Body-focused repetitive behaviors: More prevalent than once thought?

David C. Houghton, Jennifer R. Alexander, Christopher C. Bauer, Douglas W. Woods

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Body-focused repetitive behaviors (BFRBs), such as hair pulling, skin picking, and nail biting are common habits, but their pathological manifestations have been considered rare. Growing evidence suggests pathological forms of these behaviors can be conceptualized as a class of related disorders. However, few previous studies have examined the collective prevalence of related pathological BFRBs. The current study examined the self-reported prevalence of current (past month) subclinical and pathological BFRBs in a large (n = 4335) sample of college students. The study also examined the chronicity and impact of these behaviors. Results showed that 59.55% of the sample reported occasionally engaging in subclinical BFRBs, and 12.27% met criteria for a pathological BFRB, suggesting these conditions may be quite common. Of the various BFRB topographies, cheek biting was the most common. Both subclinical and pathological BFRBs tended to be chronic (i.e., occurring for longer than 1 year). Although persons with pathological BFRBs were distressed about their behavior, few experienced functional impairment or sought help for the behavior. Implications of these findings for the conceptualization and treatment of body-focused repetitive behaviors are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)389-393
Number of pages5
JournalPsychiatry Research
StatePublished - Dec 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Body-focused repetitive behaviors
  • Excoriation disorder
  • Grooming
  • Nail biting
  • Trichotillomania

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry


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