MINNEAPOLIS (KMSP) - Almost everyone has a habit they would like to kick, but for some people that habit becomes a life altering and debilitating disorder.
Now, thanks to a Minneapolis couple, there's a new way to try and kick the habit without drugs or psychiatry. It's called HabitAware, wearable technology that alerts the user when they engage in the compulsive behavior.
"I just had heightened awareness of where my hands were and over time I just was able to re-train away from that innate behavior of coming up to my eyebrows and eyelashes to pull out my hair," said co-creator of HabitAware, Aneela Kumar.
Kumar says she compulsively pulled out her eyebrow and eyelash hair for 20 years, hiding the behavior from friends and family. She was even able to keep her behavior concealed from her new husband.
"It was my routine to get up, get ready, get my eyebrows on before he would see me, and then one day the schedule didn't work out and he was like, what's going on, where are your eyebrows?" said Kumar.
Kumar admitted to her husband that she had Trichotillomania, a clinically recognized disorder where patients suffer an irresistible urge to pull out their hair.
"We had a 20 minute conversation where she's like, I've been pulling out my hair for 20 years. And that's when we set out to find a solution,"said Aneela's husband Sameer Kumar.
That conversation was about two years ago. Today, the couple is preparing to release HabitAware to the public.
The Kumars say the technology is pretty simple--it takes less than a minute to teach the device the behavior you would like to recognize, and after that, the bracelet will discreetly vibrate each time you perform the habit.
"It's really the most common behavior you've never heard of," said Aneela who has since kicked her compulsive behavior. "Now I'm at a point that even when my hands come up to that area, I'm more awake so I can have that conversation of 'why am I pulling right now?'"
The bracelet pairs with an app that will keep track of when and how often you engage in the behavior.
"It will actually help you analyze the data so you can identify your triggers," said Aneela. "So maybe it's a class, time of day, where something is happening consistently that's triggering you."
The Kumars say they hope to help people like Aneela kick bad habits and live more productive lives.
HabitAware will be released this December.