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    Community Voices

    Does anyone have #Onychophagia here?

    Ever since I can remember I have bitten my nails and sometimes my skin around my nails, and if I’m bored, sometimes my toe nails (I know gross 🤢) but when I was a child, I was bullied until I graduated from high school and now I’m 27 and have gotten married and moved to a different state and now with the pandemic, it’s increased my nail biting sky rocket high and I cannot stop for the life of me!! I’ve tried several things, the no bite nail polish, plain nail polish, rubber bands, bandages over my fingers, etc, but it’s not working!! Help?!?!?!?

    Laura A. Barton

    Why BFRB Awareness Week Is Needed

    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. We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

    BFRB: Trichotillomania Is More Than a Habit

    BFRBs are life-threatening. They won’t kill you — but they sure do make you feel like your life is over. “What is a BFRB?” BFRB stands for body-focused repetitive behavior. This is essentially an uncontrollable and subconscious action which causes damage to one’s body. Included in this group are trichotillomania (compulsive hair pulling), dermatillomania (compulsive skin picking) and onychophagia (compulsive nail biting). “Come on, those just sound like bad habits. They don’t sound life-threatening.” Having a BFRB may not kill you in the physical sense, but people with BFRBs who don’t get help can feel like they’re dying inside. I know because I live with a BFRB — I’ve had trichotillomania since my early teens. In my early 20s my trich was at an all time high after being cheated on and dumped. My heart was broken — and I was taken back to when I first started pulling as a 12-year-old child watching my father wither away from leukemia. My only consolation was pulling out every eyelash and eyebrow hair I had. It somehow eased the pain, but with it came more reasons to shut out the world. I thought I was ugly and undeserving. So yeah, I can absolutely attest to the fact that having a BFRB is life-threatening. The baldness and scars are permanent reminders that not only feed our internal guilt and eat at our self-esteem, but also gives bullies a reason to have their fun. All of which make it feel like life is over. Growing up pulling out eyebrows and eyelashes meant constantly worrying my makeup would wipe or wash away. I hid my pulling from everyone I knew, including my parents. I still remember this one time my dad pulled up to a friend’s house to drop me off at her birthday pool party. I got last-minute jitters and ducked down in the backseat, begging him to take me home — I didn’t want to be caught. The stress my BFRB caused me, the physical marks it left and the mental anguish of going outside “looking like that” all make daily living a chore. The compulsive pulling, picking or biting is trance-like. We aren’t able to live and enjoy life because our time is spent locked in a bathroom fixing a wig or makeup to cover it up. If not locked in a bathroom, we are locked in our own heads — trying to convince ourselves no one will notice and that we should just go out to that party we were invited to — only to finally give in to our BFRB and sit at home. And so we miss out on life’s key moments with friends and family, losing out on the opportunity to share joy and just live. It’s hard when we feel like no one understands the struggle we endure. When people don’t understand why we can’t “just stop” engaging in our hair-pulling, skin-picking or nail-biting behavior, they: Judge us. Stare at us. Whisper about us. Laugh at us. All this isolates us from the world and strengthens the narrative in our minds that there is something wrong with us and we are worthless. “But what can I do about that?” For those who don’t even know why they are engaging in these “weird” body-focused repetitive behaviors, for those whose lives are being threatened by this disorder, for the ones who are dying inside, I want them to know there is a small bit of hope for a better life. And that bit of hope lies within you, dear reader. Yes, you have the power to save a BFRBer’s life with just a few small simple actions: Show some love to someone at school or work you think may be struggling with a BFRB with a warm hug or an invite to hang out. Share this article so you can help someone who is hiding their suffering realize they are not alone. Donate to TLC Foundation for BFRBs (bfrb.org), the only American non-profit dedicated to funding research for a cure and supporting the BFRB community. If you or someone you know needs help, visit our prevention resources page. If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 .