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the_annihilator , 09 Jun 2012

My tips and experience in vulgar detail and also a question

Hey. Been a skin-picker for years. Was an excessive blinker as a child (combined with weird neck-rolling compulsion), that went away. Came back, sort of went away again. Not much of a problem now. Also, as a kid, had this habit of running two fingers (like the letter v) down the sides of my mouth, and since my hands were always grubby, I always had these streaks like a weird goatee. Very cute. That went away. In my teenage years had a habit of picking leaves off privet hedges and folding them because I liked the crispy-crunchy sensation. Also went away. Always had busy hands - had another habit of fiddling with stiff fabric, sort of rolling it and making it pop (just googled it and found this thread: - another case where I find out I wasn't the only one.) Still do this. Pretty harmless. So I guess it's all about sensations - things that feel nice. Popping sits feels ace. Blackheads, whiteheads. Specially the highly pressurized ones that make a sort of 'phut' sound. Mirror-squirters. Also in-growing hairs - just fab. (Just imagine having one of those zitty ingrowers where you squirt em and it phuts out and splatters, loads and loads of puss, five minutes of puss, maybe followed by a wormy toothpasty one, and then the hair itself, almost a foot long - imagine that, pulling it out - like a birthday and christmas rolled into one. Am I right? I am, aren't I?) So it's partly about pleasure. My Mum has always been a squeezer, and a plucker. I have this memory of her squeezing a blackhead out of my dad's back when I was little, and it was the first time I ever saw one, and I was grossed out and fascinated at the same time. It's also about expulsion. Getting that stuff out of your skin. Like having a massive troublesome shit and feeling clean and light after. It just feels good. But it's also a compulsion. As for the picking, for me, it exists somewhere between the conscious and unconscious. Voluntary and involuntary. I do it both when I'm stressed and relaxed. Usually the latter. Sometimes I don't do it so much - I'm never too sure but there are lots of contributing factors - drugs, tiredness, nerves, hormones. Sometimes it's picking with nails, other times it's rubbing - sort of rubbing the grease and grub off my jawline with a finger, sort of balling it up and then rubbing my fingers together like I'm doing the gesture for 'how much cash?' For a long time I thought it might be a mild form of tourettes. Except, it's not quite unconscious/involuntary enough for that (unlike the blinking, which is). I've also recently started doing this muscle clenching thing. Crunching up the muscles in my thighs and hips and wrists. But I think that might have something to do with a medication I'm on right now. Anyway. This one time I was sat watching TV with a friend, having a right old pick, not even realising it, and my friend, she says, 'You have SPC, don't you?' and I was like, 'Huh?' So she told me all about it. She had a friend who did it. I felt weird. Relieved that it was a condition with a name and I wasn't the only one, but also embarassed that she noticed it so easily. It's a very shameful condition. It's gross. It makes my skin bad, but this isn't the worse part, since my skin heals well and doesn't really scar, and can start looking Ok and not-so-blotchy even half an hour after a total massacre at the mirror. The worst part is the shame. Because sometimes I can't control myself and I do it at work, in public, etc. I catch myself and I stop, then two minutes later I notice my dirty bastard hands have snuck back up to my chin. And maybe having no zits would help, but the act of picking spreads zits around and excarbates bad skin, so i'm not going to have clear skin unless I stop picking, and I might not stop picking unless I have clear skin - see the problem? Apparently there are various reasons for doing it. I've already mentioned the sheer self-indulgent pleasure of it. But then, I know lots of people who also share that grim passion for squeezing, love it more than I do, but their problem is squeezing alone. Also it's hereditary - my great gran apparently was a lip picker/rubber. Also there's all the psychological stuff. I've had problems with depression and anxiety and self-harm and some substance abuse problems, all of which are under control for the time being. I don't think this is about self-esteem/self-harm. I really value myself these days. (I think - sometimes one can never be sure, there are all these layers and all this crap running like sewage under the layers) Anyway. I originally set out to keep this short, but I guess I couldn't help myself (!!) Here are the ways I've attempted to stop: Nails cut short, down to the nub. I've been tempted at times to cut them so short I damage the nail bed and it hurts to pick. But damn, it hurts! Fake nails. Didn't work. Plasters on my fingertips. Didn't work. I have to wash my hands alot in my line of work. And I kept 'forgetting' to put the plasters on. Notice how sometimes you rebel against helping yourself because you want that pick? Sort of lie to yourself? 