How to Break the Cycle of Hair Pulling and Skin Picking in Your Child with ADHD

Does your child have a habit of pulling out their hair, picking at their skin, biting their nails, or chewing their lips? Do they also need help paying attention, staying focused, or controlling their impulses? If so, they may have two conditions that often go hand in hand: body-focused repetitive behaviours (BFRBs) and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

BFRBs are compulsive habits that involve damaging one’s own body. They can cause pain, infection, scarring, baldness, or other problems. ADHD is a condition that affects the ability to concentrate, follow directions, plan, or manage emotions. It can cause difficulties in school, work, or social situations.

Having both BFRB and ADHD can be very challenging for your child and you as a parent. You may feel worried, frustrated, or helpless. You may wonder why your child does these things and how you can stop them.

But don’t despair. There is hope and help for your child and you. In this blog post, we will share with you some possible reasons why your child has BFRB and ADHD, some of the ways these conditions can affect their life, and some of the things you can do to support them and help them overcome these habits.

Why does your child have BFRB and ADHD?

A simple answer to this question does not exist. Many factors influence BFRB and ADHD, which are complex conditions. Some of these factors include:

  • Brain differences: Your child’s brain may have different wiring from other people’s brains. They may have differences in the parts of the brain that control reward, emotion regulation, impulse control, and habit formation. These differences may make them more likely to develop BFRB to cope with stress, boredom, anger, or sadness.
  • Sensory processing: Your child may experience sensations differently from other people. They may be more or less sensitive to touch, sound, or movement. They may seek out or avoid certain feelings to feel better or worse. For example, they may pull their hair or pick their skin to feel a sense of relief, pleasure, or excitement; or they may do so to distract themselves from unpleasant sensations or emotions.
  • Learning difficulties: Your child may have trouble with learning tasks that require attention, memory, organisation, planning, or problem-solving. They may also struggle with social skills, such as understanding social cues, taking turns, or following rules. These difficulties may make them feel insecure, anxious, depressed, or frustrated. These feelings may trigger or worsen their BFRB behaviours.
  • Family and environmental factors: Family members’ and friends’ behaviours and attitudes may influence your child. For example, teasing, bullying, criticising, punishing, or rejecting them for their appearance. They may learn to imitate or cope with stress by watching others who do the same things. They may also face adverse reactions or consequences from others who don’t understand or accept their behaviours.

How do BFRB and ADHD affect your child’s life?

BFRB and ADHD can have a significant impact on your child’s life in many ways, such as:

  • Physical health: BFRB can harm your child’s body. It can cause infections, scars, bald spots, or other problems. It can also affect their hygiene, nutrition, sleep, or exercise habits. ADHD can also affect their physical health by making them more prone to accidents, injuries, or illnesses.
  • Mental health: BFRB and ADHD can affect your child’s self-image, confidence, mood, and motivation. They may feel ashamed, embarrassed, guilty, or angry about their habits. They may also feel anxious, depressed, or have low self-esteem because of their school or social situation challenges. They may isolate themselves from others or avoid activities that expose their affected areas.
  • Social and academic functioning: BFRB and ADHD can interfere with your child’s ability to do well in school or get along with others. They may have trouble concentrating, following instructions, completing assignments, or participating in class discussions. They may lose interest in hobbies, sports, or extracurricular activities that they used to enjoy. They may also face stigma, bullying, or rejection from their peers or teachers because of how they look or act.

What are some ways to help your child cope with BFRB and ADHD?

If your child has BFRB and ADHD, you may feel overwhelmed, frustrated, or helpless. But you are not alone. Helping your child overcome these habits with them is possible in many ways. Here are some tips to try:

  • Get professional help: The first thing you should do is talk to a mental health professional who can diagnose your child’s condition and recommend the best treatment options. Treatment for BFRB and ADHD may include medication, therapy, coaching, or a combination of these methods. The goal of treatment is to help your child understand why they do these things, learn new ways to cope with stress and emotions, reduce their urges and behaviours, and increase their self-control and self-compassion.
  • Learn more about BFRB and ADHD: The second thing you should do is educate yourself and your child about these conditions and how they affect them. You can read books, articles, websites, or blogs that provide reliable and accurate information about BFRB and ADHD. You can also join online or offline support groups or forums to connect with other parents or individuals with similar experiences. You can also teach your child about their condition and help them recognise their strengths and challenges. You can remind them that they are not responsible for their habits and are not alone in their difficulties.
  • Create a supportive environment: You should create a supportive environment for your child at home, school, and other places. You can do this by:
    • Being empathetic and accepting: You can show empathy and acceptance to your child by listening to their feelings, validating their emotions, and expressing your love and care. You can avoid criticising, blaming, or shaming them for their habits. Instead, you can encourage them to seek help when they are ready and praise them for their efforts and progress. You can also prevent nagging, reminding, or forcing them to stop their habits, as this may only make them feel more stressed and resistant.
    • Structure and routine: You can provide design and exercise to your child by setting clear and consistent rules, expectations, and consequences. You can also help them organise their time, space, and materials. You can make a daily schedule that includes regular meals, sleep, homework, chores, and fun activities. You can also create a quiet, comfortable, distraction-free study area for them. You can also reduce their screen time and media exposure that may lead to or worsen their habits.
    • Offering positive reinforcement: You can support your child by rewarding them for their positive behaviours and achievements. You can use verbal praise, tokens, privileges, or other meaningful and motivating incentives for them. You can also celebrate their successes and milestones with them. You can also support them in setting and accomplishing goals that are realistic and feasible and track their advancement. You can also help them cope with setbacks and failures by emphasising their efforts and learning opportunities.
    • Modelling healthy behaviours: You can model healthy behaviours for your child by caring for your physical and mental health. You can practice good hygiene, nutrition, exercise, and relaxation habits. You can also manage your stress, emotions, and impulses constructively. You can also show interest and involvement in your child’s activities and hobbies and share quality time with them. You can also seek help and show a positive attitude towards treatment.

Final words

BFRB and ADHD are not easy conditions to deal with. They can cause many problems for your child and you. But they are not impossible to overcome. Your child can learn to control their habits and live a happy and productive life with the proper diagnosis, treatment, education, and support.

Thank you for reading! I hope you have learned some helpful information and tips on how to help your child with BFRB and ADHD from this blog post. Please comment with your questions or thoughts below.

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2 responses to “How to Break the Cycle of Hair Pulling and Skin Picking in Your Child with ADHD”

  1. It’s important to understand that body-focused repetitive behaviours (BFRBs) and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) often go hand in hand. If your child is experiencing these symptoms, it can be very challenging for both you and your child. The good news is that there is hope and help available. It’s important to get professional help, learn more about these conditions, and create a supportive environment at home, school, and other places. Remember that your child is not responsible for their habits and they are not alone in their difficulties. You can also help your child recognize their strengths and challenges.


    1. Thanks for your comment

      Liked by 1 person

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