Thank you to these amazing journalists and bloggers for sharing our story and Keen as a wearable device for positive behavior change. We appreciate your efforts to raise awareness of body focused repetitive behaviors, like trichotillomania (hair pulling disorder), dermatillomania (skin picking) & onychophagia (nail biting).
Through a study funded by the grant award, HabitAware will evaluate the feasibility of Keen as an official treatment for trichotillomania. Simultaneously, Keen will be further developed into a tool for self-administration of Habit Reversal Training (HRT), one of few verified treatments currently in existence.
You, she reminds, are who’s really in control. And that’s where Keen comes in. When the bracelet vibrates, it’s bringing the picking compulsion from the subconscious into the conscious — giving you the ability to then consciously say to yourself “my hands are not where I want them to be”.
Aneela Idnani hid her stress-induced hair pulling for 20 years. So she founded a company, HabitAware, to create one. Its flagship product: Keen, a sleek, smart bracelet that users program to pick up on repetitive motions, such as hair pulling, skin picking or nail biting.
For most people, biting their nails is just a bad habit, but for many with mental health issues, it’s a symptom of something much more serious. Moreover, if this helps people who pull hair, a condition known as trichotillomania, it also could help folks who pick their skin or binge eat to satisfy anxieties. The HabitAware founders are in the process of raising up to $2 million in their inaugural formal round of capital raising.
Arlan Hamilton is founder and managing partner of Los Angeles-based Backstage Capital, which has invested more than $5 million in 100 startups whose high-potential founders are people of color, women or LGBTQ. Two of those startups are in Minnesota, includingMinneapolis-based HabitAware, the winner of the $50,000 grand prize in the 2018 MN Cup entrepreneurial competition, and the developer of a smart bracelet to make users aware of hair-pulling and other unwanted repetitive behavior.
HabitAware got its start two years ago when Aneela Idnani Kumar and her husband, Sameer, set out to use smart-wearable technology to treat an impulse-control disorder known as trichotillomania that involves pulling out one’s hair. She has had “trich” for more than 20 years.
Keen was created out of personal need — Aneela, one of the co-founders, suffered in isolation and shame from a hair pulling disorder (trichotillomania) for over 20 years until, with the increased awareness enabled by Keen, they were able to avoid the behavior.
HabitAware, Minneapolis, was awarded a $300,000 federal research grant from the National Institute of Mental Health to develop and test a wearable device for treating trichotillomania, a disorder that involves compulsive hair pulling.
Erin Bateman first started pulling out her hair when she was around 13. While she knew it was something other people didn’t do, at first she didn’t think too much about it. But then, friends and family started noticing the effects.
Individuals living with BFRBs often keep their condition a secret, hiding the physical effects with makeup, wigs, and layers of clothing. As a result, many are surprised to learn just how common these disorders are.
Christina Pearson was 14 years old when she started pulling out her hair, creating bald patches on her head. She was taken to a psychiatrist, but in 1970 there was no name for her disorder, and certainly no treatment.