The compulsion to pick at the skin is a very private one. When the picking is done to the skin of the face, it is almost impossible to hide but is also something that almost no one acknowledges, in themselves or in others. We clearly see the evidence but choose, instead, to overlook it. Compulsive face picking is not a sign of poor hygiene nor is it necessarily a sign of a hard-to-control acne problem. Quite often someone with this behavioral issue will begin picking at a spot that is entirely invisible to the naked eye but the urge to focus on it can turn it into an open, bleeding wound that cannot be concealed, even under the heaviest cosmetics. Some people develop the habit of compulsive facial picking as a result of damaged self-esteem, leaving the subject feeling psychically wounded, unworthy. They pick to emphasize the blemishes in their lives or characters although these social blemishes are often seen by only the subject him- or herself and the picker may not be aware that the face picking is out of control. Other people use facial picking as a defense or avoidance mechanism. Thoughts behind the behavior may include the idea that I’m not worthy of your affections or attention so I’ll just make myself too ugly to be noticed in the first place. Or relationships are avoided because of fear or pain from past trauma and face picking begins as a way to be considered too ugly to be desirable.
Regardless of the reasons behind this very public and dramatic cry for help, the behavior is more common than most would think. Recent studies indicate more than 17 million Americans have developed this compulsive face picking habit. It is believed that as many as 4% of all college students can be diagnosed as facial pickers and dermatological records indicate as many as 2% of the patients seeking help from a dermatologist fall under this OCD diagnosis. When seeking medical help in treating the compulsion of facial picking, eczema is often diagnosed. Eczema itself is a diagnosis that covers a broad array of individual symptoms. It’s interesting to note, however, the etymology behind the word. The word, eczema, is derived from a Greek term, ek zeein, which means to boil or seethe, indicating the presence of excessive levels of turmoil from within. Using the skin, especially the skin of the face, as a means of broadcasting this inner unrest has been documented in medical literature for centuries. The skin is the largest organ in the human body. It is the most public organ of the body and, as such, is often the first organ to display internal state of health, both physical and emotional. Compulsive facial picking is done regularly by people of all ages and both genders, although women are eight times more likely as men to develop the compulsion. For more information about face picking, its causes and treatment methods, get the Complete Guide to Picking Disorders today.