Opinion | Shining light on Body-Focused Repetitive Behaviors

Bringing awareness to disorders and conditions can help both those suffering and those watching from the outside.


Abby Gaugler, Opinions Columnist

Oct. 1—7 is Body-Fo­cused Repetitive Behavior awareness week.

Many people may not know what this week is or why it’s important, but I do.

The TLC Foundation for Body-Focused Repetitive Behavior is a health-relat­ed human services organi­zation dedicated to serving individuals experiencing this condition. “Any re­petitive self-grooming behavior that involves biting, pulling, picking, or scraping one’s own hair, skin, lips, cheeks, or nails that can lead to physical damage to the body and have been met with multi­ple attempts to stop or de­crease the behavior,” the TLC Foundation states on its website.

I have battled Trichotil­lomania — hair pulling — since the third grade. Be­cause of this, I have never been without a bald spot somewhere on my body, whether that be on my scalp, eyebrows, or eye­lashes.

Body-Focused Repeti­tive Behavior can be stress­ful and isolating. For most of my life I felt a profuse amount of shame and anx­iety over my appearance.

While my Body-Focused Repetitive Behavior has been under control for just over a year, I still feel its lasting effects. This can take different forms, like asking for reassurance that my bald spots look OK or touching the back of my head to make sure previous bald spots are not visible.

I am just now learning how to style my hair like most girls do — I could only wear my hair in a bun and headband for seven years out of fear of ridi­cule.

My experience with Body-Focused Repetitive Behavior made me feel like an outsider. There­fore, I believe awareness weeks like this one are important. Everybody de­serves to feel like they be­long, and awareness days, weeks, and months pull people back into the bub­ble of society.

This awareness week gives those who are strug­gling a chance to take baby steps back into society and teach those on the outside to be a understanding.

Awareness can help people give their experi­ences a name. In fact, it’s estimated that around 3 percent of the world’s population will experience living with a Body-Fo­cused Repetitive Behavior at least once in their life.

The TLC Foundation for Body-Focused Repet­itive Behavior is the hub to learn about this condi­tion. They have sections of their website dedicated to learning about the disor­der, links to providers, sa­lons, and groups that have experience helping people with Body-Focused Repet­itive Behaviors.

One helpful tool for peo­ple experiencing Body-Fo­cused Repetitive Behavior is the National Body-Fo­cused Repetitive Behavior Conference. Because of COVID-19, it has been on­line since 2020. However, the 2023 conference will be held in-person.

This year, the confer­ence will be held during Body-Focused Repeti­tive Behavior Awareness Week, so you can join some of the online ses­sions they offer from now until Oct. 7.

I have attended this conference twice in my life, and I hope to return in-person next year. Be­side all the support groups and panels I went to, I got to spend three days with people who were just like me. For once in my life, I wasn’t alone.

Belonging is an inde­scribable feeling. I hope awareness and advocacy will prevent individuals in similar circumstances from feeling alone.

Columns reflect the opinions of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Editorial Board, The Daily Iowan, or other organizations in which the author may be involved.


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