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AEonFlux , 05 Jun 2010

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Two days ago, while searching for sources for my own thesis in my school library, I accidentally stumbled across the thesis of a woman written six years ago about Trich. It wasn't a perfect fit for me, since I pick at my skin primarily, and only pull hair as sort of a random secondary behavior, but it seemed like fate. It was especially a revelation to read that people with these types of disorder are actually physiologically different in their brain makeup than people who don't have this type of problem. That is crucial for me. I've been doing this to my skin since I was thirteen--so, over half of my life, and while I've managed to kick bad relationships, cigarettes, nail biting, and a host of other "bad habits", I can never seem to shake this one. Reframing it so I don't think of it as a habit really helps me feel less weak and frustrated and confused. If I'm so strong, why does this still master me? I'm sorry, I'm usually a lot more coherent when I write, but I'm just kind of getting this down as it pours out of me. I've never met anyone else who does this habitually, and I'm not what you'd call a joiner, so I've been reluctant to get involved in forums, etc. But I've never found anything that works, so it makes sense to me to talk to experts--that is, other people going through something similar. My particular brand of picking is widespread--mostly my upper arms and face, though honestly, no place is safe from my roving fingers. It's been getting worse lately, creeping down onto my forearms, back over my shoulder blades, down my chest and stomach and legs. Actually, it started with my legs, all those years ago...and my mom caught me at it a couple of times and told me to stop, which I somehow translated into attacking my arms instead. Over the years I've learned my body, I know what my arms will look like in twenty minutes, an hour, later today, next week, depending on the extent to which I pick right now. I rarely pick so deeply that I cause infection, but often it's a challenge to find flesh that isn't picked over already--it's like a carpet of beestings. And then scabs. My arms are so scarred, I call it alligator skin. I can't stop, and it's hard to share. Sometimes I find myself blurting it out matter-of-factly to people, "I have this condition..." but usually I never, ever mention it. I wear long or quarter-length sleeves, and while summer used to be my favorite season, now winter is, because it provides more opportunities to cover up this issue. I'm not sure what my goal is, writing here, but like I said, I've never met anyone in person who has any idea what is going on with me, so I'm here to meet people like me. Plus, while I've had therapists who want to help, and offer their best guess, specialists are expensive, so I've never really talked to anyone experienced in treating this issue. Anyway, this entry has gone on far long enough. Thanks for reading.
4 Answers
June 05, 2010
I know what you mean. I have always been such a strong person who has been able to overcome many obstacles in life but this one has honestly shattered me. In a way, I feel like my OCD both allowed me to succeed or gave me the illusion of control over my life while all the while I was self destructing. I am broken and must be healed! We all must be. I always knew that I had a problem with picking skin and hair but it never spiraled out of control until a few months ago when I took a needle to my nose and removed nearly all of my eyebrows. The shame I felt was overwhelming. I couldn't cover it up, even with make-up. I had never gone so far. Sometimes it still feels like a nightmare. I find myself asking, Why? HOW could I let this happen to me? Why didn't I get help sooner? I know that the first step is probably forgiving myself. The second step is forgiving others. I've been blaming my mom for not admitting that something was wrong all these years/for the sexual abuse I endured as a child at the hands of her ex-boyfriend and I recently lost my boyfriend because I was so angry that he didn't stop me when he was living with me and could see what I was doing. At the time, he was so wrapped up in his own problems that I honestly think he just didn't see it, or didn't want to see it. I don't know. Everyone on this site has been so supportive. It has honestly been what is keeping me going each day. I've isolated myself from friends and family because they didn't understand what was going on with me, still don't understand. Others have been urging me to seek help from someone who specializes in OCD. I know this is what I need to do. To me, I want the physical part of me back, the skin without scars, the eyebrows and my life back to the way it was before I got so out of control with the picking/plucking but what is more urgent is to treat the underlying problem. There is no point in me getting laser treatment until I have my picking more under control and there is no point in me getting something done with my eyebrows until I can stand to have hair there without plucking it. I think we have to take it one day at a time. I haven't even picked my face today which is kind of a big deal! =) I urge you to continue to share whatever is on your mind. I find that the more I share, the better I feel. It's such a relief to find others who understand. I am always here if you want to talk.
June 05, 2010

