curbing their behavior.
Crupi started using Keen in 2017
and immediately began recognizing the
triggers, such as boredom or exhaustion, that she says lead to her pulling. “I
started to notice what was going on and
I started to notice what I was feeling,”
Keen is among a number of available
technologies claiming to help people
with BFRBs, including Slightly Robot,
a bracelet that works in a similar way
as Keen, and apps such as TrichStop or
SkinPick. Mansueto is quick to point out
that no single treatment seems to work
for everyone. Products like Keen are
only part of the solution, he says.
“[People] see a device and they think
it’s going to be a magic device,” he says.
While increasing awareness of behaviors
and measuring progress can be important, there are other pieces of the puzzle
that need to be addressed, he says.
How well Keen works may be better
known soon; in 2018, NIMH awarded
a $300,000 Small Business Innovation
Research grant to its creators, who
are partnering with a leading trichotillomania researcher at Marquette
University in Wisconsin to study the
Crupi typically wears a bracelet on
just one arm. She says she is nearly 100
percent “pull-free” and has opened up to
her daughters and her friends about her
disorder. She now works as the director
of business development and awareness
for HabitAware, the Minneapolis-based
company that sells Keen. She also has
become more confident and passionate
about sharing her story and helping to
reduce the stigma associated with body-focused repetitive behaviors.
“Before, I would hide. I would never
want anyone to know what my disorder
is because I was embarrassed,” she says.
“Now I’m loud and proud.” n
Michael S. Gerber is a writer and consultant in Washington, D.C.