Stop Hair Twirling: a Behavior Modification Approach

Over the years, I have developed a bad habit of playing with my hair. Unlike most cases, I am not pulling it or causing harm to myself, but I constantly twirl it and run my fingers through it. Even though this is not a major stressor in my life and does not cause immediate harm, it does affect me in certain areas. My manager is the only person who reprimands me for it by saying I look “highly unprofessional” when I’m at work twirling my hair. I believe that I developed this habit in high school and it’s about time for me to end this immature habit.

Description of Behavior. My behavior consists of separating a small section of my hair and running both hands through it. I sometimes also take this small section of hair and twirl my hair around my finger. This is considered a covert behavior because it is observable to the public. My habit of hair twirling is an excess because this is a behavior that happens too often and needs decreased. When I begin playing with my hair, the duration is fairly short and lasts for about thirty seconds. The frequency of my behavior is about fifteen times per day. The intensity is very low; if it was not, I would be hurting myself!

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The topography, or specific movements associated with this behavior, are raising my hands to my hair, separating a section or grabbing a curl and running my fingers through it. The problems associated with behavior relate directly to how others interpret me. My hair twirling discredits my intelligence and makes me look immature, naive, and clueless. Although people that know me personally realize that this bad habit doesn’t define me, clients and customers at work do not know this and assume I am “ditzy”. First impressions are long lasting, and this habit can make others perceive me in a negative light.

My anticipated goal is to have my hair playing stop, so I can appear professional while in class and at work. Analysis of causes of behavior I have noticed that the frequency of my hair playing is directly correlated with my stress levels; the more stressed out I am, the more I play with my hair. I have also noticed that I play with my hair more often when I gain weight, which is usually due to stress. I’ve noticed that the behavior increases drastically during midterms and finals week and before my monthly review at work; I’m constantly twirling my hair at those times.

I have also realized that the sections of hair that I usually play with are brittle and significantly shorter than the rest of my hair due to breakage. The immediate consequences I experience that maintain this behavior is anxiety relief. While playing with my hair, I feel more calm and relaxed. Another immediate consequence that is maintaining this behavior is the positive sensation felt during this behavior. I do not think that a functional assessment is needed because of the simplicity of the behavior.

Development of a Behavior Modification Program. I believe that my manager was on the right by using positive punishment, because that is the one instance I do not twirl my hair! I will need to notify all my family, friends and coworkers about my behavior modification program and explain to them how they can help by adding an unpleasant stimulus everytime I play with my hair. My parents could punish me by saying I have to do a chore around the house, my managers could punish me by making me take out the garbage and my friends could punish me by making me review their homework or papers.

A continuous schedule of positive reinforcement will be used so I can quickly change my behavior. Those that are delivering punishments are my parents, friends and managers. I believe that positive punishment would work really well for me because I am a huge people please and am always looking to make people happy and have motivation to stop playing with my hair since I do not want to see those close to me get upset. I also think I’m going to respond well to positive punishment because I avoid confrontation at all costs and do not want to get punished!

There should be one warning per day before I get punished and it should be a verbal warning. Something among the lines of , “Sara, if you do that one more time, you’re going to take out all the garbage! ” would work quite well. I can also minimize the causes of this behavior by reducing stress. I can also add in some yoga and try to procrastinate a little less, even though I do not procrastinate that much any more in order to prevent anxiety. I already have minimized the causes of this undesirable behavior by doing lots of breathing exercises and mindful thinking therapy strategies to calm myself down.

Another method of behavior modification I can use is differential reinforcement of zero. If I do not perform the bad behavior at all, I can reward myself by getting a massage or going to a nice dinner. The good and relaxed feeling I would get from doing those two activities would positively reinforce me to continue my newly changed behavior! When I get the urge to play with my hair I, could possibly occupy my hands with other minuscule activities, such as figuring out a rubix cube .

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Stop Hair Twirling: a Behavior Modification Approach. (2017, Jan 29). Retrieved from