Feelings of stress or boredom may induce unwanted repetitive behaviors in some people. Although annoying, these self-soothing habits are hard to stop most often. A new study suggests some simple self-help techniques to curb repetitive behaviors.

Body-focused repetitive behaviors are any repetitive self-grooming behavior that often causes physical damage, according to the TLC Foundation for BFRBs. Nail biting, skin picking, hair eating, skin biting, lip biting and tongue chewing are some examples of them.

These behaviors may last for a lifetime in many people. Studies have shown that some people may have an inherited predisposition for habits such as skin picking or hair pulling and the factors such as the person's temperament, age of onset and stress triggers them.

Although cognitive behavior therapy, habit reversal training and comprehensive behavioral treatment are available for people with BFRBs, no one treatment is effective for everyone.

As part of the latest study, researchers developed a simple habit-replacement strategy to help people with these behaviors. The techniques involve lightly rubbing the fingertips, palm or back of the arm, at least twice a day. You can learn more about the techniques on the Clinical Neuropsychology Unit's website.

After a six-week study conducted among 268 people with BFRBs, about 53% of participants observed some improvement compared to about 20% in a control group. People with habits of nail biting benefited the most.

"The rule is just to touch your body lightly. If you're under stress, you might perform the movements faster, but not with more self-applied pressure," said lead study author Steffen Moritz, from the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf in Germany.

Around 80% of the participants were satisfied with the training and 86% said they would recommend it to others, researchers said.

"I would say one-third to half of the patients with BFRB [body-focused repetitive behavior] benefit from decoupling, but the rest do not. And so the idea was to find another technique that is perhaps more suitable for these nonresponders," Moritz added.

John Piacentini, president of the board of directors of the TLC Foundation for BFRBs, hopes "the study will raise awareness of BFRBs because they're really poorly understood, oftentimes misdiagnosed or missed completely."

"There are reasonably good treatments out there that most clinicians aren't aware of or don't do," he added.