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the_definition… , 24 Apr 2012

the definition of regression

I'm a fifteen year old female, and I've had dermatillomania for four years. Or at least, that's the conclusion I've come to. As far as I can tell, I do every single thing people associate with derma... But then again, I also know the dangers of self diagnosis and how problematic it is. It comes down to this: I pick at my skin, almost constantly. I eat the scabs and even the substances I pick out from my acne. It gets so bad that I'm terrified to leave the house because people can take one look at my face and judge me. My facial picking scars fade in about a week every time, but due to my acne, I can't tell if there's irreparable damage from the repetitive nature of my picking or not. I can't honestly say that at any point I've had an acne or scab free back in the last two or three years, either. Approximately two years ago I started going to school at home, and while I can't say the picking was the main reason, I'd be lying if I said it didn't play a fairly large role in my decision. It also might have worsened it, though, because whereas before I was surrounded by people and therefore moderately motivated to not pick, not I have no such qualms- at the first sign of distress my hands fly to my face and there is no one to stop me. It hampers my life socially, but also to an alarming extent psychologically, as well. Other people's impressions of my appearance can fade and change, but even when I'm at my best I avoid mirrors because the reminder of what I look like at my worst is always lurking in the back of my mind, and I just can't separate the two. There are days when it gets so bad I literally cannot stand myself, which just makes it a cyclical situation- because the anger and disappointment I feel from the picking makes me pick more. The littlest thing can trigger it and I can go for days just snowballing into this awful state where I'm mentally and psychically a mess. My mother yells at me for it, slaps my hands away from my face, tells me she'll make me wear mittens if I don't stop. I tried to approach her about getting help for me and maybe getting a diagnosis, and she dismissed it. She just tells me that I need to try to be normal and it'll go away. Basically, I'm on my own. I'm at that point where I want to stop, but I don't know if I can do it. After struggling with self harm, it seems like this is a lesser evil... but as weird and backwards as it sounds, this is actually a bigger problem to me. Probably because no one could tell I was hurting myself when they couldn't see it, but the picking is just so visible it's impossible for them to see and NOT judge me for it...
1 Answer
April 27, 2012
I'm not going to say "Wow you are so articulate- and only 15" because obviously, you are smarter than most of the people around you. That's half your (and my own) problem. When your eyes are open and you are innately emotionally intelligent, you have a lot more to process and cope with than people who are less observant. Its problematic that your mom didn't take the hint about your need for professional support. At college, student mental health services are easy to access so please keep that in mind. Until then, the best I can do is tell you my own tricks to heal quickly. In my long history of excoriation, I have had a couple bouts where I focused on my face and found that if I could just get it clear, it was easier to maintain. And having put in the effort and investment to heal my face, I was motivated to maintain: (1.) those little circle spot bandaids ($3). Buy ones for sensitive skin, cut off 2 of the four adhesive sides around the pad, and apply them to your worst spots immediately before bed. No one has to see you sleeping with them on. (2.) a generic brand tube of antibiotic cream ($5). It has to be a cream, not an ointment! t has to contain neomycin sulfate, polymyxin B and very importantly, pramoxine. This last ingredient is a topical anesthetic. If you put a tiny dot of this on the spot band-aid pad the inflammation will be gone from the lesion when you wake up. So that will buy you some progress 'til you can cover it the next evening. Neosporin makes a cream that fits this bill but a generic tube will cost you less. (3.) Neutrogena Oil-Free Acne Wash Cream Cleanser ($8, UPC code 070501028308). It's an orange tube. If you live in a humid climate after about 7-10 days of use, this stuff actually does start working, inhibiting break-outs. (4.) when you fall off the wagon, Dermablend concealer. The products were designed for burn victims and provide heavy coverage for body and or face, depending on the product you buy. A tube could cost up to $30 but will last you years, especially if you thin it out with some moisturizer. (5.) I have found that I can invest the same focus and effort into manicuring my nails perfectly that I would spend on picking. Then I leave my skin alone for a while because I don't want to mess up the soft polish. Plus, nothing bad can come of having nice looking hands, right? (6.) never pass up the opportunity for a course of presecribed antibiotics! The strep or staph infections that cause sore throats, tonsilitis, even urinary tract infections, live in acne sores. Treating these illnesses with antibiotics has the great side effect of cleaning up your "canvas". So Cipro, cephalexin, ampicillin... these are your friends. The minor stomach aches a small price to pay. I am genuinely sorry I cannot tell you how to stop. But I can offer you these few tricks that have helped me to have a clean face, and maintaining it is self-motivating! You will be in my thoughts- I truly wish you all good things.

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