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Prevalence of body-focused repetitive behaviors in a diverse population sample - rates across age, gender, race and education.

Psychological Medicine 2023 December 14
BACKGROUND: Prevalence estimates for body-focused repetitive behaviors (BFRBs) such as trichotillomania differ greatly across studies owing to several confounding factors (e.g. different criteria). For the present study, we recruited a diverse online sample to provide estimates for nine subtypes of BFRBs and body-focused repetitive disorders (BFRDs).

METHODS: The final sample comprised 1481 individuals from the general population. Several precautions were taken to recruit a diverse sample and to exclude participants with low reliability. We matched participants on gender, race, education and age range to allow unbiased interpretation.

RESULTS: While almost all participants acknowledged at least one BFRB in their lifetime (97.1%), the rate for BFRDs was 24%. Nail biting (11.4%), dermatophagia (8.7%), skin picking (8.2%), and lip-cheek biting (7.9%) were the most frequent BFRDs. Whereas men showed more lifetime BFRBs, the rate of BFRDs was higher in women than in men. Rates of BFRDs were low in older participants, especially after the age of 40. Overall, BFRBs and BFRDs were more prevalent in White than in non-White individuals. Education did not show a strong association with BFRB/BFRDs.

DISCUSSION: BFRBs are ubiquitous. More severe forms, BFRDs, manifest in approximately one out of four people. In view of the often-irreversible somatic sequelae (e.g. scars) BFRBs/BFRDs deserve greater diagnostic and therapeutic attention by clinicians working in both psychology/psychiatry and somatic medicine (especially dermatology and dentistry).

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