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punkin_eater26 , 12 Feb 2008

child picking skin

Hello all. I was looking for answers on the internet and I came across this site and I'm hoping I can get some help, insight or answers here. I hope you don't mind the intrusion, since it is not me with the skin problem, so please bare with me as I am just a mom trying to help my daughter. So here it goes... My daughter is 8 years old and in 2nd grade. This started in Aug 2007. Ever since then, she has been picking her body bloody. It started with her face in 2 different spots, while those finally healed in December of 07 (and left not so pretty scars), we now have 4 new spots on her face, 3 on her legs (these are from Oct) , 2 on her arms (1 recent, 1 around 2 months old), 1 on her hand. I can't get her to stop. I bandage and medicate them nightly, but she's embarrassed to be seen in school with bandaids all over her face. The facial area is our biggest problem. She cries every night when she looks in the mirror because she says she looks ugly and the kids tease her over them. But she says she doesn't even realize she is doing it until it's done. The picking she started on her face she started from smooth skin. I am at the end of my rope because I don't know how to help her. We've talked about it, I've grounded her, I've given her more attention and so on. I'm lost and I'm beginning to think she honestly has no clue she's doing it. She's upset because I can't give her the answer and she thinks because I'm mom I know what to do. I wish moms knew how to fix all but I'm lost. I'm going to make an appointment with her pediatrician and see if she knows what I can do, but I don't know what will happen there. So I'm pleading for help from someone. Any ideas, thoughts, have your kids done this? I just want to help my daughter before she scars up her beautiful face anymore than she already has. I'm sorry for rambling on, I guess I just got carried away. Thank you for any help or insight you can give me. Amy
13 Answers
February 12, 2008
uvinerse hmmm, this sound pretty serious. First off, your kid is telling the truth, it starts with your daughter not realizing that she's picking, in the middle of the picking session, she becomes aware, but will not have the power to discontinue what she is doing, The urge is overwhelming, especially a compulsion like this one, but for an 8 year old this must be unimaginably overwhelming. I have to say i'm pretty surprised. This thing usually begins at the teen stages. This could only means she's experiencing tremendous amounts of stress at such an early age. It's even possible that the stress she's undergoing is something she can't really put a finger on, if it's based on one fear, a number of fears, bad experiences in her childhood that could be triggering her anxiety - it cud be a number of different reasons. The bottomline is, only your child knows, and she needs your support. Something is troubling her which is causing stress that's making her pick her skin. Picking skin is her refuge right now because it brings a kind of relaxing, calming effect on her whether she is doing it consciously or subconsciously, often times a combination of both. I am a sufferer of this thing for over 14 years myself, give or take a year, and stress, depression, anxiety, boredom are the major reasons for the compulsion. I'm sure whatever's troubling her is something she's in denial about or not want to confront. It's also probable, that it's somthing she's confused about or doesn't quite understand herself. Maybe if you can talk to her about it and guide her into talking about what her fears are and what's troubling her, and assuring her that everything's going to be all right and that she has nothing to be afraid of because you're there for her, i think that cud help her picking ease. You have to understand that your daughter is picking her skin as a device to comfort herself , to cope from things that are troubling her - but be aware that she does not know that she is picking her skin as a means to cope from stress. I myself realized this only years into the compulsion and at an age way older than 8. What she needs is your support more than ever right now because this compulsion is realy something an 8 year old wudn't be able to handle. This wud just be too overwhelming for her. Remember to not be so hard on her Amy, It's not her fault, it really isn't. If she can find refuge in you, and if you cud give her your all out support and help her get rid of her fears, I'm certain that the picking wud gradually decrease. You're daughter's already shown clear signs of this compulsion at an early age, i don't want to give this to you bluntly, but if she does get rid of the skin picking, you have to realize that the compulsion does come and go. I don't want to scare you but it really is something similar to alcoholism. If she successfully quits this thing, don't be surprised if it's back again a few years, months, or even weeks later. I don't really have an explanation for it, but ther just hasn't been enuff research on this thing yet. I guess people aren't yet aware of how serious and how destructive this compulsion is and how it ruins lives, but i guess people just really haven't heard of this compulsion before and still have no idea it exists.
March 31, 2008
