Was Your New Year's Resolution to Stop Picking?

Tasneem Abrahams
Jan 21st, 2015

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New Year, new beginnings, new resolutions…this is the mantra we all face as each year comes to a close. For many this is taken up with gusto and enthusiasm as we see the year ahead as a chance for a fresh start, a chance to reach our goals and follow our dreams. But for many, the prospect of setting New Year’s resolutions is a daunting one, particularly when challenged with a mental or emotional disorder. For many, the New Year incubates feelings of hopelessness that yet another cycle of failure has lapsed and the pressure to renew our goals to overcome our challenges weighs over us like a dark heavy blanket. This is very much so for those suffering with dermatillomania and other body-focussed repetitive behaviours (BFRBs).

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When the odds are against you

According to a 2014 statistical study on New Year’s Resolutions by the University of Scranton, Journal of Clinical Psychology, approximately 45% of Americans set New Year’s Resolutions, 47% of which are related to self improvement goals. Yet, only 8% of Americans are successful in achieving their goals regardless of the difficulty of the goal!. These statistics look rather grim for those who have goals that are much harder to attain, such as overcoming a body-focussed repetitive behaviour such as skin picking disorder.

Tips for success

According to Annette Pasternak, from Stop Skin Picking Coach, the two main reasons people fail to achieve their New Year’s resolutions is the lack of a viable, realistic plan; and that there is no support or accountability system put in place. By its very definition, a New Year's resolution is nothing but a decision, an intent, an aspiration to do or not do something. But that is all it will ever be without a clear game plan or strategy. The classic advice for setting specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely/tangible (SMART) goals holds true for New year's resolutions and overcoming skin picking as much as they do for any goal. According to one self improvement and development community website, A specific goal has a much greater chance of being accomplished than a general goal. Measurable goals have concrete criteria for measuring progress and enables you to keep your goals realistic and attainable. The experience of achieving milestones toward the greater goal can be exhilirating and can be a great source of motivation to continue striving toward your end goal. It is important that you set clear time frames for achieving different milestones toward your goal as this keeps you accountable and enables you to have a tangible measure of the progress you are making.  

Ask the right questions

According to TopAchievement.com to set SMART goals you must answer the six “W” questions:

  • Who:      Who is involved?
  • What:     What do I want to accomplish?
  • Where:    Identify a location.
  • When:     Establish a time frame.
  • Which:    Identify requirements and constraints.
  • Why:      Specific reasons, purpose or benefits of accomplishing the goal

A general goal may be "I am going to stop picking", but a SMART goal may be "I am going to reduce the time I spend picking at my face in the bathroom from 10 minutes to 5 minutes within one week. By Feb 28 2015 I will stop focussed picking in the bathroon altogether and will start to be more aware of my automatic picking when I am watching tv..." The important factor is making the goal very specific to you and your needs and capacities. It is not realistic to expect to stop picking completely all at once as dermatillomania is a very complex condition that impacts your life in many ways.

Plan B

Another reason people may let go of their New Year's resolutions is because it can be difficult to stay motivated, especially when we have setbacks or disappointment. It is crucial to have a support system in place and have an awareness that setbacks and disappointments are a normal and realistic part of the journey and serve to strengthen the sustainability of the goal once it has been achieved. Having a plan B is about having strategy or plan in place to deal with setbacks. One way to do this is to regularly reflect and evaulate your goals and ask yourself, are they still in line with my needs, are they still realistic, are the strategies I am using working? SMART goals need not be static, they should be fluid and constantly evolving and adapting to your individual needs. Having someone who supports you and acts as a soundboard when setting your goals is also hugely beneficial helps keep you accountable. There will be bumps in the road, but you WILL reach your destination in the end, if you just keep going!






Tasneem Abrahams

Tasneem is an Occupational Therapist, and a graduate of the TLC foundation for BFRBs professional training institute. Her experience in mental health includes working at Lentegeur Psychiatric hospital forensic unit (South Africa), Kingston Community Adult Learning Disability team (UK), Clinical Specialist for the Oasis Project Spelthorne Community Mental Health team (UK). Tasneem is a member of both the editorial team and the clinical staff on Skinpick, providing online therapy for people who suffer from excoriation (skin picking) disorder.

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