Why We Shouldn't Undermine the Importance of BFRB Awareness Week


Nearer to the beginning of BFRB Awareness Week, which was from October 1-7, someone posted in one of the Facebook groups questioning the point of it. The point the commenter seemed to be making was since awareness week hasn’t brought about a cure to body-focused repetitive behaviors (BFRBs), it doesn’t actually do any good at all. There was a comparison thrown in there about how people still die of breast cancer, although there are breast cancer awareness efforts. Awareness weeks, to this person, are useless.

What this person seems to not realize is that awareness weeks aren’t as much about finding cures as they are about the dissemination of information so people can become more knowledgeable and informed about the topic. In particular, disorders like trichotillomania, dermatillomania, onychophagia (nail biting) and all of the other BFRBs need awareness efforts because of the gross lack of knowledge about them. So many of us have faced a doctor, the people we’re supposed to go to when we’re sick, who didn’t know what we were talking about and had no way to help us. This is a problem.

Each year, BFRB Week enlightens someone new about these disorders, people with these illnesses, supporters and the general public alike. This year we had the extra boost with stories and live chats with prominent community members. Overall, we’ve reached a tremendous amount of people this year.

On our Facebook page alone, our BFRB Week posts reached thousands of people. Canadian BFRB Support Network (CBSN) is not that big of an organization. So that’s saying something. Couple of thousands with the number of people the TLC Foundation for BFRBs’ posts no doubt reached, and then the thousands of views garnered from all the people sharing about BFRB across social media, and I think it’s safe to say that BFRB Week has made an impact.

What reaching people like this does is dispel misconceptions. It lets people know these disorders are real and serious matters. Most importantly, it lets people know they’re not alone. True, we haven’t reached a cure, but awareness over the years has brought about research that could one day lead there. Even what we know now is so starkly different in terms of research compared to just a few years ago.

What we all need to keep in mind is we’re early in these awareness efforts. For those of us on the younger side, things like breast cancer awareness are commonplace because it’s been around for more than 30 years. Its awareness efforts have brought about better screening, more knowledge and better treatments. Breast cancer awareness is leaps and bounds ahead of BFRB awareness, and those first efforts are a thing of history.

I know it’s frustrating to see such slow progress in BFRB awareness, but we are those front lines. We are making those first efforts. Cures also don’t come easily. We may have to suffice with treatment options for now and learn how our lives can still be full, whether or not we pull our hair, pick our skin, bite our nails or whatever the case may be.

Just think though, if we continue to push forward with raising awareness about BFRBs, the answers may one day come our way.

Image via Thinkstock.

This post was originally published with the Canadian BFRB Support Network.

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