'I'll only have a quick pick, just a thirty-second job, maybe not even that, and then I'll put the plaster on - I promise.' You are basically fighting yourself at every step. Like Gollum doing a monolgue. Shmeagal can win and jump around punching the air ecstatic and proud all he wants, the fact is, Gollum is coming back, Gollum will always come back. Cut off the tips of latex gloves and wore them on my guiltiest fingers. My boyfriend used to call them my 'finger-me-bobs'. This helps so long as you keep the damn things on, but unfortunately, Gollum is always itching to get back. I once considered rubbing chilli under my nails to to prevent me. Thinking it'd burn my face. But imagine you got a mad itchy arse and forgot about the chilli? Or picked your nose? And definitely a no-go if you're in a sexual relationship. If you're a busy-hands sort of picker, like me, getting rid of excess energy helps. So tiring yourself out from exercise, cutting down on caffeine and sugar, stop eating crap, have lots of orgasms etc..This is a good road to take if you're dedicated, and if you're depressed/anxious, as many pickers are, the exercise will help there too. I once asked my boyfriend to stop me when ever he saw me doing it. He'd slap my hand away or just clear his throat and look at me with raised eyebrows. One of my workmates did the same. Course, after a while this just succeeded in pissing me off. Why add anger and naughty-schoolkid-shame to the stinking turdpile? Squeezy stress toy. Didn't work. Considered carving little grooves into my fingernails, sort of serrating them so it feels unpleasant. Probably won't work. Sometimes I jam my hands in my pockets when I'm watching TV. Works 25% of the time. My new thing is bubble wrap. I buy it by the roll from the post office. The guy at the counter knows I buy it to pop and he always looks at me crazy and makes jokes when I come in for more. When I'm sat at my PC I cut off strips and merrilly pop away. Sometimes my hand still wanders toward a scab or a zit like a nervous and hungry dog trying to get to the leftover pizza crusts in the box whenever it thinks the owner isn't watching. 75% success rate. Definitely minimizes the picking. But I get through so much of it, it gets pricey. There is this bubble wrap simulator key chain thing you can buy off the net, a little electric gizmo. I might give it a go. But ultimately these are all quick fixes and they don't work. Damage limitation at best. I read all your posts - your day-by-day journals, those of you who manage to control it for a few days, sweating and stressing, going it cold turkey inside your houses in your long sleeves with your mirrors covered by sheets, and then suddenly you break and go crazy and tear off the sheets like jealous murderous lovers and have an hour-long mirror-massacre. Like someone on a strict diet who flips after a few days and binges and purges. It's heart-breaking and I've been there. People. I don't think will power is going to work. I remember a couple of years ago. I had this habit of pushing my hair back behind my ears, and it bugged me. I did it because I didn't like having hair in my face. But it was a stupid habit. It made my hair look crap. What was the point in going out and getting a nice haircut when I was only gonna push it back behind my ears every two minutes? So one day I decided I was going to stop. It's just a stupid habit, I told myself. You can do it. And I did. I actively concentrated on it. That feeling of having my hair fly in my face, I stopped trying to fight it, I just accepted it. I thought, just let that hair hang in your face you weird silly bitch. And it worked. And I thought, Ooh, goody, if I can whip this hair-thingy with simple willpower, I can whip the skin pick thing too. But no. No no no. The hair thing, it wasn't a habit which brought me pleasure, it was just...random and inconsequential. The skin-picking isn't. It's not just a compulsion. It's an addiction. So. I think if this problem is making us truly miserable and we've tried all these things and they haven't worked, I really think we need to be looking into cognitive behaviour therapy or hypnotherapy, or something like that. CBT, especially, is supposed to be very good in tackling all sorts of problems. I've avoided looking into it in the past. In the UK there's usually a 6 month long waiting list for it (though it's free here), and also, it just seems like such hard work. But I believe it's the only thing that's gonna work, never mind all this other fruitless crap. We just keep failing and the hopelessness and frustration adds to our problems. CBT goes deep. No more superficial fix-em-ups which are doomed to fail. No more desperate ideas involving chilli and plasters and thimbles. Apologies if this 'other fruitless crap' has worked for you. And if it has I would love to hear your success stories.....but where are the success stories on this forum? I can't seem to find any. Someone manages to stop for 30 says and then bham! Out come them tweezers. If anyone has any experience with CBT, please tell me about it. Also, you can buy/download hypnosis especially for SPC for roughly a tenner. Anyone tried that? I would really appreciate your input. Sorry for the length of this. C x
2 Answers
June 10, 2012

In reply to by the_annihilator

Love my fingernails, but I'm cutting them all off right now. Never been all that into bubblewrap,but I might try the sillyputty thing that someone else wrote about. I am new to this forum today. I just had a revelation of sorts to google "scab picking" and that's how I found you all. I'm relieved to know that there are other women in the same boat as I. I am also sorry that you suffer also. I know how you feel. Thank you for your understanding and I am hoping we can all draw from each others strengths and experiences in order to get those success stories posted. I'll be in touch. Off to cut those fingernails!!!

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