"Writing is the only thing, that when do it, I don't feel I should be doing something else." Please do not get angry for or ground your daughter for this. It is (I am telling you from 30 years experience and a mom of 2 myself) NOT something she can help. The best thing you coud possibly do for her is to help her continue to treat her wounds with the help of her pediatrician, and discuss with him getting her in to talk to a therapist who specialises in ocd. ASAP. Please read my most recent post on my own history to see any similarities. I do not want your daughter to go on into her 30's not knowing how to feel in control of herself because her mother was just angry and fed up that she couldn't stop as a child. This is exactly the way it went with my parents (whom I was very close to) and now wish very much they would have had the heart to ge me into counseling at a young age. Please read my post, and good luck to you both. Cheers ~simceiwas4
January 07, 2010
My heart breaks to read this, as it reminds me of when I was a little girl. My mum was loving too, like u and would often see me picking/scratching..I was never a naughty child, but i would get scolded for doing this, so i hid my obbsessive need to pick at myself...i used to think the itchiness under my skin was a result of mozzie bites, but i had placed a infection in my bloodstream from all the scratching, hense these scabs spread to other parts of my body & still do..Face, legs, arms & hands.. At present they r mostly on my leg, but i was horrified that at 33 it had gone to my bottom & back..I have nasty scars from when i was a child/teenager. Unfortunately it is at it's very worst, where the scabs just won't heal on my legs (obviously as a result from nightly scratching and this time antibiotics won't help..Hense i have stumbled across this website & finally found out why i have done this all my life..A light bulb has gone off in me,resulting in finding out that this problem has a name and an unbelievable amount of people suffer in silence from it..The way i look at it is that this disorder is a chemical imbalance in ones brain, leading to heightened levels of anxiety/stress that u can't explain, it is just there. The need to pick etc goes away when stressors are allieviated. Your GP may want to do some blood tests & swabs of her wounds. I just found out that i had a infection in my blood stream that could only be treated by certain antibiotics, it was immune to the other ones the doctors had given me over the years. I put betadine on my wounds, as this deters me from picking. I am happy that u have found this site & u r a very brave, loving mother to disclose such information on a forum.
February 01, 2010
i see that this post is 2 years old and i would love an update about your daughter's condition. my sincerest hope is that she's improved and that your relationship continues to be strong and caring. ________________________________________________________________________ my long story short: i started out picking at my legs when i was 4 and haven't stopped for a day. when my parents tried to intervene as a child, i became an expert at hiding my scabs and refused to acknowledge the problem. i'm 32 now and have scars, marks and sores covering my whole body; skin picking has affected every part and day of my life. i finally sought help from a therapist last year, and we're slowly working through the sometimes overwhelming shame and helplessness that the problem has caused. we've been talking this last week about what my parents could have done to help and i can think of just two things: __________________________________________________________________________ first, my parents could have done everything in their power (although i was extremely stubborn and strong willed :)) to get me to talk to a therapist back then. they tried to take me to our family doctor and hospital, but i refused to talk about it and developed an ongoing fear of medical doctors. my parents didn't realize that my problems weren't physical but mental. although i was far too ashamed to talk directly about the picking to a scary, clinical doctor in a bright office with witnesses, i think i would have talked to a kind, gentle counselor privately about all the other things causing me troubles in my young life. lessening the stress and anxiety that i (and most kids, really) felt would have relieved some of the deep emotions that worsened my picking. i think, after establishing a trusting relationship with a therapist, i would have eventually opened up about picking and accepted help before it got worse. _____________________________________________________________________ second, my parents could have found others that have the same problem for me to talk to - almost a mentor? i grew up feeling that i was all alone in this and that no one could possibly understand. i believed a conversation between my mom and dad: that i would simply grow out of it. it wasn't until i was in my 20's - having definitely NOT grown out of it - that i discovered (thank you, internet) all the other people that struggle for answers. as a kid, i had no idea how bad it could get, and i think meeting someone who accepted and identified with the irrationality of skin picking on the most basic level - through experience - would have helped tremendously. if your daughter still struggles, i bet there's many of us (including myself) who would be open with you both to help better understand what you're dealing with. __________________________________________________________________________ on a good note, although my problems are severe, i have absolutely had a pretty full and fulfilling life to date, with lots of 'normal' times and hope for an even more fulfilling future as i work through my issues. so will your daughter. please assure her that, although it certainly feels like it's the end of the world when you're young (and even some days when you're old), this problem DOES NOT define her. please try not to say things like, "you'd be so pretty if you'd just stop"; similar comments from my well-meaning family made me feel awful and seemed to confirm my worst fears of being ugly. continue to be supportive and certainly let us (me) know how we can help.
July 15, 2014

