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emmablue , 27 May 2012

What to do? Is it classed as self injury?

Hi, I'm new on here, it feels really strange to be typing this. I'm 17 and pick at my arms, and have been for a couple of years, although I've picked at various scabs on my hands since I was tiny. Now my arms are riddled with scars and it's spread to my chest too. I knew what I was doing wasn't normal, but didn't realise until really recently that it was seen as an actual disorder. I was actually facebook stalking someone I don't know, and saw scars like mine next to self harm cuts, then researched it and found this forum. I came on here to ask if you regard dermatillomania as self harm? And if anyone has any experience with telling teachers (UK), whether they are obliged to contact home if I confided in them as they would be if someone confided they were cutting? I've been speaking to my head of year because I was stressed about exams and have been feeling quite down this year, and she made me speak to a teacher who's in charge of student welfare. I asked them about the terms of student confidentiality, without actually confiding anything at all, but they know there's something up. She said that they have a duty of care, and if a student was at risk of being harmed, i.e through self harm, they would have to contact parents. I think they think I cut though, because I've always worn long sleeves. It's not that big a deal, but I bet if I told them the school would blow it all out of proportion. I don't know why I want to talk about it.. I just feel so alone in it. I have amazing friends, who I've told it's eczema and they don't doubt that at all. I couldn't make them worry, and couldn't worry my family who have so much else going on at the moment. But especially now that it's summer, and I can't get away with wearing long sleeves, and I've found out that it's a form of OCD, I wish I could talk it through with someone. If I spoke to my GP would she definitely refer me to a psychologist? I'm sorry this is such a long post. It was so reassuring to see somewhere where people are discussing it, and talking about the same things I feel, cause it feels like such an alien thing, and so separate from normal life where you pretend it doesn't exist. Thanks for taking the time to read this, Emma
4 Answers
May 28, 2012
Hi Emma I've been doing the exact same thing as you since I was 16, I'm 19 now. It started out with my arms and spread to my chest. I when I started I didn't think of it as self harm because it felt kind of nice at the time, even though I would be sore after. I always wore long sleeves and when friend caught a glimpse of my arms I told her it was eczema too. It wasn't until she saw the sign in my bathroom that said "Let your skin heal, Don't pick!" she knew there was something I wasn't telling her. Please get any type of help you can. The sooner the better. Also come clean with the people in your life, don't lie to them about it. Lying about it will make it a lot harder to get over. Once you tell people about it, they might want to talk about it with you and try and help you. Getting help from professionals is so much more effective then getting help from your friends and family. Professionals might want you to go on anti-depressant or anti-anxiety pills. I wouldn't recommend them, there is nothing wrong with the chemicals in your brain, I personally think it has more to do with your thoughts. Doctors are all familiar with this type of ocd, don't be afraid of getting help. I spent the last 3 summers in long sleeves. Lately I've been wearing t-shirts everyday. At first my arms were blotchy and scabby, but the more sun and fresh air they got the faster they healed. It also motivated me not to pick at my arms, since I knew I was going to have to wear short sleeves. You just have to be brave. The other thing that helped me overcome this was figuring out what 'triggers' me to pick. They included certain people that would make me anxious, weed, unhealthy food and over eating. Getting exercise everyday also helped a lot too. Once again, when you stop hiding it you'll be a lot more likely to heal. You're not the only one, you're not crazy, and it's not impossible to get over this. It will only make you a stronger and wiser person.
May 29, 2012

In reply to by Nicoley

Hi, thanks for the reply :) It's so good hearing from other people who have the same problem! I've managed to go without picking for 4 days (which is a long time for me! the longest in ages), and I finished my exams 4 days ago.. so I'm not stressed about that anymore, and it got so much worse over the exam period. I'm hoping that I can keep going for longer. I'm still unsure about going to a doctor, are you in the UK? I searched dermatillomania on the NHS website and it isn't listed, I don't know how many doctors in the UK would recognise it. I've also just started going out with short sleeves, which was really scary, but it always amazes me how you imagine people would stare but no one does. Has anyone on here had any long term successes in not picking without any medical help? The most I've gone before is a couple of months, then it started again.
May 29, 2012
Hi, the reason I'm replying is cause I feel like I'm in a really similar situation and it's reassuring to see someone the same age and similar problems! I discovered this a couple of weeks ago after I had picked what were originally tiny insect bites on my arms so badly they looked infected so I checked online for symptoms of infection when I came across this site. I guess it really started when I was 11 or 12 with the soles of my feet, which I compulsively picked until they looked badly bruised or bled. Other than that any spot that came a long I couldn't stop myself from picking at it. The reason I didn't post before or anything is because, like you, it felt strange to be posting about it. I can really relate to this so it's weird. This all got so much worse this year during AS level year and I have been stressed about exams. I have pretty clear skin on my face but then I got some spots on my face and made them bleed, it was really embarrassing. Its now a big problem with the scabs on my arms - which are spreading. I try and cover up my arms so I can't do it but it's not working very well. During a History AS level exam just over a week ago, I was stressing out and looking down at my arms to see that I'd scratched them subconsciously and made the spots bleed. This is why I think for me it's not a self harm type thing as I am not depressed or anything, I think it's something I've had pretty much all my life and it's a compulsion where I feel I have to do it, rather than that I want to, which I think is the crucial difference. It's hard to explain though. My parents know and I have had some advice from other people so I'll pass it on to you in case it helps :) Well this hasn't been too helpful but its stopped me picking more than I did - I have a bandage round my arms when I'm at home on my own so it provides a barrier. Also I was told that exercising more provides a distraction and a more positive state of mind, however this may be more helpful if it's more linked to anxiety which mine isn't. The most important piece of advice I heard is that no one else can solve it and it's down to me only, which is hard as it's not just something you stop doing and forget about. But now my exams are over, and I'm guessing yours are too, the stress has died down and I think that may have been a factor in how frequent the picking was. I would tell your parents if you haven't, I put it off telling mine for weeks but when I told them I felt so much more relieved. I hope this helps, obviously I'm not a professional but maybe knowing there are people the same age or in the same country out there in the same boat is reassuring? It is for me so I hope this helps :)
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