Written By Robyn Scott, USA
It started out just like any other evening. You know, watching television, scrolling social media, chasing rabbit holes in the news and on the web. I’m not sure how I got down this particular rabbit hole, but I ended up reading an article about body-focused repetitive behaviors (BFRBs). And what I read crushed me.
I discovered that BFRBs generally describes a group of disorders that cause people to repeatedly touch their hair and body in ways that can result in physical damage—such as hair pulling, skin picking, or cheek biting. What hit me so hard is that these various BFRBs are related, and I’ve displayed several of them—likely offshoots stemming from the depression and anxiety that I’ve struggled with most of my life.
As far back as I can remember, I’ve always picked at my cuticles—no big deal. Just a habit, like nail biting. But I didn’t realize it has a name—dermatillomania. Several years ago, I found myself starting to pull the hair from my arms, more and more frequently until it became a daily occurrence. This, I discovered, is called trichotillomania. Somewhere in the mix, I noticed my cheek biting habit (morsicatio buccarum). I think it’s been there for quite some time as well, but with the other two BFRBs identified, the cheek biting became more noticeable.
From the article, I discovered that for some, these behaviors can bring satisfaction, reduce stress and anxiety, or be a form of perfectionism. I came to see it as a psychological disorder caused by something inside my brain—no longer just a simple habit. I don’t know why it hit me so hard, but realizing this left me feeling so powerless and defeated. Suddenly, I felt like I had no control over my body, but was being controlled by my miswired brain.
After reading the article, I found myself questioning, “Why am I so messed up?” I was so far from normal, and didn’t know how to get back to a place that I’ve never been in the first place. A place of normalcy. A place free from depression, and anxiety, and mental disorders.
We’re All Born Broken
Whether it develops from a rough childhood, or grief, or a chemical imbalance, the brokenness in all of us is bound to show up at some point. The truth is, every human being on the earth was born broken, starting with Adam and Eve’s children (Romans 5:12). We made ourselves this way—it was caused by sin.
We are only made complete when the One who created us comes into our lives. Jesus came to heal the wounds that sin left. As our Redeemer, He came to rescue man from our sins. That doesn’t mean we aren’t still left with the brokenness we’ve created, but it means that until the resurrection, we have hope because Jesus has overcome the world (John 16:33), and is our source of comfort and healing.
Furthermore, Jesus said in John 10:10 that He came not only to save our souls from hell, but to give us life more abundantly. I used to think this verse meant that He’d give us the job of our dreams, the family we want, freedom from our struggles—but I’ve learned that it could mean learning how to enjoy the job we have. Or learning to build a better dynamic with the family we’ve got. In my journey with BFRB, it means learning that I can lean on God while I struggle.
We Don’t Have to Struggle Alone
I’ve come to accept that I can’t fix myself. For anyone who’s struggled with addiction, habits, compulsive behaviors, or disorders of various types, you probably understand how nearly impossible it is to find the strength within yourself to stop. There are medications, therapies, and other treatments which can be very beneficial resources in healing and treatment. But there will always be a struggle with self-discipline and temptation. This is where I find that I need strength beyond my own might and something that will last. That will be safe and effective long-term.
I know that I need God’s strength, which is made perfect in my weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). It may look like a quick silent prayer for strength when I have compulsions. Sometimes it’s escaping to a quiet place to seek God’s help. Sometimes, I need to talk it out with God and tell Him what’s going on with me and why it bothers me. Sometimes it’s just believing that God is the strength required, and that He will help me.
It doesn’t stop there. I still deal with the struggles of BFRBs, but I don’t feel crushed by it anymore. I know that God made this body of mine and is there when I call on Him for help. Like some physical illnesses, mental health disorders aren’t usually healed once and for all . . . they require constant awareness and treatment, sometimes for a lifetime. But that’s okay. Because leaning on Jesus is an everyday, lifelong journey. It’s not something to wean off of as we grow stronger in ourselves.
So even as I wrestle with the urges to pick, pull, or bite, I know that with daily prayer and strength from God, I may be able to find treatment and relief from the strongholds of BFRBs. But most importantly, I am drawn closer to God and grow stronger in Christ as I learn to depend more and more on Him each day.