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We know a person or two who has this mannerism of nail biting, pulling their hair or skin picking. A lot of people thinks that these type of body-focused repetitive behaviors are form of nervous habits. However, mounting evidence shows that people who compulsively bite their nails, skin picking or pull their hair are often perfectionists, and their actions may help soothe boredom, irritation and dissatisfaction.
A new study adds evidence to a theory that perfectionism rather than anxiety is at the root of these behaviors. The researchers first surveyed 48 participants. Half of whom had these disorders and half of whom did not, on their organizational behavior and ability to regulate their emotions. Those with the disorders scored as organizational perfectionists, indicating a tendency to overplan, overwork themselves and get frustrated quickly without high levels of activity.
The study, published in the March issue of the Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry, points to perfectionism. A trait that can be more damaging than many people realize — as an underlying cause.
“We believe that individuals with these repetitive behaviors may be perfectionistic. Meaning that they are unable to relax and to perform task at a ‘normal’ pace,” Dr. Kieron O’Connor, professor of psychiatry at the university and the study’s lead author, said in a press release.
“They are therefore prone to frustration, impatience, and dissatisfaction when they do not reach their goals. They also experience greater levels of boredom.”
The findings could help therapists treat patients who suffer from the disorders; studies have shown that these types of perfectionist beliefs and behaviors can be eased with cognitive-behavior therapy. If patients can learn to think and act differently when tension builds. They may be able to stop the urge before it starts.