Nearer to the beginning of BFRB Awareness Week, which was from October 1st to 7th, someone posted in one of the Facebook groups questioning the point of it. The point the commenter seemed to be making was that since awareness week hasn’t brought about a cure to body-focused repetitive behaviours, it doesn’t actually do any good at all. There was a comparison thrown in there about how people still die of breast cancer although there are breast cancer awareness efforts. Awareness weeks, to this person, are useless.
What this person seems to be failing to realize is that awareness weeks aren’t about finding cures, but rather the dissemination of information so that people can become more knowledgeable and informed about the topic. In particular, disorders like trichotillomania, dermatillomania, onychophagia (nail biting) and all of the other BFRBs need awareness efforts because of the gross lack of knowledge about them. So many of us have faced a doctor, the people we’re supposed to go to when we’re sick, that didn’t know what we were talking about and had no way to help us, and that’s a problem.
Each year BFRB Week as a concentrated effort of awareness enlightens someone new about these disorders – sufferers, supporters, and the general public alike. This year we had the extra boost of the popular website The Mighty releasing blogs written by BFRBers about their experiences and sharing it with their audience. They also featured live chats with prominent community members. Overall, we’ve reached a tremendous amount of people this year.
On our Facebook page alone, our BFRB Week posts reached thousands of people, and CBSN is not that big of an organization, so that’s saying something. Couple our thousands with the number of people the TLC Foundation for BFRBs’ posts no doubt reached, The Mighty’s, and then the thousands of views garnered from all the people sharing about BFRB across social media and I think it’s safe to say that BFRB Week has made an impact.
What reaching people like this does is dispel misconceptions, let people know these disorders are real and serious matters, and most importantly let people know they’re not alone. True, we haven’t reached a cure, but awareness over the years has brought about research that could one day lead there. Even what we know now is so starkly different in terms of research than just a few years ago.
What we all need to keep in mind is that we’re very early in these awareness efforts. For those of us on the younger side, things like breast cancer awareness are commonplace because it’s been around for over 30 years. Its awareness efforts have brought about better screening, more knowledge, and better treatments. Breast cancer awareness is leaps and bounds ahead of BFRB awareness and those first efforts are a thing of history.
I know it’s frustrating to see such slow progress in BFRB awareness, but we are those front lines. We are making those first efforts.
Cures also don’t come easily. We may have to suffice with treatment options for now and learn how our lives can still be full whether or not we pull our hair, pick our skin, bite our nails, or whatever the case may be.
Just think though, if we continue to push forward with raising awareness about BFRBs, not just during awareness week but throughout the year, the answers may one day come our way.