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ndsteph18 , 21 Apr 2011

First time sharing this...

I am glad to have found this site and feel slightly better to see that others suffer from this condition (not that I would ever wish this on anyone, but at least I'm not crazy!). Here is a little info about my skin-picking disorder: I am currently a senior in college and regret not being strong enough to overcome this to fully enjoy the experience. I rarely go out and have had a very low self esteem for the 4 years I've been here. But let's start at the beginning. I got my period early. I was in 6th grade, and with it came the acne. I can't remember exactly when I started picking, but it feels like I've been at it forever. I was an athlete growing up (soccer) so the sweaty lifestyle plus puberty was just the perfect formula for cruddy skin...lucky me. In 2004, I found out that my mother had breast cancer. I think this is what put me over the edge, anxiety wise. Not only did I begin to pick, but I suddenly developed very bad allergies and asthma. As someone who spent a lot of time outside running, this was not easy to cope with. I had to get allergy shots once a week for three years. After going to numerous doctors we discovered that the asthma wasn't really asthma, but severe panic attacks. Despite everything, I was recruited to a top 5, D1 college for soccer where things only got worse. The stress of competing at such a high level at a school that was also academically challenging was a nightmare for my skin. I picked all the time, and still do. I spend hours in from of the mirror, even on nights when I know I wont have much sleep. I unclog pores, go after ingrown hairs, and get a lot of hard cysts that require some extremely damaging attacks from my fingernails, tweezers, and even needles sometimes. I now even go after small bumps on my shoulders, arms, and chest. My face is ALWAYS swollen, red, splotchy, and peeling. To make matters worse, I am half Asian, and when I drink the redness from where I pick intensifies and I look I'm having a severe allergic reaction. Needless to say I have never had much of a social life. I'm always very stressed, very tired, and very very depressed. I know this is psychological and am 100% OK with admitting that I have a problem. It's what to do about it that I can't figure out. I swear to myself everyday that "today's" the last day, but it never is. When I'm stressed, I head over the the mirror as if I were programmed to and don't have a choice in the matter. Mentally, I zone out, and stand there picking for hours. It's almost like its therapeutic while I'm doing it, but most definitely not when I'm done. My skin no longer takes makeup well, being that it is so uneven, so I can't even cover it up well without looking like I have a pound of never-the-right color coverup on. Skin cleansers and lotions are difficult too. Some will work, but after a few days it's as if my skin builds a tolerance to what I'm using and I see 0 improvement from there on. Other products are too harsh and make me peel uncontrollably. My cheeks, nose, and forehead are super oily while around my mouth and my chin get super dried out. I can't win!!! I hope this site helps me. My goal is to look "good" for graduation in a month. Thank you if you read this long novel. I hope you don't have this condition as bad as I do. If you have any tips/suggestions/words of encouragement I would really appreciate them!
4 Answers
April 22, 2011
Hi! I read your text a few times, and wanted to leave a comment. Only... I don’t know so much helpful things to say. I can relate to a lot of things you said, like having a low self-esteem, a poor social life, the mental zoning out while picking... Yet I think my problem is not quite as serious as yours. It also sounds like you have been through a lot (I sincerely hope that your mother is healthy again). The only advise I can give you is to go to a therapist, because this self-damaging problem we suffer from has not really anything to do with our skin, but with something in our head. I went to a psychologist this year, and although the picking didn’t stop after the last session, I learned a lot about myself, why I do it, and how I should quit. And in my case (I am very uncertain, obsessed about the way I look, and don’t remember ever being happy with it) that is finding another way to think about myself. I wish I could explain this better, it’s hard to talk about a subject that stands so close to me in a language that isn’t my own (my first language is Dutch). To turn the ‘self image’-switch in my head is a very difficult thing to do, but slowly I’m beginning to see things in a different way. I really think it would help you too! And for now maybe you could join some of us in a 'don't pick'-challenge. I for example just started a 30 days challenge, that's the long one :). That would more or less match your graduation date isn’t it? You should know: it takes skin about 3 weeks to renew itself, so it’s definitely possible to look better by then. I wish you a lot of good luck, courage and strength. Mary
May 07, 2011

