QUESTION: I have been picking my skin for a few years now and it sometimes gets to the point where it becomes painful and then bleeds. What are some of the options for resisting the temptation to touch the areas that are most affected? I feel very uncomfortable and embarrassed at my condition and would be very greatful of any advice :)
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ANSWER: First be aware that a sense of shame and embarrassment is nearly universal with picking. It is usually a key part of the problem. It often keeps people from talking to parents, doctors, or therapists who could provide badly needed help. You need to fight your way out of the closet. Online resources like this site are often a first step. As to treatment people who contact me are often looking for the technique or handy hint that will work for them. It is like the old 'good news--bad news' jokes. There is very rarely a single approach that does the job. But the good news is that an integrated treatment program can provide 10 things that each work 10% and that can do the job nicely. There are hundreds of resources to choose from, including ideas from CBT, psychodynamic psychotherapy, hypnosis, etc. For a quick hint to try: put Band-Aids on a couple of the key fingers you pick with. It won't prevent picking, but will give you an extra moment to decide to stop.
Ted A. Grossbart, Ph.D., Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA