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Dermatillomania (skin picking disorder)

sonia , 09 Nov 2009

picking at gums

so for the past few months i've had a really strong urge to pick at my gums. i just started doing it one day... and now i can't stop! i stick needles or wires into my gums and then i floss my gums real hard until they start to bleed. and it feels really good.. i'm afraid i won't be able to stop and then my gums will be ugly and start to receed. i've gotten used to having ugly looking hands.. i don't want to have ugly gums aswell! and i also have really wierd urges to pull out my teeth and cut my teeth out, i don't know why all this is happening! anyway, does anyone else do this, is it detrimental to your gums? thanks!
43 Answers
December 29, 2016

Wow! I can't believe how many people are like me!! I felt so alone and like a freak until now. I am 29 and I've been doing this as long as I remember. When I was a kid I would stay up all night picking my gums and pulling on/out my baby teeth to feel the pain. I am absolutely addicted to the pain. I can't stop. I am currently in therapy with a mental health therapist. I also see my psychiatrist every couple months. I am on medication for chronic depression, generalized anxiety, OCD, PTSD, insomnia, BPD and tricotillomania. Even though I am going through therapy and get lots of help, I still struggle. I practice skills that they teach me as much as I am able and see improvement for a while and then relapse. But the thing is, that is ok! It is all part of it. The road to recovery from mental illness is a hard and long journey, but also a very rewarding one! It is amazing to see yourself change in front of your eyes and everyone else's eyes.

I have learned through therapy, that we have to first become aware of the behaviour. Once you've become aware of it, write it down. Keep track of how often you are doing it. Once you get more aware, you start to catch yourself doing it quicker and quicker. Practice is key here. We then have to continue stopping ourselves until we can gain more and more control over it. We can stop ourselves and try to distract ourselves with different things, some things work for some and some don't for others. It's a trial and error thing. For chewing the inside of the mouth, you can try sucking on ice or a mint, or even chewing gum. For picking you can try doing a puzzle, or knitting...something with your hands that is intricate.

The one thing that I haven't mentioned yet that is also key in this practice, is to do it without judging yourself. This means, no saying to yourself "I'm so stupid. Why can't I just stop already?!", and things of this nature. This type of thinking creates more negative reactions and it hurts your relationship with yourself, which makes us want to self harm even more. It's a vicious cycle. When those thoughts come into your mind, we have to remind ourselves that we aren't weird or bad for doing it. That is the hardest one to grasp, but essential in recovery.

***Please note, I am not a professional and all of my information is based on personal experience and the information is in my words explaining what I've learnt over the past 2 years of therapy. If you or someone you know is dealing with this, or other types of self harm, chances are that there are other things at play. Best thing to do is to make sure you're open and honest with your doctor. They can get you help if you need it! I hope this helps! And for me, just knowing you guys are out there in this world makes me feel so much better!

February 14, 2022

Hi, I can see there have been no recent feedback in this group and I wanted to talk about my problem with my gums and skin picking. I am now 14 and it all began for as long I can remember. At first my parents scolded me for it but I couldn't help it. I would refuse to go to the dentist because I would have a panic attack anytime they looked at my gums. I would (and still do) pick at them so much I take out chunks. I love the feeling. I can’t stop and my family thinks it’s very easy but I can’t help it. I have cried because I wondered why I couldn’t be like the other kids growing up with healthy gums and I still cry because I wish I could put back the gums I picked off. I can’t help it though. I have gained self control though I only pick at my k9’s so my other gums don’t look damaged. My bottom k9’s are awful though. They have receded so much I now need a skin graph and I feel even worse for having my parents pay for it. I don’t know what to do and I really need help. 

March 20, 2022

In reply to by adelinawesley

Have you asked your parents to allow you to see a counselor, or to connect with the counselling on this site?

There's always a physical price to pay for picking...and regret is one.  It's part of the mental cycle,  so you really do need help and the knowledge to stop picking and to recognise that going to the entist and repairing of your gums would be in your best interests.  You're setting yourself up for infection that will be more painful and expensive to deal with in the future.  Gaining empathy for your parents is a good thing, however, you need to find a way to understand your mental distress and physical reward.  The goal is to deal with your mental distress at a cognitive level.  That's the heavy work. 

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