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Your 'Nervous Tic' May Mean You're a Perfectionist

Mar 20, 2015 01:56 AM EDT

Do you frequently bite your nails? Twirl or pull your hair? Maybe pick at your skin? New research has determined that this repetitive behavior is triggered not only when you are nervous, but when you are bored or frustrated as well. What's more, this kind of behavior may be a sign that you are, in some small way, a perfectionist.

That's at least according to a study recently published in the Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry, which details how researchers from the Institut universitaire en santé mentale de Montréal and the University of Montreal closely studied the actions of 24 individuals with repetitive semi-automatic behaviors.

These 24 participants were compared to 24 'normal' control participants who did not have body-focused repetitive behaviors. All 48 participants had their susceptibility to feelings such as boredom, anger, guilt, irritability and anxiety assessed via questionnaire and over-the-phone evaluations prior to the study's launch.

Then they were exposed to different experimental situations that were either stressful, relaxing, frustrating, or simply boring.

The boring experiment, for instance, involved the participant sitting in a droll room for six minutes without anything to do. The frustrating situation, on the other hand, involved the participant completing a task that was described as "quick and simple" but was actually just the opposite.

As expected, when the participants were exposed to stressful situations (i.e. - being forced to watch an uncomfortable video), the tic group quickly turned to their automated behaviors, such as nail biting or hair pulling.

However, the participants also frequently started these behaviors when frustrated or bored as well. This was not the case, however, when they were relaxed.

"Although these behaviors can induce important distress, they also seem to satisfy an urge and deliver some form of reward," principal investigator Kieron O'Connor explained in a statement. "We believe that individuals with these repetitive behaviors maybe perfectionistic, meaning that they are unable to relax and to perform task at a 'normal' pace.  They are therefore prone to frustration, impatience, and dissatisfaction when they do not reach their goals. They also experience greater levels of boredom."

He goes on to suggest that individuals suffering from body-focused repetitive behaviors could benefit from treatments designed to reduce frustration and boredom and to modify perfectionist beliefs.

For more great nature science stories and general news, please visit our sister site, Headlines and Global News (HNGN).

- follow Brian on Twitter @BS_ButNoBS

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