BFRB Awareness: Story #1

Following on from my last blog post, I'm so happy to share the first of many BFRB stories that hopefully many of you will connect with and will bring awareness to two specific BFRBs- dermatophagia and dermatillomania. Today I'm sharing Sarah's story; an incredibly inspirational woman and fellow blogger who I've been following for quite a while now. She writes openly about life with a chronic illness, and her discussion posts on disability are so informative and empowering, and her love for lipstick is something I can 100% get behind...I would thoroughly recommend having a peek at her site,

Sarah not only suffers from hypermobile Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (hEDS), but has recently spoken out about her battle with dermatillomania (skin picking) and dermatophagia (skin biting). Speaking to Sarah about these two disorders, which she has had for 22 years, she says, "I was around 10 years old when I started picking and biting. I bite and pick at my lips but am worse with my fingers. Around my nails is the worst, they're constantly red and sore looking. I also pick my face, my arms, my legs; literally anywhere there's any kind of bump or rough bit of skin". It appears with many BFRBs, interestingly it's the parts that stick out that are the root of most triggers.

Talking about when she started noticing the compulsive urges, Sarah continues, "I have chronic pain and that started when I was a child. I think the stress it led to me starting picking and biting. To this day, stress is a massive factor for me, as is boredom and anxiety." Like so many others with BFRBs, Sarah is often completely unaware when she is picking or biting, sometimes only realising when she's hurt herself and made a particular area sore or bleed.

As I'm sure is the case with so many of us, Sarah didn't even know the disorder was a legitimate thing until recently. She says, "I've always been ashamed of it and not liked my hands being on display. I've had people comment on it, but it's taught me to take a look at why I'm so anxious and deal with that". These BFRBs are still a struggle for her, both physically and to some extent emotionally. She explains "I dislike how my hands look, I dislike the lack of control and that I can't switch off the impulse. I don't do it because I like it, I just do it". It's not that easy to just turn away from the urges; "no matter how many times you tell me to stop, I can't. I might stop as soon as you tell me, but I'll carry on again almost immediately because I don't know I'm doing it".

On a practical note, Sarah shared a few tips and tricks that do help her in her daily battle with BFRBs. From "disgusting tasting lotion to wearing gloves" (I can totally relate to those ones!), she's tried techniques to try and stop over the years. She says, "when I am on a really bad turn, I put plasters on my fingers; it's not pretty but I physically can't get to the skin around my nails and that is a massive help. I also play with a Tangle or stress ball when my hands are not in use". These are great tips for those who find that sitting and watching TV, or reading are big triggers for them. When it comes to her dermatophagia, Sarah explains that wearing lipstick can also help be a deterrent to biting (when her lips aren't too sore), saying that "having lippie on subliminally tells my brain that I'll ruin the lipstick if I bite".

Alongside the practical pointers, Sarah also emphasises that "it's okay, and that you're not alone". "For almost twenty years I thought I was the only person that did these things to myself and it was a very lonely time. I was embarrassed and I wouldn't want anyone else to feel that way. Reach out to me, to others that talk about it and exchange stories and tips. You'll be okay."

I want to thank Sarah again for speaking out so openly about her life with these BFRBs to raise awareness through this blog series, and also for all the incredibly supportive and important work she does on her own site and social media to help bring the chronic illness (or 'spoonie') community together and break down stigmas. You can follow Sarah at these following places- please be sure to follow her for more BFRB chat:-

Twitter: @fromsarahlex
Instagram: @fromsarahlex
Facebook: From Sarah Lex

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