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blue , 27 Aug 2010

hidradenitis suppurativa, picking in unusual manifestations, and mandarins

I just happened across this website today, and I think I have it, but I don't think it's the primary issue with me. I read in one of the messages on this forum that something like 80% of skin picking is a response to some kind of dermatological condition. I have Hidradenitis Suppurativa (HS), and have looked through the names of all the threads on the forum and not found anything that references this particular skin disease. You can read about HS here: , and it will give you some idea of why I suspect a number of people who have HS become chronic skin pickers, by default: we have so many blemishes on our skin, from pimples to blackheads to abscesses, that our skin is never smooth. Having a constantly replenished supply of things to pick, I've been doing it since HS first showed up on me, 18 years ago, when I hit puberty. I've spent hours sitting on the toilet extracting hard-ish white pus from blackheads and tunnels on my inner thighs (the most satisfying), but there are also lesions filled with the more traditional pus and blood. HS lesions tend to take years to heal and reoccur for years on their own, but then I pick at them on top of that! A picker's dream and nightmare. I have generally done the picking before showering because it makes me feel so dirty. But showering doesn't make me feel clean- sometimes I shower once, wait a few hours, and shower again, but it doesn't really help the second time either. I tell myself every session of picking will be my last. It's not just the picking, but the inability to feel clean. So often I feel contagious, and it's no wonder, with open wounds all over my body. While the HS is a large part of why I feel dirty, I feel so much worse when I pick at it. I've gone through periods of washing my bed linens because I've only had one shower since my picking session. I've used the strongest antimicrobial washes I could find, and spent a fortune on Hibiclens. I want to contribute to this forum what I thought hadn't been covered before, and HS is the big one. I have a couple of other things to say, though. I'll start with the tamest. 1. Mandarin oranges. Have you ever eaten them? Oranges in general. Sometimes each little compartment is filled to the seam with juice and when I bite into them it's like popping something on my skin. Eating them is a guilty pleasure. 2. Eye goobers. I pick mine regularly, hoping to get big ones. I do the same thing to my dogs and my cat. 3. With my fingernail I scrape the white stuff that builds up on my teeth during the day. When it gets into the air it's almost like what comes out of a blackhead- it firms up. 4. I scratch my scalp to fill my fingernails up with "scalp sand." When I was a child I used to put sand in my hair at the beach so that I could have lots to scratch out. I like to see how much I can get, build it up from a few fingernails- as with #3. 5. I feel my skin for particularly prickly hairs, or whiskers, or thick hairs. They show up all over the place. Often I can use my thumb and forefinger to pull at them, in effect plucking a thick hair but leaving a thinner one. The thicker the plucked hair, the more satisfying. Sometimes I try to give up tweezing and commit to just using my fingers. I feel that I contaminate the tweezers. Sometimes there is a white seed at the base of the hair, different from the root. I like those. Duh. So, I try to keep my fingernails short enough that there's no underneath to fill up. I'm a cuticle picker. I don't examine my inner thighs like I used to, mostly because having gained some weight I can't see them as well. These days I run my hands over the parts of my body that are most likely to have things to pick at, and usually I just remove what I can gently- a protruding blackhead, or seed-like thing, a hard whitehead, a scab here and there, and if I can't resist, knowing the awful consequences, I squeeze the white stuff out of tunnels. Sometimes it smells, sometimes it doesn't. There is a tiny bit of pus that comes out of my nipple piercings, which smells awful, like belly button lint. The same smell has come from what's in the tunnels, and in old piercings sometimes. I am an addict in recovery. I have OCD, and for me the picking and the compulsive cleansing are intimately related. I take Lexapro and have for 7 years or so. I've always done my picking in the bathroom. I've only ever told my HS support group about it, and then I've talking about it in terms of HS and not picking, but I have mentioned there the awful feeling I get from spending hours examining every inch of my skin. This message is kind of like vomiting up a jumble- I just have so much to say. Does anyone identify with any of the maybe less common ways picking manifests in my life?
2 Answers
August 28, 2010
I haven't heard of the skin disorder you mentioned, but I'll look it up. Since childhood, I've had a skin picking habit, along with depression, anxiety and ADD. When I hit menopause, I thought my skin would finally lose the excess oiliness. Instead, I developed some sebaceous gland disorder, also diagnosed by a few dermatologists as acne rosacea. It threw the skin picking into overdrive, and it took 2 and a half years to stop creating open sores all over my face. It was absolute hell. It got better, but lately I'm making a mess again. I cannot believe the permanent damage, the scarring I've done to myself. Sometimes, it feels soothing when I'm stressed or restless. Sometimes, I think I'm creating justification to stay home and isolate, because I look so lousy. I've tried every drug for depression and OCD, and nothing has helped. I've been single all my life, with a few relationships with men here and there. I'd love to conquer this, meet the right person, get off disability, get a life, but I'm losing hope at age 54. I've had decades of therapy, and have a lot of psychological insight, just no behavioral or attitudinal change.
August 28, 2010

In reply to by Genevieve55

Ditto on the hormone thing as I'm 47 and that nasty ole menopause is wreaking havoc. It's amazing how somehow all my life I never imagined being "this old." I always felt like that was beyond me and I'd never do things like put on weight, get depressed, or gosh, pick at my skin? I've picked at my fingertips for as long as I can remember. As my husband says, I have "working" hands. They've never, ever looked feminine. I always compared them to sausages. I've also always been jealous of those women with long fingers and long finger beds. I think that's one reason I would dig at my cuticles, to try and not have such short round stubby nails that added to my bulbous finger tips. I have a type of "clubbing" occuring. I definitely use the scar and picking thing as a reason not to go out. It's also definitely dictated a lot of what goes on in my life. I've never heard of this disease that blue talks about, but I do relate to a whole bunch of the behavioral aspects. Please share more.

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