Overcoming Body-Focused Repetitive Behaviors by Dr Charles S. Mansueto

BFRBs affect 1 in 5 people. That means that someone you know is dealing with a BFRB.

5/5 stars.
ebook, 216 pages.
Read from April 7, 2020 to April 16, 2020

BFRBs affect 1 in 5 people. That means that someone you know is dealing with a BFRB. What is a BFRB you ask? BFRB stands for Body-Focused Repetitive-Behaviours and they include excessive hair pulling (trichotillomania), excessive skin picking (dermatillomania) as well as a bigger spectrum of other repetitive behaviours. If you’ve never heard of these conditions before and your first reaction is reluctance or disgust, I beg you to do some more reading as chances are that someone close to you is hiding their behaviour due to that exact fear and stigma. I can assure you that these conditions are very real and cause very real trauma for those that have to deal with it.

You don’t read a book like this unless you’re looking for help yourself. Over the last few years, I’ve made it no secret about my skin picking disorder and have been actively volunteering with an organization in Canada called the Canadian BFRB Support Network (CBSN) to help others with BFRBs as well as to aide in my own recovery. I also contributed to a book called Project Dermatillomania as well as some blog posts on BFRB Relapses and Dermatillomania Makeup Tips.

Lately, this little demon of mine has started to become a problem for me again and I’ve realized that I’ve been denying that fact. I’ve not talked about it like I used to as I’ve felt too ashamed to deal with it or acknowledge again.. My last breakthrough with dermatillomania was when I opened myself up to the BFRB community and my loved ones. It was lifechanging. I have to see again that trying to hide or acknowledge these issues again is only going to make my shame grow and is not going to help my progress.

So here I am, being as proactive and forward as I can.

Overcoming Body-Focused Repetitive Behaviours is the book that BFRBers have been waiting for. When I first began my BFRB journey, skin picking wasn’t even in the Diagnostics and Statistics Manual of Mental Health Disorders and all three of the health professionals I spoke to didn’t have a clue about my condition (though they were still pretty helpful). BFRB awareness has come a long way and its thanks to organizations like CBSN and The TLC Foundation for BFRBs for their constant work and dedication. The author of this book as well as the contributors are health professionals and researchers that have worked closely with the TLC Foundation to help learn more about BFRBs and come up with an effective program to help combat and deal with them.

This book talks about the specifics of BFRBs, what makes them different from just a bad habit, what they do to our brains, thought processes and feelings, and how we can try and rewire our patterns of behaviour. The method that Dr Mansueto and his team have found to be effective in working with many people with BFRBs through the TLC Foundation is called the Comprehensive Behavioral Model (ComB), which combines aspects of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and Habit Reversal Therapy (HRT).

What makes this book exceptional is that it gives you all the tools you need to tackle your BFRB on your own. Worksheets are provided using a SCAMP model (Sensory, Cognitive, Affective, Motor, Place) to help you determine your very own pattern of behaviour when it comes to your BFRB. The book then gives you to the tools to create an action plan for all the different aspects that you’ve identified where you engage in your BFRB so that you have real tools to support you no matter how intense your urge. While I’ve always advocated for ‘habit tracking’ and have had great success with it before from Annette Pasternak’s book Skin Picking: The Freedom to Finally Stop, this particular book is so much more robust as it identifies just how rooted our BFRB behaviours are.

I’ve restarted the process of tracking my behaviour and I look forward to creating some action plans to help get me back on track. The thing with BFRBs that there is no easy fix. If you have a BFRB like I do, you’ve probably got years of practising your BFRB so it’s going to take a lot of dedication and hard work to break free from your BFRB,  but if you’re willing to put in the work you will see results with this book.

This book is now my top recommendation to anyone that is battling a BFRB. It’s concise, reassuring, easy-to-follow, supportive, progressive, with feasible accomplishments that you can track if you put the work in. If you’re fed up and ready to tackle your BFRB head-on, waste no time and pick up this book as soon as possible.

Perfectly Hidden Depression by Margaret Robinson Rutherford

No one knows the real you because you never let them in. You’re not comfortable with the reality of you so you pretend it doesn’t exist.  If this sounds all too familiar to you, then you need this book.

5/5 stars.
ARC, ebook, 232 pages.
Read from May 29, 2019 to May 31, 2019.

You always meet your deadlines regardless of how you’re feeling, you push forward through difficult circumstances and hide behind a facade in order to keep an appearance of having it all together. All because you don’t want to be perceived as incompetent or weak, yet inside you’re constantly battling with yourself, your feelings, and your self-worth. You’ve tried to line yourself up with the standard definitions of depression yet you never fully fit it due to your heightened sense of responsibility, your inability to recognise or share your feelings, and the high sense of control you constantly try to implement in your life. No one knows the real you because you never let them in. You’re not comfortable with the reality of you so you pretend it doesn’t exist.  If this sounds all too familiar to you, then you need this book.

