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Scratchy1 , 23 Apr 2011

Confessions of a long term skin picker

It begins with a small lump on my face, probably not perceptible to anyone but me. When I’m barely awake, first thing each morning my fingers trawl my face feeling for imperfections. I count them, I know each one. And then I start to pick. I can make a sore last for months, yet hardly bleed. It’s a precise thing, I have an absolute compulsion to make my skin feel flat, but I don’t want holes either. I want to take the surface off the scab. The anxiety I feel as I pick at and feel the edge until I can gain a purchase on it. Then I work at it, bit by bit until it lifts. How can i explain the feeling of satisfaction and intense relief? But at the same time I feel guilt and misery and self consciousness? The more anxious and depressed I am the worse the picking, but the picking makes me depressed and anxious. Vicious circle. My face looks like a pizza; I cover it in makeup to hide the redness. But wait; in the mirror I can see more flakes of skin around the scab. I’ve got to get rid of them. I find tweezers to lift it. Got it, a gentle pull and oh no! I’ve torn the surrounding skin and made it worse, it’s bleeding now. I feel sick to my stomach. I don’t want to go out, I’m so self conscious, and I try to not look at people directly. I’m driving home, I’ve picked everything off my face and now I start with my fingers. I gnaw at the dead skin around my nails, I pick at the hangnails, I chew and I pick, it’s slightly frantic. I get home and put bandaids on my bleeding sore fingers. They hurt for days. Now I’m watching TV and subconsciously picking, in a trance like state, not even aware I’m doing it. My husband slaps my hand. “What are you doing, leave it alone, and just let it heal!” I sit next to him and the pressure builds and builds. The compulsion is overwhelming. The sore I was working on, the scab has half lifted. I go to the bathroom and lock the door. Pick Pick Pick. I know what I do is irrational. I know it is an illness. I tell myself if I could just leave it for a few days it would heal. I am a 39 year old woman and have done this to various degrees since my early teens. It’s time to stop. Writing this is an admission and also to help me realize just how weird and compulsive my behaviour is. It’s not “just a bad habit” as my husband tells me.
4 Answers
April 24, 2011
Hi there Scratchy1--I am new to this site--just found it the other day and didn't think that I would ever write anything. But as I just read your post I had to reply. Your explanation about you skin and the picking--the feeling for anything that you can get lifted up and pick at.....the knowing that it is wrong and not good for your skin----I know exactly what that feels like too. I am 46 and have picked at my skin for awhile now--I think I really started it about 15 years ago--mine is brought on by stress and anxiety--which I have all the time! But lately it has gotten pretty bad and my picking is the worst it has ever been. I have a little mirror that is magnified and that is the worst thing in the world for me. I can actually see stuff that I might not normally... I wish there was something that would help me stop--I am going crazy with it! It's not as simple as....just stopping! Hang in there---hopefully we will find an answer....
April 24, 2011

In reply to by kmoore

Thanks, Kmoore. That was my first post too. I found this site some time ago and was so very relieved to discover I wasn't alone in this. I find it so hard to admit too let alone talk about but I'm hoping this is a first step toward healing. I've been reading other peoples stories and it makes me so sad to realize the trauma picking causes for so many. I actually now think I'm lucky now in some respects because I don't pick at other areas of my body as well. Good luck with your fight to beat this. I'm feeling more positive than I have in a long time.
April 25, 2011

In reply to by kmoore

Admitting it out loud- even on a web forum- takes a lot of guts and helped me to realize the extent of my problem even though in my head I always knew it wasnt normal or a simple issue of "just stop doing it". Knowing there are other people with the same problem that made me feel so alone and alienated for years really helped out, just finally not feeling like I was the only person on earth with this crazy brain/skin issue. My husband would always say, "it doesnt look that bad, why are you so upset?..."- but even when it didnt look that bad, all the psychological stuff behind it is what is truly painful and isolating and embarrasing. It is not a vanity issue, and that is hard to tell others, it is not simply about how my skin looks- it is about everything behind it and what the h3ll is driving this compulsion and feeling out of control and ashamed and even crazy. I had no problem going out with stiches in my face from real medical procedures or ridiculous bruises on my forehead because I am a clutz or whatever....but when I am in a bad phase and picking I cant stand the idea of others noticing even minor "pick spots" because there is shame behind them because I know *I did it to myself* because I feel crazy and out of control and self destructive and have no idea why.... It does get better- it has to- give yourself and your body the chance to heal- dont take (whatever it is) out on your skin and your psyche
April 25, 2011
Ur post has touched me right through. I totally feel for you and understand the horrible grip this has on your life. Its like what you said, u pick cos u fell anxious and stressed etc but then you feel more anxious and stressed when you do it!! a constant relentless cycle. My therapist advises that if you can break one or two links in the chain or the cycle then you half the chances of going for a full blown session. I try this, it works sometimes and other times the compulsion is just so strong that i cannot fight it. So i try to do some diaphramatic (cant spell) breathing during the day, do some exercise, do something where you have to use your hands and fingers (piano, stress ball, cleaning). You have to be aware of it all the time cos u know urself once you leave down your guard for a second thats wen it suck you right in. hey i cold write a book here...i could literally write for about 6 hours non stop on this shitty topic...anyway pet, keep fighting!! im starting a 10 day challenge (hav just posted it earlier today if you want to take a look and join me and some others.

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