In reply to by Mary_A

Thank you for these extremely kind words. If you read my latest post you will find that I am doing much better. I liked what you said about the "self-image switch"....I live with 5 very pretty roommates with perfect skin and boyfriends so it was always hard to see myself as "pretty". The past few weeks I have focussed on things I am good at...mainly art. I get praise and compliments on my work which, and I know this might sound very conceded of me, but they make me feel so much better about myself and makeup for never getting much attention for my looks. I have been trying to look at myself differently, focussing on other aspects. I love my hair and my clothing style, so I have been spending more time on different hair do's and outfits instead of focussing on makeup and my face. I have actually gotten compliments lately on "how cute I look", which may not have anything to do with my face, but again, help with the overall self esteem. So thank you again for your sentiments. They meant a lot! Oh, and I should have mentioned this in my first post but my mother is doing very well...a true role model when it comes to strength and courage. I know that some of her will power is in me...I just have to find it!!!
April 22, 2011
Wow. Okay, my turn. If that's all right? This will actually be my second time telling about this. The first was earlier today when a girl from my college who I vaguely knew posted a note on facebook about overcoming her trichotillomania - which kind of threw in my face that what I have is not just some weird icky habit, this is a real problem with a name that is shared by other people, and that can be overcome. No, that needs to be overcome. I can live with a habit, but not a disorder. And that's what it is. I guess part of the reason I didn't take my skin-picking seriously is that I've done it ever since I can remember, almost. The dermatologist put it down to dry skin, and prescribed some kind of lotion that did nothing. Especially after I hit puberty, and the acne hit. I loved the acne. It made it all so much easier. It also made me feel somewhat justified at cleaning out my pores, instead of tearing at my skin. Even though I still did that too. The weather is starting to get warmer, and I'm starting to wear t-shirts. Today my uncle made a comment about the "bug bites" on my arms. Cue flashback sequence. I try to keep my picking areas under my clothes, but sometimes they creep out. And I've been asked about my "bug bites" since forever. I remember when I was about seven and my mom made me take swimming lessons, the swim coach was afraid I had chicken pox. That was humilating. But I will not have that happen again! So since we're in the same boat here, I can't offer any good tips. But you are not alone, and you CAN find the strength to overcome this. So will I. Personally, I am going to 1) start coutning how many times I pick per day, and see if I can get that number to decrease over time, and 2) make sure I always have an object to fidget with to see if I can redirect my habits. Try covering up your mirror. I haven't looked at my reflection in ages, though that is because I (coincidentally) am also half-Asian, and about five feet tall, and currently studying in Germany, where people are giants. Thus the mirror in my room is placed so that I can only see about half my face if I stand on tiptoe. I still pick at my face sometimes, but not with as much dedication and concentration. And since you're at college, if only for another month, try making use of the free counselling services. Even though they're probably busy this close to finals. But it won't hurt to try. I myself am planning to check out the counselling services here sometime soon, even though I'm in Germany, just because I've had a lot of stress building up since last semester (honestly, it was kind of a soap opera, but those things really suck to actually be in) and the fact that I'm freaking out because I feel like I haven't done anything productive my whole time in this country, and I'm leaving in a little over a month. This was supposed to be the time of my life, and I don't think I've ever been so miserable for so long. So I totally get the regret. Anyway. You. You have a goal. One month. Stick to it. Goals are good. Actually, you might want to make it even more concrete with something like "No picking for a month," or "No scabs in a month." I'm reminded of my friend who wants to be "thinner," and never gets anywhere with it because he is so focused on the result he loses track of the process. "Looking good" is an abstract concept. "Stop picking" is something you can actually do. Sorry for sounding like a self-help book. I hope my rambles are helpful to you, and I hope both of us can stop picking!
May 07, 2011
Thank you for both of these comments/stories/encouraging words. I am happy to say that my skin is doing better. I am picking less and feeling better about myself. I have gotten into a regular face washing routine that involves a very mild, oil-free, redness reducing nutragena face soap (pump, not a bar. I heard bars can still get bacteria on them so I switched over) followed by a dime size amount of st. ives apricot exfoliating wash. I love the exfoliant...I think the roughness on my face takes the place of picking, and since it is better than picking I love it even more. I do this twice a day and use an aveeno face lotion for babys....this is a GREAT find. It is non-fragrant, redness reducing, not at all oily, and leaves my face feeling, well, like a babys bottom! I highly recommend the exfoliant. Again, the roughness is very therapeutic and I think this is because I am used to being a little rough with my face. And I recommend the lotion! Anyway, graduation is in a 2 weeks so I am hoping that I can keep this up until than. At this point, I am 100% sure that this condition, at least for me, is all about stress and self esteem. Since classes have ended, I have been under much less stress which I think has helped a lot. I have been taking pepcid AC before drinking which helps control the redness so I have been going out and being more social. There has also been a particular guy (on and off again situation) that has made a few advances my way, which sounds scandalous but I'm only saying this because it boosted my self esteem do I put this....I guess just to be wanted. I look at myself in the mirror these days and say, "Hey, at least you've attracted someone. You can do this. You ARE beautiful. Just think how much more you could be if you just stopped going at your face!!" So that is where I am! I thank you guys again for your kind words and bravery in sharing your stories. I hope that everyone can find some sort of hope with my own. Please remember that self esteem is key. LOVE yourself, no matter what, and stay positive. Seek help and don't be embarrassed about it. I was, so I found that telling my best best friend about it was a major help. She was someone who I trusted and it was nice to just vent to her. Good luck! I will write again soon...

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