The guilt and shame of skin pickers
Everyone pulls off the odd bit of the skin or squeezes a random pimple. But for some people the squeezing, scratching, or picking becomes an absolutely monstrous compulsive behaviour that threatens to take over their lives. The shame and embarrassment about skin picking causes painful isolation and results in a great deal of emotional distress, placing them at risk for a co-occurring psychiatric disorder, such as a mood or anxiety disorder or even depression. Skin picking can lead to great tension and strained relationships with family members and friends. Furthermore it can lead to the person being affected socially isolating themselves because they fear talking and opening up about the disorder. Skin picking disorder may affect as many as 1 in 20 people. Although it occurs in both woman and men , research suggests that skin picking disorder occurs much more often in women. Skin picking can begin in adulthood or child hood.
Affecting day to day living
The sad reality is that most compulsive skin picking suffers spend an amount of hours in the morning getting ready, or at night before I they to bed when staring at themselves down in the mirror and pick until pores ooze and skin is puffy and red. And unfortunately, no amount of pain or embarrassment can help stop the picking. This is one of the many reasons that friend and families of compulsive skin picking sufferers need to try and understand how compulsive skin picking influences the daily living of those affected. It does not just stop at understanding what sufferers are going through but offering support and reaching out to them, because at times people are afraid or embarrassed to talk about the disorder.
A skin picking episode may be a conscious response to anxiety or depression, but is frequently done as an unconscious habit. Those who live with dermatillomania know that the negative effects extend far beyond the physical.
They have to limit or alter their daily activities often. For example, individuals who picks at their arms may wear long sleeves in the summer to hide fresh self-inflicted wounds or scabs. Someone who compulsively aggravates the skin around their fingers may avoid shaking or holding hands with someone or even resort to wearing gloves when around others. The compulsive picking may also cause physical pain and discomfort that can limit ones day to day activities. For example, someone whose fingertips are raw from constant picking may find writing or typing too painful.
How to reduce the urge to pick
- Get a stress ball or find an activity to do, basically this refers to making sure that you keep yourself distracted all the time so that you do not think of picking your skin.
- Wear gloves- wearing gloves may be uncomfortable especially during summer season. However most people who pick their skin would agree that they are most likely to pick their skin when they are alone and in a private space, which is a perfect time to wear the gloves. When one tries to pick their skin while wearing gloves it is almost an impossible thing to do, and if you succeed at picking, it will not damage the skin because the gloves have a soft feel.
- Wash and moisturise your skin before going to bed- keeping your skin clean and moisturised may reduce the urge to pick. Start doing a lot of facial masks when you are at home by yourself (also excellent self-care) because you can’t touch your face when there is a layer of goo on top of it.
- Distance yourself from things that trigger your skin picking. That means throw away the extractor, the tweezers, or the magnifying mirror.
- put up sticky notes in the bathroom or your bedroom ( which ever place you pick the most) that say things like, ‘Don’t pick!’, ‘Stop picking!’, ‘Don’t touch your face!’. Most of the time people who pick their skin get into this state where they are not really mindful of what they’re doing, so these kind of notes helps jolt you back into reality.
- Seek Professional Help: If picking at your skin truly is an issue, go talk to someone who can offer professional help or someone who can refer you to a professional. Individuals often feel embarrassed and feel like they're only one doing it, however it's extremely common. A professional would never judge you as they are trained and experienced in dealing with such issues.