This article was HARD for me to publish because I had to admit that I suffer from dermatillomania. Really hard, so please be kind.
I may seem like I have my sh!t together. But you know what? I don’t. I wear HEAVY makeup on my face because I obsessively pick my skin. I wasn’t always like this…in fact, I had GORGEOUS skin clear up until my senior year of high school. Then I got a whopping zit in the middle of my forehead.
Right.Before.Prom. This thing had its own zip code. It was huge, it was massive, and it was right between my eyes. I was positive the Hubble could see it. But you know what? In retrospect, if I’d left it alone it would have gone away in a few days. I know this. But I picked, and then I picked again, then I picked some more.
I created a monster that took nearly a year to heal because I just couldn’t keep my hands off of it. I can hear my friends, my boyfriend, my mom all saying “stop picking!” But you know what? I didn’t even realize that I was doing it. That’s right. I was gouging holes in my face (and my right arm) compulsively, unintentionally…and when the holes scab over? I pick them, too.
Guess what? I’m not alone.
Dermatillomania is a condition where a person feels compelled to pick at their skin, to the point where it causes visible wounds.
Dermatillomania is an impulse-control disorder where the person is unable to stop themselves from picking their skin.
And for awhile, I got it under control. In college, I was busy…and then all of a sudden I wasn’t.
And I have tried (and failed) to quit picking my skin for years. In fact, when Smalls got sick, my Dermatillomania got So.Much.Worse.
Y’all. That’s my face, no makeup…in real time (well, April, 2015). →
And to answer the questions I’m sure you have:
- Yes, I’ve been in therapy.
- Yes, I do have OCD.
- Yes, I really don’t know I’m doing it.
- Yes, I wish I didn’t pick. I wish this Every.Single.Day.
I am absolutely mortified at how horrible my skin has become. And worse? I’m starting to see signs that Smalls is following in my footsteps. So, I’ve promised myself that I have to do something. Anything. I need to stop picking. I need to be more aware. I need a change.
Everyone has different triggers, and mine are (mostly) anxiety-based. The higher my anxiety level, the worse my face (and my right arm) look.
I’m tired of the scars, and it breaks my heart to see my beautiful child picking his face because he sees me doing it.
So, I’ve been brainstorming. I need to keep my hands off my face as much as is reasonably possible. In order to accomplish this, I have started using some coping techniques that help to distract myself from picking.
- Using a cotton ball to apply moisturizer/facial oil.
- I tossed my magnified mirror into the trash.
- Keeping my nails short.
- I wash my face, or apply a mask at least 3 times a day.
- Set a timer for 5 minutes and focus on something else.
- Keep skin clean to avoid infection.
- Find something to do.
- Moisturize or hydrate your skin (this really, really helps me-I keep a bottle of Evian Hydration Spray in every room, and in my bag).
- Do yoga.
- Call a friend.
- Take a shower.
- Get rid of tweezers, or any other instrument that may tempt you to pick, pull, or dig at your skin.
- Use a stress ball.
- Eat CLEAN.
Since I took that photo, my skin has gradually improved. I have been working really, really hard to stop picking. So far, what’s been working for me has been using my 5 minute journal, and practicing mindfulness. The Whole30 didn’t hurt either, but it didn’t give me miraculously clear skin. Rather, it made it better.
It’s Up To Me To Break The Dermatillomania Cycle
I’ve been following Abundant Yogi for a while, and right after I began this post so many months ago, I ran across Kris’ Overwhelm Eliminator, and it was like a revelation to me. A super simple system to help me deal with the things that really are out of my control.
If I follow the advice, and do The Work, I don’t pick. It’s crazy! On days that I forget to journal, and let my stress fester and boil, my face is a mess, which then takes weeks to heal. It’s horrible. But it’s getting better. Here’s a selfie I took last night (July 2015), with NO makeup… →
…I think that it’s much better.
I made a commitment to myself to work on my stress level, and it’s really helping. I don’t feel like I need to wear heavy makeup all day long. Between my journaling, “AY”, and my Evian Spray, I’m actually doing pretty well! It’s not perfect, but it’s far, far better than it was.
I’m still very much a work in progress. But at least I’m making progress now! If you unconsciously pick at your skin-on your face, your arms, your legs, your chest, your back…talk to someone. Find help, or find a way to deal with your triggers. Because I’m convinced that is the only thing that is allowing my face to heal (that and keeping a clean diet).
Do You Know Someone With Dermatillomania?
Here’s how you can help them:
- Stop telling them to stop. Trust me. If we could stop we would. NO ONE wants this.
- We’re not crazy. Maybe you bounce your knee, or drum your fingers. Picking is our “quirk.”
- Just because our skin is clear or doesn’t look “that bad”, doesn’t mean we aren’t suffering.
- Most of us really don’t have “bad” skin.
- This is not “normal.” That’s like saying someone who consistently drinks a case of beer a night is just a light drinker.
And most importantly? Don’t shame. Please. Because we didn’t choose this, and it’s not something we can just “fix.” Yes, we can treat the symptoms, find our triggers, and get “better.” But assuming that we’re cured is laughable. It’s a disease, and takes constant diligence. So be kind.
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