Self-Help Techniques

Habit reversal training

We’ll start with habit reversal training. Many scientific studies have shown that this technique is very effective.

The goal of habit reversal training is to replace the old automatic behavior with a rigid and incompatible response. In other words, the new behavior blocks the old behavior (“freezing”).

Use the instructions that follow as a guide. This will help you to learn and easily apply the instructions to your own problem behavior.

Through your behavioral observations recorded in your log, you’ll have likely learned to be more aware of and attentive toward your problem behavior. If you notice that you’re picking, squeezing, scratching, biting, or tearing at your skin, or if you feel the urge to do so, then immediately interrupt it by switching to a fixed response (see Figures 2a–2d for examples).

For best results, continue the new behavior for one to three minutes.

The examples above (Figures 2a–2d) are just suggestions. You may find that another behavior is more suitable for you. The important thing is that your new response should be as unobtrusive as possible and able to be sustained for one to three minutes.

The more often you use the alternative behavior instead of the old problem behavior during your targeted times and situations, such as while watching TV, the more likely you’ll learn to replace the unwanted behavior with the new response.

This is particularly true if the behavior occurs at specific times of the day. Set a smartphone alarm to help you remember to practice (see page 6 for instructions).