In reply to by foreverandever

Your post made me cry. I am so happy to hear you are recovering and found help to heal. I am a 44 year old mom and my 12 year old daughter picks her skin. She is first born, very bright, pretty and ANXIOUS... Her father and I divorced 6.5 yrs ago and unfortunately it has been a horrible ride. I do not talk badly about him; however he bad mouths me to them. She has been in therapy for 6 years and while she is very verbal and open, I question how much she is benefitting from therapy. I am a social worker myself and have helped many tweens stop picking; yet I can not seem to help her. My heart breaks at the sight of her scars and realizing how much she is struggling. I would greatly appreciate any help you can offer me...
July 16, 2014

In reply to by jennylynn

I started picking my skin at 9. I am 29 now and still have this problem but only slightly. I never received help though so your daughter is a step ahead. We are not the same person, I do not know what will work for her exactly but I know for me if my mom was trying to help me stop picking and trying to get in my head to figure it out, I would have picked more. Not saying anything about you, but unfortunately my mom's personality was something that set me off. She made me more anxious. What makes your daughter more anxious? When does she seem irritated. She may not pick at that moment but it will come back later when she is in front of a mirror. If you are close and she does not become anxious when you talk to her about this problem, maybe you can try to come up with solutions together. You can help her acknowledge when she is feeling anxious and to FEEL it, not trance it away later in the mirror. How can you make the anxiety go away? Maybe you can try different techniques everyday and see what helps. Carry squeeze balls all day, look up pranayama-yogic breathing techniques and do them twice a day, have her use a hairbrush to brush her body, exercise hard, learn to knit, scream. Just ideas. And make her accountable. She needs to ask herself every time she is picking if she wants this. Is she going to let her brain pull a fast one on her and make her do something she doesn't want to do to self soothe or now that she knows she is doing it, is she going to say No, I am not going to allow this. I will find another way to feel better. I don't know where she picks but for me it was the bathroom a lot. Giving myself time limits, keeping the light off, telling myself I won't look in the mirror before I even go in. Seeing how fast I can get in and out helped me.
May 30, 2010
HI, I had no idea this was a medical problem, skin picking. My little girl is 2 and a half. She has had three unexplainable sores on her face that she continually picked at. It takes a long time for them to heal as she is picking them every time they scab over. She is a beautiful little girl with blond hair and blue eyes yet already has one scar on her forehead in between her eye brows. I wonder what I can do for her as she is so little. Right now she has a sore on her chin and it is infected. I clean it and put a bandage on it, she pulls the bandage off. Why is she doing this? What causes this? She is a little bit more nervous about things than her two siblings. I see that this occurs more often in children who are a little older, is there something I can do now? I don't want to make any wrong moves (or any more if I already have). I have been explaining to her that her "owies" will get worse if she continues to touch them, but she forgets or just does not understand. I would love to hear the results of a similar story. Thank you. Holly
August 24, 2011
I first noticed my daughter picking her scabs when she was around 1 1/2 years old. At the time she had dry skin on her face and it would itch. She would scratch it until it formed a sore, that would form a scab and then she would pick the scab. That was the first time that I noticed that she did that. But it didn't happen too often. At the time I thought that it was just childhood curiousity, and I brought it to her pediatricians attention and the doctor didn't think too much of it. The doctor just told my daughter to stop picking her scabs. My daughter is now 13 years old and picks at everything on her body. She is a beautiful girl, but her legs and arms are covered with scars from her picking at any sore on her body. It looks like her legs were put through a meat grinder. I've tried every over the counter medicine available. My daughter says that nothing helps relieve the itch. Sometimes I found blood on her sheets. How can I help my daugher ?
April 11, 2012
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February 25, 2016