In reply to by Kait

Thank you so much. It's always a lot easier to forgive other than ourselves, right? And it's always tough with boyfriends--I find they don't really understand what's going on with the compulsion and can only think to police the behavior, rather try to understand what's going on with you and help you deal with what's causing it. I know exactly what you mean about skin without scars and postponing cosmetic stuff until you have the picking and pulling under control. I fantasize about sleeveless tops and swimsuits without apology. I read in that thesis I was talking about that the compulsion tends to happen when we're over or under-stimulated, and for me it's both. It helps me think about hard things without losing my mind over it, but seems to creep in and take over my time. It really helped me to stop beating myself up about it when I realized it has less to do with my willpower and more to do with brain chemistry and other factors which we don't even know about yet. It's nice to know that I didn't just make up this weird thing to have wrong with me. I'm really sorry to hear how drastically this has affected your life. I'm a good listener, too, if you need to talk--in fact, I bet we all are. I'm pretty new to sharing about this, I mean, I work with my therapist and we've found that it's probably tied in with my lack of assertiveness and difficulty in asking for what I need. But I haven't really spoken with a specialist or any one else with a similar problem. And it's also frustrating because most of the information that's out there seems to be about trich, not CPD, and I feel like there are some different issues between the two. Thanks again for the response, it's encouraging to know that other people are dealing with this in positive ways.
June 06, 2010

In reply to by AEonFlux

I am hoping I will find someone someday who understands what it's like.The interesting thing about my ex is that he was kind of a picker too, it just wasn't as severe as mine. Actually, his picking was worse than mine for a time when I was more focused on pulling my eyebrows out but then mine became worse and he told me "I turned him off of picking" Well, thanks! After all those times he encouraged me to pick! Ugh. That's fabulous, make me think picking is okay and then leave. In his defense, I kind of had a mental breakdown. I don't think it helped that he picked because it made the picking more acceptable. Even if I knew it wasn't socially acceptable, the fact that he picked and encouraged me to pick made me think it was okay, at least between the two of us. I am so looking forward to the day when I can get laser treatment done for the scars on my nose. They bother me the most. I am also looking into hair replacement for my eyebrows because I am thinking they may not grow back after the abuse they've endured. Although I've never been one to support cosmetic surgery in the past, I now have a better understanding of just how tempting it can be. But first things first, getiting my life in order, getting help, getting back to "normal", whatever that means, or my new "normal." I have read more about trich than skin picking which is interesting, Maybe it is more prevalent? I don't know. When I realized I have both, I was really pissed. I thought, isn't it enough to have one, but really BOTH? Come on, now. Of course I would have both. At least it hasn't gotten to the point of me having bald spots on my head yet (glass half full!) Keep me updated on your progress. I agree, it is very encouraging to know that others are dealing with this in positive ways.
June 06, 2010
I know exactly what you're going through. I've picked my face and arms for over 11 years now, and just recently myself have decided to stop. I also consider myself a strong willed person, as I used to bite my nails really bad until they'd bleed and I managed to quit. Also, several years ago I had a weight problem and I managed to commit to working out and eating healthier to lose almost 80 pounds. So - I'm not sure why I've never had success at keeping my hands away from my face and arms. When I pick my face, I'll attack it for several hours until I have sores the size of dimes on my face. When I pick my arms, I'll pick them until it looks like I have the measles or something. This year, I've picked myself so badly that I've actually had to call out from work several times. I'm also tired of this form of self abuse, and I'm going to do my best to quit. Actually, today was my first official day. It's been a bit of a struggle, especially everytime I've walked by a mirror. Several times today I've found my fingers roaming up my arms and on my face, feeling for any microscopic bump - but I've managed not to squeeze anything. Before I decided to try and quit picking, I did alot of research to try and help me through. I found this website ( that has been really, really helpful. It goes through alot of information - from the layers of the skin to reasons why people pick. I actually took notes of the information that was most helpful to me and have put them on the bathroom sink, where I'll stumble upon them in case I find myself in the mirror ready to squeeze my face until it's unrecognizeable! I hope you also find this information helpful! Best of luck to you!~Wade

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