Emotion Regulation Deficits in Persons with Body-Focused Repetitive Behavior Disorders
Journal of Affective Disorders
Conceptualizations of emotion dysregulation (ED) and body-focused repetitive behavior disorders (BFRBDs) imply that ED may be a central component of BFRBDs as well as a factor that distinguishes BFRBDs from non-impairing, subclinical body-focused repetitive behaviors (BFRBs). The current study empirically tested these observations.
One hundred thirty-eight undergraduates (of 1900 who completed a screening survey) completed self-report measures assessing four emotion regulation (ER) deficits hypothesized to underlie ED (alexithymia, maladaptive emotional reactivity, experiential avoidance, and response inhibition when distressed); 34 of these participants had BFRBDs, 64 had subclinical BFRBs, and 42 were unaffected by BFRBs.
Results indicated that participants with BFRBDs reported higher levels of maladaptive emotional reactivity, experiential avoidance, and response inhibition when distressed than participants with subclinical BFRBs and participants unaffected by BFRBs. These results held even when controlling for comorbidity and total number of reported BFRBs. Participants did not differ on alexithymia.
Limitations of the current study include the BFRB groups’ different distributions of BFRB types (e.g., hair pulling versus skin picking), the sample's demographic uniformity, and the fact that negative affectivity was not controlled when exploring BFRB group differences on ER deficits. Future research should improve on these limitations.
The current results suggest that ED is a factor that differentiates BFRBDs from subclinical BFRBs. Such results may be useful for generating hypotheses regarding mechanisms responsible for BFRBs’ development into BFRBDs. Furthermore, these results may provide insight into factors that explain the efficacy of more contemporary behavioral treatments for BFRBDs.