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dandilyon20 , 07 Aug 2008

my story, what's wrong with me...

I'm 20 years old and have been picking for as long as I can remember. I primarily pick at my upper arms but I am not limited to there. Often times I'll start with my arms and move to my face then to my chest and shoulders, then thighs, and legs. If there is a bump, pimple, black head, or anything that looks odd, I'll pick at it. I'll do it until my legs get tingly and even go numb. The worst part is after I essentially "snap" out of the trance that keeps me picking. The pain from the open wounds sets in. It is usually a strong stinging feeling accompanied by large swollen welts. I even try to "fix" the damage by smoothing a wet washcloth over the damaged skin. I do not know when this started. I know I used to bite my nails and my mother got me to stop by, I think, constantly nagging me. From there, I beleive I began to develope trichtillomania (compulsively pulling out one's hair). It would start with an itch on the top of my head and evolve into a scab which I would pick at while reading or watching tv. There would be blood but it wouldn't stop me from picking at the area. I even began to loose hair in that spot. Again, my mother got me to stop somehow. I think that is how this all began but I truly I have no idea. My first memory of shame from my arms was in seventh grade. I was walking to the pencil sharpener and remember feeling embarrassed about my arms and not my stomach sticking out. I have tried the over moisturizing, acrylic nails, wearing long sleeves and avoiding mirrors, cutting my nails short, people slapping my hands away, and even trying to replace it with something else in order to stop picking. If anyone has tips on how to stop I'd greatly appreciate it. I also really want to know why I do this to myself. I know I don't want to do this but somehow find myself picking multiple times a day and thinking about picking when I'm not picking. Is it because I have compulsive personality. I'm ridiculously organized and I worry more than I think I should. Is it stress? My picking did get significantly worse once I got to college. Is it hereditary? My dad is a recovering alcoholic. He only got treatment when our family threatened him with jail time. Is this similar to the compulsion to drink alcohol to the point of inebriation? If anyone has any insight to my questions or have comments on my story feel free to comment. I'm so happy to see I'm not the only one that has to deal with this.
4 Answers
August 09, 2008
HI dandilyon, I can certainly sympathize with you. I've been picking for about 15 years. I've heard that a natural, narcotic-like chemical is released when you're body is injured (even slightly). This chemical gives you a feeling of calmness and release in response to the pain and stress of the injury. You can quickly become addicted to it. Some doctors think the same drug they prescribe for drug addicts to stop the "good feeling" of synthetic narcotics will work on this natural chemical as well. If you take this drug, you'll no longer feel that calmness and release of stress after you pick. I haven't tried this myself but it sounds interesting. I don't recall the name of this drug but you can ask a doctor. I have no idea what the risks or side effects are, if any. I think tiredness and stress can be huge triggers. I'm in college too and during finals week I picked my skin all over. I've noticed that if I'm tired but too wound up to got to sleep, I'm in danger of picking. If I put on long sleeved shirts and pants I can sometimes CATCH myself pulling my clothes aside to pick. Do any of your family members also pick? I know it's a very personal issue, but I was sexually molested as a child and I've heard that many pickers share this unfortunate history. I don't know how it's connected, but I don't think it's pure coincidence. Best of luck to you and hang in there. You're not alone. Good Karma
August 09, 2008

In reply to by Goodkarma

I have decided to participate in some research on a medication to help with picking. I'm still learning about the study but it might be similar to what you have described. I actually talked to my mother the day I discovered this site and after breaking down and finally saying out loud how I felt, my mother revealed to me that she had done the same thing when she was young. She was molested by a family member as a child, but to my knowledge I have not. Do you think that's what caused you to start picking? My dad was a severe alcoholic when I lived with my family and I felt a constant need to prove myself to him. This may have lead to my obsessive compulsive behavior in that I am impeccably organized which then evolved into picking. This is me just trying to figure all this out. It is so great to know I'm not alone. I've contacted a doctor with experience in this disorder and he told me it is way way more common than I'd might think. Do you have any tips to avoid picking that have worked for you? dandilyon20
September 08, 2008

In reply to by dandilyon20

Hi dandilyon, I was also surprised to learn that this is more common than I orginally thought. Would you keep us updated on your participation in the research study? I believe that my own picking can be attributed to underlying OCD and anxiety. I cannot directly relate these conditions to my childhood because mine was relatively peaceful and safe, but I do know that these disorders run in my family. I often internalise my feelings, especially in dealing with stress, and look for ways to get control of my life and put things in order. I am fairly sure that's why I started picking. I pick at imperfections on my skin in an attempt to make things "right, orderly and neat". About 18 months ago, I decided I was going to do whatever it takes to stop this. So, I replaced some of the commitments I had at the time with routines to help me cope with stress and quiet the inner voice that tells me I need to be perfect and need to acheive to be loved. I started counseling, yoga and took up surfing, which is an activity that removes me from my surroundings and focuses my mind. I also started taking some supplements that are used to help reduce anxiety and they seem to help. I get facials once a month to give me something to look forward to and a reason not to pick. I've tried a lot of other things to stop the cycle of picking like covering the mirrors and brushing my teeth in the kitchen so that I have less time to look at myself in a mirror. I have varying degrees of success with those techniques, but I find that if my life is full of a lot of stress and I'm feeling beaten down, I always end up finding a way to pick anyway. Overall, I would say that I pick less than half as much as I did before I started seeking help. That's a pretty big improvement for just a year and a half. Hours of my life saved! For me, the key has been to identify the times I'm most hell-bent on picking and what has been going on in my mind in those moments. I hope you'll find something helpful in my description of my own experiences. Best wishes!

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