Treating the Whole Person: A Personal User’s Guide, Part Two
Renae M. Reinardy, PsyD.,LP
Lakeside Center for Behavioral Change, PC
Reprinted from InTouch Issue 64, Winter 2012
© The TLC Foundation for Body-Focused Repetitive Behaviors. 2016. All Rights Reserved
As we bring in the New Year many people have the goal of making a significant change in their life. If you struggle with a body focused repetitive behavior (BFRB), that goal might be increased control over picking or pulling. In Part One of the Personal User’s Guide, we discussed how building a healthy foundation through nutrition, exercise and sleep are important to good health and decreased urges. We also looked at the balance of how we live our life in comparison to how we would like to spend our time and energy. Spirituality was also briefly discussed as a tool to improve our experience. Any one of these areas could be the focus for changes in the coming year. Do not overwhelm yourself, narrow your goals to what makes sense to you. The purpose of the Personal User’s Guide is to serve as a self-guiding compass. It is not a final destination, but a process of change.
Here are some other things to consider in planning your route in your personal change process. And, please pull out your notes from Part One.
We are all actors in our internal soap operas. Our thoughts are incredibly powerful, yet we tend to just accept our internal script without much editing. Cognitive behavioral therapists encourage the process of cognitive restructuring. This involves identifying, challenging and replacing thoughts that are not true or helpful to us. It is good to look inside of your mind to make any helpful editorial changes to your internal script about BFRBs. Thoughts can involve perceptions of self control, permission-giving thoughts, perfectionism, and/or social judgments to name a few. Just like a soap opera, there tends to be many areas of dialog that can use some editing to more accurately reflect reality.
Identify: What is a thought that often comes up about your picking or pulling? How much do you believe it?
- Is this thought true?
- Is it helpful?
- Is there another way of thinking about it that would be p helpful?Edited thought: What is my new self-care script about picking or pulling that is more positive, realistic, or takes a problem solving approach?
The script that we rehearse is the life that we choose to live. In addition to identifying, challenging and replacing toxic thoughts, it is also good to practice mindfulness. Mindfulness involves awareness of ourselves and how our mind functions. It is turning off autopilot. There is quite a bit of information out there on the benefits of mindfulness training. I would encourage you to practice a mindfulness activity daily. One thing at a time, being aware of ourselves and our activity in that moment. This also helps to improve awareness of BFRBs and can be a good substitute if your picking or pulling puts you into a “trance-like” state.
My Emotional Triggers
Emotional triggers are very common in picking and pulling behavior. It is good to understand what emotions your BFRBs are trying to regulate. Do you pull when you are bored? Tired? Frustrated? Unsure? Angry? Excited? Intolerant of less than perfect skin or hair?
Most common emotional triggers:
- What sparks your emotions?
- What do you do to cope with emotions?
- What can you do to cope with emotions?
Once you are aware of your emotional triggers, you can start to learn and practice some adaptive emotional coping skills. For example, if you notice strong picking or pulling urges when you are frustrated, it may be helpful to learn a relaxation exercise such as controlled breathing or progressive muscle relaxation. Most cognitive behavioral therapists can help you identify which skills would be best for you to regulate trigger emotions.
This article has already discussed some of the cognitive (thought-related) and emotional triggers of BFRBs, but it is important to look at other factors that may also influence your behavior. It is common for people to have certain locations that become conditioned as situational triggers (i.e., pulling in the car, picking when washing your face before bed, etc.). Sensory triggers are the fascinating experiences that people have when they pick or pull. It can be a tpingly scalp, the coarse feeling of a hair, a bump on the skin, or the pop of a blemish. There can be much satisfaction in these sensory cues, so it is important to understand if they are a factor for you, and what substitutes can be used to satisfy these sensory experiences.
In this section, take a few minutes to focus on one or two strategies/goals in each area. If it is overwhelming, break it down and focus on one area at a time. Once that becomes more of a habit add another to your daily routine. Remember to be flexible; there are often twists and turns in any journey.
There are a number of strategies that can be used; it may be helpful to review some of the resources on the “Resource Library” tab on The TLC Foundation for Body-Focused Repetitive Behaviors’ website,www.bfrb.org, for some additional inspiration.
My Body: Diet, Exercise, Sleep
How will you meet physical needs to promote overall well-being?
Example: Decrease soda consumption to 2 cans per week
How will you create a better match between the “ideal” and the “real?”
Example: Check work email no more than 2x per week at home
What steps will you take to connect to something outside of yourself?
Example: Practice walking meditation twice per week
How will you edit your internal script?
Example: Challenge permission-giving thoughts like, “I will start tomorrow” with “Trich is getting restless, now is the time to use a strategy before I even start pulling”
What are some different ways you can cope with emotions
Example: Practice breathing exercise when mind is racing before bed
My Other Triggers: Sensory, Situational, Habits
Example: Meet sensory needs by using fiddle toy while on computer
Example: Modify situation trigger by practicing quick in and out of bathroom without lingering
Example: Make picking or pulling more difficult by wearing a rubber fingertip
As you practice these new patterns you will find that they will become stronger and the BFRBs will decrease in the frequency and intensity of urges. It is important to remember that it is still a part of you, but it can go into “hibernation.” Monitor how you are doing and evaluate which strategies work best for you in getting and keeping your picking or pulling under control by giving your body and mind what it needs in other ways.
What is the direction you have decided to take on this journey?
Many good wishes on your path.
Dr. Renae Reinardy is the founder of the Lakeside Center for Behavioral Change in Fargo, ND. Prior to opening her own practice, Dr. Reinardy worked as a psychologist at the Behavior Therapy Center of Greater Washington in Silver Spring, Maryland. Dr. Reinardy specializes in the treatment of hair pulling and skin picking disorders, obsessive compulsive disorder, compulsive hoarding, and related conditions. She has been an adjunct professor at the doctoral level and has presented numerous times at national conferences and at local meetings and trainings, including The TLC Foundation for Body-Focused Repetitive Behaviors’ Annual Conferences and Retreats. Dr. Reinardy has been interviewed on Good Morning America, the Joy Behar Show, Dateline NBC, and A&E’s Hoarders. For more information, visit www.lakesidecenter.org.
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