Habitual behaviour

Hi there, is there anything you do to help me from stroking my eyebrow hair? I cannot seem to stop. I go into a trance like state and feel very relaxed. What should I do?

3 October 2016

Thank you for your question.

It is not uncommon to find that we all have something that helps us relax and feel at ease especially at times when we may feel heightened levels of anxiety or a need to relax.

From what you have described, it may be suggested that initially your actions may have commenced as a form of relaxation, whether you were fully aware of it at the time, and due to the feeling of relaxation that it has generated, it may now be that you are totally unaware of your actions, as it has almost turned into a habitual behaviour. By repeating a process over long periods of time it can become an automatic response that your brain has learned, without having to think about the action. Breaking habits, or habitual behaviour can be difficult, as it requires you to think about not doing something that feels natural for you to do (as you have done it for so long), or rather “unlearning” a behaviour.

It may be suggested that in order to reduce or decrease the habit, some distraction therapy may be of use.

As you are mainly using your fingers and hands for this process, a distraction for this may be to keep your hands occupied with something else.

  • Perhaps a stress ball or something like this may be of use. The action of squeezing something else in your hand may stop you automatically putting your hands to your face.
  • Some individuals use an elastic band in their hand which they can touch or pull helps, thereby keeping their hands occupied.
  • It may be an idea to take some time to discover what triggers you to automatically start this behaviour. It may be suggested that you keep a notebook of how often you start the stroking action, and what you are doing just prior to this. This may start helping to understand what is leading you to commencing the action.

Changing any behaviour can be challenging, therefore it may be that some further investigation is required to look into habitual automatic responses. If trying to change this on your own with no difference, it may be advised to speak to your GP or Health Care Professional at your surgery regarding further advice on the subject.

Answered by the Health at Hand nurses  

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