A study titled "The impact of emotions on body-Focused repetitive behaviors: Evidence from a non-treatment-seeking sample," published in the Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry, suggests that body-focused repetitive behaviors (BFRBs) like nail biting, hair pulling or skin picking are not about destruction or anxiety, but more about characteristics of perfectionism, such as the level of frustration or ease of becoming bored.
"The emotion regulation (ER) model suggests that BFRBs are triggered by negative emotions and reinforced by alleviation of unpleasant affect," study authors wrote. "The frustrated action (FA) model suggests that BFRBs are triggered by and alleviate impatience, boredom, frustration, and dissatisfaction. Individuals with BFRBs are hypothesized to be particularly susceptible to these emotions because they demonstrate maladaptive planning styles characterized by high standards and unwillingness to relax."
"We believe that individuals with these repetitive behaviors maybe perfectionistic, meaning that they are unable to relax and to perform tasks at a 'normal' pace," author and professor Kieron O'Connor from the University of Montreal told The Daily Mail. "They are therefore prone to frustration, impatience, and dissatisfaction when they do not reach their goals."
"They also experience greater levels of boredom," O'Connor added.
The perfectionist beliefs of a person are related to how organized a person typically is. "Although these behaviors can induce important distress, they also seem to satisfy an urge and deliver some form of reward," O'Connor told The Daily Mail.
The condition is not simply caused by nerves, study author Sarah Roberts told The Daily Mail. "The findings suggest that individuals suffering from [these] behaviors could benefit from treatments designed to reduce frustration and boredom and to modify perfectionist beliefs."