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Open Access Open Badges Research article

Prevalence of body-focused repetitive behaviors in three large medical colleges of karachi: a cross-sectional study

Efaza Umar Siddiqui, Syed Saad Naeem, Haider Naqvi and Bilal Ahmed*

Author Affiliations

MSc Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Aga Khan University, Karachi, 74800, Pakistan

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BMC Research Notes 2012, 5:614  doi:10.1186/1756-0500-5-614

Published: 1 November 2012



Body-focused repetitive behaviors (BFRBs) that include skin picking (dermatillomania), hair pulling (trichotillomania) and nail biting (onychophagia), lead to harmful physical and psychological sequelae.

The objective was to determine the prevalence of BFRBs among students attending three large medical colleges of Karachi. It is imperative to come up with frequency to design strategies to decrease the burden and adverse effects associated with BFRBs among medical students.


A cross-sectional study was conducted among 210 students attending Aga Khan University, Dow Medical College and Sind Medical College, Karachi, in equal proportion. Data were collected using a pre tested tool, “Habit Questionnaire”. Diagnoses were made on the criteria that a student must be involved in an activity 5 times or more per day for 4 weeks or more. Convenience sampling was done to recruit the participants aged 18 years and above after getting written informed consent.


The overall prevalence of BFRBs was found to be 46 (22%). For those positive for BFRBs, gender distribution was as follows: females 29 (13.9%) and males 17 (8.1%). Among these students, 19 (9.0%) were engaged in dermatillomania, 28 (13.3%) in trichotillomania and 13 (6.2%) in onychophagia.


High proportions of BFRBs are reported among medical students of Karachi. Key health messages and interventions to reduce stress and anxiety among students may help in curtailing the burden of this disease which has serious adverse consequences.

BFRBs; Dermatillomania; Trichotillomania; Onychophagia