Compulsive skin picking should not be dismissed as a nasty habit or poor hygiene. It is neither. As intimate as it is, the private habit of picking one's own skin to the point of pain and disfigurement has effects far more in the life of someone with this disorder. Most people understand physical pain and disfigurement but it is more difficult to describe and understand the psychological damage caused by compulsive skin picking.
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People with compulsive skin picking tend to withdraw from their social circles as the intensity of the disorder escalates. They know the behaviors are undesirable, they understand that blemished skin makes others uncomfortable, and they feel guilt and shame because they cannot stop. Their entire day is driven by the picking cycle and even the most rigid schedule can come to a screeching halt the moment a wayward blemish appears. The psychological trauma compulsive skin picking causes can carry over into a student's school work and related activities. Adults are likely to face performance issues on the job and in other social circles. Compulsive skin picking causes problems on the job, too, sometimes even before a job is offered. A person's appearance is an important consideration for many professional positions. Despite the unfortunate nature of snap first impressions, many people, including perspective employers, still consider skin picking a bad habit or evidence of poor personal grooming habits. A highly qualified applicant with evidence of skin picking on his or her face may not land the job, simply because of the general population's misperception and misunderstanding of the disorder. Some people do not recognize the look of compulsive skin picking, and instead feel afraid that a person's appearance is evidence of a disease that could be spread throughout the office. Therefore, even if nothing is said to a person with skin picking disorder, there is the constant worry of being judged by appearance and fearing that others will know about their picking habits and judge them for it.
To combat stigma from others, people who struggle with compulsive skin picking go to great lengths to hide the damage. This means that people often spend as much time covering up and trying to fix scars and wounds so that they appear as unblemished as possible. Even if that is done to perfection, there may be the added fear and worry that someone will notice, someone will ask, someone will judge.
Sometimes it seems the many forms of agony compulsive skin picking causes will never go away. Compulsive skin picking causes visible, physical pain and personal, private pain and painful experiences in social relationships. The good news is that increased awareness and appropriate therapeutic intervention that combines treatment for behaviors and the psychological effects of the disorder can help people reassert control over the compulsions and the behaviors.
For more information about the effects and damage caused by compulsive skin picking, get the Complete Guide to Picking Disorders today.