Skin Picking and Hair Pulling: Research for a cure

As many as 1 in 25 might have a Compulsive Skin Picking or Hair Pulling disorder. Compulsive Skin Picking has dominated my life for more than 20 years.

Art is my way of re-thinking and managing this disorder. It’s my daily reprieve in an arsenal of tools to keep my hand busy, and my imagination engaged.

There is currently no cure for Body Focussed Repetitive Behaviour such as Skin Picking and Hair Pulling. It is not known why it develops, although there is evidence it may be hereditary. These disorders are present in many animals as well as humans, including mice, horses, parrots, monkeys and even fish who pull off their scales.

In humans, medication works for some, psychological interventions work for others, but for many, there is no respite, and nothing seems to stop it. The disorders frequently wax and wane over time…

Picking and Pulling are very common but what doctors know about how to best treat people has been largely inadequate and only helps a minority.

TLC Foundation in USA is currently the ONLY place in the world researching these disorders with scientists and sufferers across the United States. A more united approach to studying and treating the disorders is being attempted.

Scientists are already identifying 6 – 10 subtypes of the disorders – there is no finite version. Because of there vairables, scientists hope to find more meaningful ways to treat individuals.

The BFRB Precision Medicine Initiative (BPM) is TLC’s major strategic research initiative focused on increasing remission rates for people who suffer from hairpulling, skin picking and other body-focused repetitive behaviors (BFRBs).The BPM : research for a cure for hair pulling and skin picking

Imagine if:

  • we could pinpoint each person’s BFRB profile, identifying the motivations and habits that make up an individual’s particular type of picking or pulling behavior.
  • we had a suite of treatments carefully tailored to these genetic and biological factors for each BFRB profile.
  • we could match that BFRB profile to specific genetic and biological origins.
  • … those treatments resulted in complete BFRB remission for 7 out of 10 people.

The BFRB Precision Medicine Initiative is cutting edge, extremely exciting work. I hope in my lifetime, or even when I’m long gone, they understand why some of us develop these disorders. It was a privilege to have met many of the people in this film at the recent TLC Dallas Conference.


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