Meet Lauren McKeaney. She describes herself as a a writer, filmmaker, comedienne and storyteller. Lauren is also a skin picker. Lauren remembers being a skin picker from the tender age of about 4 or 5 years old. With the picking came great shame, guilt and memories of teasing and taunting through her childhood. Lauren never spoke about picking. Until one she contracted MRSA, which is a hard-to-treat life-threatening infection. It landed her in the hospital for two weeks, but when she came out, she discovered a new found courage to open up and share with anyone willing to listen about her struggles with the disorder. And so Lauren McKeaney, avid BFRB awareness advocate was born.
Sharing authentically about why my skin is the way it is has been life changing. I’m aware there is no cure (yet) for my condition, but there is something about advocacy that has taken the pertinence of the disorder away from myself, and has put my efforts and love and contribution towards helping others, which has in turn made my own self-acceptance grow stronger.
Not many health professionals understand what Body-Focused Repetitive Behaviours (BFRB) such as hair pulling (trichotillomania) and skin picking (dermatillomania) are and what causes these behaviours or disorders. This is changing as medical advances are made and health professionals increase their understanding and insights into the underlying reasons for why some people compulsively pull out their hair or pick at their skins while other people don't feel such an urge to do so.
Because of this growing awareness of these types of compulsive behaviour, in 2014, the Trichtillomania Learning Center (TLC) Foundation for Body-Focused Repetitive Behaviours, with the help of its TLC scientific advisory board and collaborative partnerships started up the BFRB Precision Medicine Initiative to promote research and understanding around BFRBs.
An adult's skin can weigh up to 3,6 kilograms and cover a space of about 2 metres.That makes your skin your body's largest and most important organ, providing you with an important defence against bacteria, diseases and germs that would threaten your health and well being. Your skin, which is made up of several different layers, is a waterproof agent that protects the nevers, bones, muscles and tendons within your body, keeping them in place; shields you against extremes such as harsh sunlight; harmful chemicals and it has healing properties within it that allows it to heal when injured. Your skin is made out of three main layers. The outmost layer of skin, called the epidermis is the layer that forms a waterproof barrier and gives you your skin tone. The second layer, the dermis, is the part that contains connective tissue, hair follicles and sweat glands whereas the third layer, the subcutaneous layer or hypodermis is the part made out of fat and connective tissue. When the skin is injured, cells within your body swiftly swings into action to ensure that the injured part is healed quickly.
Dermatillomania, also known as excoriation or skin picking is when a person compulsively picks away at their skin, leaving their skin marked with scars. People who have dermatillomania are driven to pick at their skin for different reasons. Some may pick their skin in times of stress or anxiety, starting with picking at acne, finding that it is pleasurable and may even relieve their anxiousness. Dematillomania is viewed as a coping mechanism that people engage in to cope with emotional or psychological distress that they cannot verbalise. The most commonly picked areas on the body tend to be the face, and the condition affects more women than men. People with dermatillomania can pick at their skin at different times during the day, or spend hours picking at one area with their fingers, or even with tweezers and needles. Excessive picking can result in sores, scars, complications, and even infections, and result in shame and guilt around this condition such to the extent that people who pick at their skin feel ashamed to ask for help.
Deschroma has a You Tube channel. She makes videos based on the mental and medical conditions she has to deal with, She has been diagnosed with schizoafrective disorder, and bipolar 1 type. There is a social anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and PTSD. Still she is employed at a small sales company, She is also a freelance writer.
One of Deschroma's most challenging afflictions is dermatillomania. Dermatilliomania is sometimes called compulsive skin picking disorder, or the clinical term, which is excoriation disorder. Sufferers feel compelled to pick at their skin for extended periods of time. Their actions include rubbing, touching, and digging into their skin. Some sufferers do this to do away with perceived imperfections. Others may have a triggered obsession.
The behavior of sufferers may result in the discoloration of the skin and scarring, In extreme examples of the disorder, Body-Focused Repetitive Behavior, there can be serious tissue damage.
It is estimated that about 3% of the population has a body focussed repetitive behavior (BFRB). Body Focused Repetitive Behaviour “is an umbrella term for any chronic behavior that causes a person to consistently cause physical damage to oneself unintentionally through a compulsive act in order to relieve anxiety.” The key difference between BFRB and other compulsive behaviours that cause harm to the body is that BFRBs are characterised by direct body-to-body contact. It is collectively grouped among Obsessive Compulsive and Related Disorders in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual 5 (DSM5). These behaviours can manifest in a variety of ways, with the overarching similarity between the different disorders being the regulatory effect experienced by the person engaging in this behaviour, on overwhelming emotions or cognitive thought patterns such as stress or anxiety. There a number of different BFRBs, namely:
It is one of the hardest things to be a parent with a child with an illness. As parents we want to protect our children from harm and shield them from all the pain in the world. So when your child is sufferring, it can cause so much emotional anguish as you feel like you have failed them and like you have lost control over your ability to protect them. We tend to see our roles as parents reflected in the image of a mum kissing her child's hurt knee after having put a plaster on, or the dad hugging his daughter after she had fallen off her bike. But the reality is that there are some hurts that cannot be fixed with a simple bandage or a hug. Sometimes the battles our children face are are far deeper and far more challenging to overcome. In particular when these battles are related to mental health.
We have featured videos by Dr. Tammy Fletcher from her Youtube channel Talk Therapy Channel. Dr. Fletcher has a PhD in Cognitive Studies, two Masters degrees, has published two award-winning books. A licenced marriage and family therapist Dr. Fletcher is also passionate about raising awareness and providing treatment to people sufferring from body-focused repetitive behaviors (BFRBs) and has therefore produced numerous videos on BFRBs such as compulsive skin picking and trichotillomania over the years. Her videos are always very informative. In this video Dr Fletcher shares what the therapeutic technique of Tapping is and demonstrates a sample session for people with dermatillomania. In this post we want to explore this topic more deeply, giving you a more detailed break down of what Tapping is and the sciencific theory is behind the technique.
While it can be easy to confuse the two based solely on physical appearance, there are several key differences when considering the conditions of nodular prurigo and dermatillomania. Both can be very painful, even debilitating conditions, but it's important to note the similarities as well as differences between the two, as a misdiagnosis could waste precious time and money, as well as prolong unnecessary pain. As a result, in this post we're going to look at a description of both conditions, as well as applicable symptoms and possible treatments and outline some of the basic similarities and differences between the two conditions. First let's start off with nodular prurigo and check out what some of the clinical features of that condition are.