After some harrowing experiences with patients, the author of this book noticed a pattern and began to put together the shape of this unique type of depression that often goes unnoticed and undiagnosed. Coined by the author, Perfectly Hidden Depression (PHD) can be the result of a variety of factors such as upbringing, ingrained beliefs, and personality traits. The author states that there isn’t anything in the Diagnostics and Statistics Manual (DSM) on this type of depression but that this is an acknowledgement and an observation from her own professional experiences (which she details and provides resources for). The author believes PHD is a subset of depression that many practitioners miss because it doesn’t present the way the DSM has listed. The author gives this list of defining features that make up someone with PHD:

  • Are highly perfectionistic and have a constant, critical,
    and shaming inner voice
  • Demonstrate a heightened or excessive sense of
    responsibility
  • Detach from painful emotions by staying in your head
    and actively shutting them off
  • Worry and need to control yourself and your
    environment
  • Intensely focus on tasks, using accomplishment to feel
    valuable
  • Focus on the well-being of others but don’t allow them
    into your inner world
  • Discount personal hurt or sorrow and struggle with
    self-compassion
  • May have an accompanying mental health issue, such
    as an eating disorder, anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, or addiction
  • Believe strongly in counting your blessings as the foundation of well-being
  • May enjoy success within a professional structure but
    struggle with emotional intimacy in relationships

Think of some of the shocking celebrity suicides that have happened recently, Anthony Bourdain, for example. Everyone thought he has this dream life and that he seemed like a generally happy and satisfied person. What if Anthony was the epitome of PHD? In that, he felt his personal value was only in his accomplishments, driven by how grateful he thought he should feel, and then feeling burdened and overwhelmed by the mask of achievement and perfection that he felt he had to wear. He also had addiction problems. If we knew more about people that presented with this perfectly masked depression we could provide them with better treatment and save them and those around them an immense amount of suffering.

“Anthony Bourdain was apparently not physically ill, not financially destitute, not concerned about getting his next meal, and not lacking in fame. In fact, he remarked he had “the greatest job in the world.”” – Toronto Sun, July 7, 2018

It’s hard not to get personal in reviewing this book as I picked it up from Netgalley out of my own personal interest. After reading The Gifts of Imperfection eight years ago I worked through my own PHD, which at the time was just learning to be vulnerable again. I started talking and writing about my issues and the condition, dermatillomania, that still plagues me, something that would have been unthinkable before. I made steep headway with Brené Brown’s book but it wasn’t enough. This book feels like the acknowledgement and the validation I need to press forward in my own personal growth and happiness in terms of the regressions I have made at this point in my life.

The author of this book is shedding light on an area of depression that requires some serious attention. Her writing is personable, concise, insightful, informative, resourceful and clinical. I have already recommended this book to at least three people I know and I anxiously await its publication as I look forward to adding this to my permanent bookshelf.  At this time, I have not done the reflections recommended in the book as I was excited and anxious to get through all the content because of how alarmingly relevant I found it. I am now looking forward to re-reading the book and diligently doing the reflections which I believe will be immensely valuable. I’ve already started recommending this book which is due to be published on November 1, 2019. I highly recommended this book to anyone who feels they fit this description, and if you do, chances are you’re reluctant to reach out for help, so start with this book, no one has to know.

Acne: Just Another Four-Letter Word by Aarti Patel

“Acne is shaped by our thoughts, our emotions, and also by social influences all around us.”

3/5 stars.
ebook, 131 pages.
Read from April 28, 2019 to April 29, 2019.

I was given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review (thanks Aarti). While I don’t have a hefty battle with acne, I do contend with dermatillomania in which the frustrating feeling of helplessness and shame are remarkably similar to those suffering from acne. Such as the of never-ending obsessive thoughts about your skin, whether that’s covering it up, faster ways to heal it, or the constant search for that miracle product or system that will help break the vicious cycle of anxiety and negativity.

The purpose of this book is meant to shape the way you view your skin and your acne. The author defines acne as a bully, by giving it its own persona and making it something other than yourself. Similar approaches are taken when viewing things like depression or anxiety, in that these thoughts and feelings are not you and don’t define who you are. The author also addresses the extremes that many of us go through in order to deal with our skin from fad diets to expensive skin care regimes that ultimately make us feel as if our bad skin is of our own fault and if we can just somehow control it with the right diet, skin care, exercise etc. our life will be better. The author has a flowing and easy to read writing style that’s technically good and works well for the topic at hand.

While I cannot speak for the author’s claims on curing acne with this kind of thinking, it is still a beneficial approach for anyone who has ever struggled with their skin. I appreciate her sentiments on the approaches the medical field takes towards acne but it would have been nice to see some case studies, testimonials, or even some anecdotal evidence to support her claims as it would have added some scientific clarity to her work.

While I wouldn’t go so far as to recommend this book as a cure, there is something to be said about the mind and body connection and reducing stress and anxiety. This book would be beneficial for anyone who struggles with insecurities, depression, or anxiety involving their skin, regardless of the physical outcome as changing negative thought patterns is one way in regain control over our worries and vicious thought cycles.