Body-Focused Repetitive Behaviors: The Proximal and Distal Effects of Affective Variables on Behavioral Expression

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This paper reports on 2 studies designed to examine the contribution of affective variables on the expression of body-focused repetitive behaviors (BFRBs; e.g., skin picking, nail biting). The first study revealed that persons engaging in a BFRB experienced significantly higher levels of anxiety and depression than those without BFRBs. The second study was conducted to determine if repetitive behaviors were differentially affected across various emotional states and across those persons with and without BFRBs. Participants were randomly exposed to anxiety, depression, boredom, and control conditions. Results showed no differential effects on the occurrence of repetitive behaviors within the no-BFRB group; however, the BFRB group engaged in more repetitive behaviors in the Bored condition than in the Control condition. This study offers the first experimental evidence that emotional variables can have a differential impact on the expression of BFRBs.