Co-written by ChatGPT
Our bodies are remarkable, intricate systems that constantly communicate with us, providing subtle cues and signals. Hungry? Your stomach rumbles. Thirsty? I'm sure you know what that feels like too!
When we experience body-focused repetitive behaviors (BFRBs), such as hair pulling (trichotillomania), skin picking (dermatillomania), or nail biting, it's crucial to recognize that these actions are not mere habits or quirks. Instead, they serve as powerful signals from our subconscious mind, attempting to draw attention to unmet needs- because BFRBs are, after all, self-soothing behaviors. There isn't a need to self-soothe, unless there is something that is throwing the body off-balance.
Let's explore the concept that BFRBs are our body's way of communicating with us, urging us to pay attention and uncover the deeper underlying causes.
Where's the signal coming from?
Body-focused repetitive behaviors are repetitive actions that we engage in, often unconsciously, as a form of self-soothing. They can manifest in various ways, including pulling out hair, picking at the skin, biting nails, and more. While these behaviors may appear puzzling or even distressing, it is essential to view them as subconscious attempts to bring attention to an unmet need, so that we can redirect these behaviors to healthier strategies.
Our conscious mind is responsible for making decisions, processing thoughts, and navigating our daily lives. However, beneath the surface, our subconscious mind holds a wealth of knowledge and experiences that shape our behavior.
BFRBs serve as a bridge between the subconscious and conscious, allowing the deeper parts of our minds to bring important needs and desires into our awareness.
The thing about BFRBs are that they originate in the sympathetic nervous system, the nerves that help our body activate our "flight or fight" response. It's a defense mechanism that literally clouds our judgement for the sake of self-preservation. That's what can make managing a BFRB so difficult, since it's a state that prioritizes self-preservation before logic.
Listening to the Signal
The first step in understanding BFRBs as signals is to recognize that these behaviors are rooted in unmet needs. The need may vary from person to person, but common underlying factors include stress, anxiety, boredom, a need to relax, needing to focus, or a general lack of emotional regulation. By engaging in repetitive actions, our subconscious mind is doing it's best to self-soothe our nervous system, without prioritizing how we want our skin, hair, or nails, to look.
When we know that our subconscious mind is using these behaviors for a purpose, we can change the meaning. Your BFRB changes from an unmanageable behavior to an urge to address these unmet needs and find healthier ways to soothe ourselves.
Using the Signal to IMPROVE your LIFE
Understanding the deeper meaning behind BFRBs can be a significant step towards management. However, it's important to remember that overcoming these behaviors may require additional support. We don't always have a good understanding of what these signals mean, in the moment, and usually it takes some practice to develop that skill.
That's why we created the Keen2 bracelet. The Keen2 bracelet uses gesture-detection technology to track your unwanted behavior, and alert you when you're doing in.
Tracking your behavior helps give you a deeper understanding of your patterns and rhythms, allowing you to identify top trigger times, and use the clues to figure out what your body is asking for in those moments.
The subtle vibration urges you to pause and reflect, in the moment, on what your BFRB is signaling that you need. The vibration also serves as an interruption, so you can find the strength to choose LOVE and meet that need in a healthier way.
We've helped thousands improve their lives by managing their BFRBs with Keen2. You could be next!
Having BFRB Conversations
There are other ways to find help identifying what your body needs, too. For many it is helpful to join an online community and learn from the wisdom of people going through the same thing (and it's just nice to talk about it freely, too!)
Seeking help from mental health professionals, such as therapists or peer coaches experienced in body-focused repetitive behaviors, can provide guidance, coping strategies, and a safe space for exploring the underlying causes.
Showing ourselves love
HabitAware's tagline is "love, strength, and awareness" and that's actually our key to success. The trick is that it's backwards. You need AWARENESS of your BFRB, to summon the STRENGTH, to choose LOVE and take care of yourself.
When we can love ourselves, and recognize our worth, we can begin to make real progress.
It's crucial to approach ourselves with compassion and acceptance. Shaming or berating ourselves for engaging in these behaviors only perpetuates the cycle. Instead, we should strive to understand that these actions are not indicative of personal failure but rather an expression of unmet needs. By treating ourselves with kindness and empathy, we can create an environment conducive to growth and change.
Body-focused repetitive behaviors are not random actions without significance. They are powerful signals from our subconscious mind, attempting to bring attention to unmet needs and the necessity for self-soothing. By recognizing these behaviors as calls for action, we can embark on a journey of self-discovery and personal growth. Through self-care, seeking support, and cultivating compassion, we can navigate the underlying causes of BFRBs and find healthier ways to meet our needs.
Header photo by Hugo Jehanne