A scientific treatment has been developed to address compulsive behaviors such as biting nails, peeling skin, or pulling hair when stressed.
It is a ‘habit replacement’ therapy that lightly rubs the fingertips, palms, and forearms (back of the arms) at least twice a day. This is the content reported by the health medicine webzine Health Day on the 20th (local time) based on the research team’s thesis published in 《American Medical Association Dermatology》.

Compulsive behaviors such as nail biting and skin peeling are medically referred to as Body-Focused Repetitive Behavior Disorder (BFRB). About 5% of the world’s population is known to be affected by it.

Habit replacement is a treatment developed by Professor Stefan Moritz, head of the Clinical Neuropsychology Working Group at the University Hospital Hamburg-Eppendorf, Germany, to correct this. “The rule is to touch your body lightly,” said Moritz.

Moritz’s group recruited 481 people with BFRB. They had trichotillomania, in which they pluck their hair and fur in response to stress or to calm themselves down, or they repeatedly bite their nails or the inside of their cheeks.

The researchers divided them into a treatment group (268 people) and a control group (213 people), who educated and applied alternative habits, and observed them for six weeks. As a result, it was investigated that only 19.6% of the control group had improved symptoms, while 53% of the replacement habit treatment group had improved symptoms.

The greatest effect was seen in people with a habit of biting their nails. Approximately 80% of participants in the treatment group said they were satisfied with the training, and 86% said they would recommend it.

Although more research is needed, this strategy could be added to existing behavioral therapies such as decoupling and habit reversal training used to help people with BFRB. Decoupling is a therapeutic strategy in which a behavior such as nail biting is replaced by another behavior, such as starting in a similar way but ending with touching the ear lobe instead of nail biting.