Hi my 8 year old is doing the same thing she did start about 6 i am so worried as my daughter is beautiful she did modelling at 3 but didnt like it so i stopped shes blonde with big blue eyes.She did have a spot on her nose first and picked and picked till it left a scare now its on her legs i find tissues with blood on in her bed she has scrathed her bum raw i dont know what to do .I have said when they heal i will take her swimming and she says sorry mummy i will not do it again i wsnt ti go swimming .I am so upset even writing this i think we have a problem after reading other comments.My husnband and i are very stressed my husband has terrible depression our home is not a happy one . please help any advice please .

September 28, 2017

My daughter started skin picking at 9 mths. She'd draw blood and smile. By age 3 she'd wake me at 2 am covered in blood from knees to ankles, elbows to wrists. Each extremity would have 20 to 60 gouges. How she managed it when her nails were down to the quick was beyond me!! Some nights we would put mittens on her wrap them in duck tape--she was all about the idea, especially since when the endorphins decreased those cuts stung!! and by morning she'd have her hands free, new cuts and in tears because she didn't remember it! Now she's 13 and we still go thru waves of it. We adjust her anxiety meds accordingly. We have tons of fidgets in every room. Everything helps but not at everytime. One option that might help and relieve much stress for both you and your daughter is a reward jar where she can win. (Check more often in the beginning so she can feel successes. (Think short term goals so she CAN succeed!!) We started with waking, after breakfast, before lunch, after lunch etc...Also it was a dime per day if she got 5 out if 10, then it moved to 8 out of 10, then 10 out if 20--2 days before reward. As she got older it became per week, then like it is--read below for description)
It helps a lot with my daughter, so does talking. Some of her stressers aren't about herself, but instead it's about how her friends are treated by peers. We currently check at waking, after school and before bed. She adds a cotton ball per success, if she managed not to pick in very stressful situations I have her add an extra for her unbelievable control. A hug plus encouragement for when she isn't successful. When she gets 1 weeks worth--21 cotton balls (bad times can take 3 weeks to get them) we trade in the cotton balls for a plastic jewel (she finds them pretty so they act as a positive) plus $1.00. 4 jewels and we go shopping (book, video game, toy, clothes, or just money). Since adding the rewards, with lots of positives she's become more confident.
Making her a partner in choosing what we use to record it (colors and sparkles go a long way with her to make positive moods) plays a very big part too. I don't have to actually check her anymore she comes straight to me and says "Hey, I picked. Do I need to add cream?", or she's bouncing and twirling to show how much better they are and rattling about how soon she expects to be able to shop. We may never fix the problem completely but she understands that it's not a failing with her. The time between picking phases (where she is pick free) is increasing and the time of the phase itself is decreasing. I hope this helps!
Best of luck!

September 29, 2017

Trauma or a stressful environment are the most likely culprits. I began biting my nails at age five and it was due to a very stressful environment in which my parents argued and threatened divorce on a regular basis. When I bit my nails I would dissociate and go inside myself...I didn't mind the pain much. Are you able to maintain a peaceful home environment? Any traumatic event can also leave a permanent scar on a child. A car accident or a severe illness in a child's mind tend to become aplified.

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