Body-focused repetitive behaviors triggered by boredom, frustration
Roberts S, et al. J Behav Ther & Exp Psychiat. 2015;doi:10.1016/j.jbtep.2014.10.007
Healio Psychiatric Annals
March 18, 2015

Repetitive behaviors such as skin-picking, hair-pulling and nail-biting are more prevalent in patients who are bored, frustrated or impatient, according to data.

“We believe that individuals with these repetitive behaviors may be perfectionistic, meaning that they are unable to relax and perform tasks at a ‘normal’ pace. They are therefore prone to frustration, impatience, and dissatisfaction when they do not reach their goals. They also experience greater levels of boredom,” Kieron O’Connor, PhD, of the Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder and Tic Disorder Studies Centre at the Institut universitaire en santé mentale de Montréal and professor of psychiatry at the University of Montreal, said in a press release.

The researchers included patients with body-focused repetitive behaviors (n = 24), such as skin-picking, hair-pulling and nail-biting; and a control group (n = 23); and exposed patients to boredom, frustration, stress and relaxation.

Data indicate that patients felt significantly more relaxed in the relaxation condition than in the stress and boredom/frustration conditions (P < .001).

Patients also reported significantly greater stress in the stress condition compared with the boredom/frustration condition or in the relaxation condition (P < .001); and significantly greater frustration in the boredom/frustration condition compared with the stress or relaxation conditions (P < .001), according to data.

Those with boredom/frustration appeared to have greater impatience (P = .007) and dissatisfaction (P < .001), compared with patients in the stress or relaxation conditions, the researchers wrote.

“These results partially support our hypothesis in that participants were more likely to engage in body-focused repetitive behaviors when they felt bored, frustrated, and dissatisfied than when they felt relaxed,” Sarah Roberts, PhD, psychologist in private practice at the MindSpace Clinic in Montreal, said in the press release. “Moreover, they do engage in these behaviors when they are under stress. This means that condition is not simply due to ‘nervous’ habits.”

Roberts said the findings suggest that patients with body-focused repetitive behaviors could benefit from treatments targeting mood improvement techniques.