As with any condition of the body or mind, dermatillomania does not discriminate. Celebrities are often heralded by fans as being perfect and untouchable. Yet, celebrities also experience the trials and tribulations of human emotion, and are also vulnerable to stress and anxiety. Unfortunately conditions like dermatillomania evoke feelings of shame and embarrassment in the person challenged by it, and is therefore not a condition that is publicized, especially by those in the limelight. However, in 2012, a well known singer-songwriter became one of the first celebrities to publicly admit to having dermatillomania.
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Tulisa Contostavios is famous in the United Kingdom for being part of the four-time platinum award winning hip hop group N-Dubz. She is more recently known for her role as a judge on the reality talent show X-Factor UK. In her autobiography titled “Honest: My Story So Far”, published in 2012, Tulisa provides a vivid account of her experiences with skin-picking disorder. Her memoires of her experiences with skin-picking shocked the celebrity gossip media, leading to interviews and gossip column articles quoting extracts from her book. Most of the extracts focussed on her description of the skin-picking behaviour she engaged in, which she describes quite graphically in the book. For example she describes picking at her face with nail clippers and tweezers “leaving gaping, weeping holes”. What the media fails to highlight though is her very real account of the immense anxiety and emotional anguish she endured that led to her skin-picking behaviour. In her book Tulisa describes living with a mother with schizophrenia and enduring destructive personal relationships which left her feeling depressed and anxious. But perhaps the most important admission Tulisa makes are the feelings of guilt and shame she experienced because of dermatillomania. She describes finding out that she was not the only one who engaged in this behaviour and that it was a recognised as a clinical condition called dermaillomania, and that knowledge gave her the impetus to share her experiences with those close to her. She says in her book, “I Googled the condition, sending links to my management and the people I was working with”, but explains that it was still difficult to come to terms with it because people still struggled to understand the behaviour.
Tulisa is one of the first celebrities known to publicize her battle with skin-picking, and it is hoped that if there are other celebrities out there who also struggle with dermatillomania, that they will be inspired by Tulisa’s courage and recognize the value a celebrity platform would add to raising awareness and support about and for Dermatillomania and those suffering with the condition.
Despite it being recognized as a clinical disorder, skin-picking is still undiagnosed in many who suffer with the habit in shame. There are other well known personalities who have alluded to the fact that they have in the past, or currently do have the compulsive habit of picking at their skin, most notably skin imperfections. In many cases their revelation describes the condition dermatillomania but it is not identified as such. Reality-TV star Brandi Glanville, from “The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” fame has admitted to obsessively picking at her acne when she breaks out. Another well known personality with dermatillomania is celebrated author of “I'm No Saint: A Nasty Little Memoir of Love and Leaving” – Elizabeth Hayt. Elizabeth describes her skin-picking habit for Elle magazine Renée Rouleau is a celebrity esthetician who has also suffered from the condition for many years. Ironically it is because of her skin-picking that she has chosen her career path and is now recognized by the rich and famous as an expert in skin care. She talk frankly about her condition in this blog post. There are rumours and unconfirmed reports of other, more well-known celebrities like Cameron Diaz being a skin-picker. However this cannot be stated as fact either because the celebrity is not necessarily aware they have the condition despite symptoms indicating so; or the reports are based on speculation based on past interviews or quotes from these celebrities. Either way, it would not be surprising if there were many more famous or celebrated personalities with dermatillomania. The more awareness is raised about the condition, the more people, famous or not will come forward with their symptoms and receive the support and help they need.