their repetitive behaviors. Specific behavioral strategies are also implemented to help the person increase their ability to delay or resist the urges. Mindfulness techniques help the individual to gain mastery in being able to focus on the physical sensations that intensify the urges while simultaneously learning how to tolerate the bodily sensations without engaging in the picking/pulling/scratching behaviors.