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concerned aunty , 01 Feb 2015

Am I hurting him?

My nephew is 13 years old. I have seen him picking and eating his own snot, scabs, earwax,and skin from fingers and toes, since he was about 2 years old. I lovingly nicknamed him "Booger" at 2 years old, as I thought, "he's 2, its funny, and he'll outgrow it." Last year he finally stopped wetting his bed at night, and urinating and defecating on himself throughout the day. He has lived a hard life with his parents, who are both addicted to methamphetamine. However, he has, for a large part of his life, lived with his grandmother. Grandma spoils him with purchasing any thing he asks for, makes an excuse for ALL of his bad behavior, doesn't let anyone correct or discipline him in her house, and will not speak to anyone who does correct or discipline him for weeks. I don't believe he has ever been to see a doctor about his habits. He has never been diagnosed. When I ask his grandmother about his behavior, she makes an excuse for him or brushes it off. When I "catch" him picking and eating (he tries to hide it), I always ask him his age and then I ask, "why are you still picking and eating that?" He always gets a shamed look on his face and answers, "I don't know." He proceeds to look down and walk away. My questions are for the picker: Have you ever been comforted about it? How did it make you feel? Am I hurting my nephew, mentally, by asking him my same old question? How can I help him? Is there something I can say/do to make him feel better about it?

7 Answers
Plug Puller
February 01, 2015

It sounds to me as though you're the only one who really cares, you're definitely not hurting him. He could probably do with some support as he's had such a difficult upbringing. To answer your question, yes, as a picker I do get relief and comfort from picking, I pull the hair follicles out of my chest and literally feel I am 'getting it off my chest' emotionally as I do it. Even though it leaves me sore afterwards there is a feeling of satisfaction. You could tell your nephew that you are not condemning him for what he does but that you really want to help him and be his listening ear, and that you will keep confidentially about what he says to you. Let him know you are on his side, a non-judgmental friend. I personally have found having a confidante a great help although I do still pick. Maybe you could even introduce him to this website to let him know he is not alone.

February 01, 2015

I agree with Plug Puller. And I would add that 'Shaming' in any way shape or form will probably cause a negative response with him and end up causing him to have even more episodes.(don't be hard on yourself about doing that with him, we've all made mistakes like that thinking that we are helping others) . I think it's great how much you care for him to the point that you would even seek advice from others! Like our friend PP said, maybe he can find some support from this website. If he isn't interested in checking it out himself, maybe you can get some ideas from this sites discussions and maybe share with him some behavior modification ideas. I pray that he can break free early in life! I've been an avid skin picker for about 28 years and I wish so much someone would have cared enough to intervene when I was younger. It may have been easier for me to break the cycle. Blessings to you both.

concerned aunty
February 02, 2015

Thank you both, for responding so constructively. I was researching, how to help him stop, when I found this group. I will definitely tell him about this group, that he is not alone, and that this is a condition that could last a long time. I appreciate your sharing your experiences, it has helped me to understand that it's not just a "bad habit." Thank you for your prayers and well wishes.

February 02, 2015

My pleasure concerned aunty :) Yes you're right, it's most likely not just a bad habit but more like self-medicating or a coping mechanism. (not that I'm an expert) take care now.

February 02, 2015

You can look at Dr. Penzel's article Dealing with your loved one's OCD/skin picking. It will give you his perspective on this topic. Best wishes to you and your family!

February 18, 2015

This might sound strange, but I honestly think your nephew could just have a dietary deficiency - bedwetting and snot-eating are both symptoms of a big lack of potassium phosphate (Kali phos). Oats and dates are rich in potassium phosphate, sweet potatoes (yams) are really rich in potassium and salmon and eggs have really good levels of phosphates. The snot-eating also arises from a lack of circulating glucose in the blood (I know, I still catch myself doing it if I happen to be exhausted and my blood-sugar is through the floor, and I'm over 30! ;-). It's because snot is a glycoprotein, so is a readily-available source of glucose). That craving for sweetness is intensified by a lack of potassium phosphate. So if his intake of sweets and sugary things is limited, try increasing it a bit and see if his tendency decreases, and feed him oats porrige for breakfast, and get some salmon and eggs down him! Potassium phosphate also helps a lot with stress, so it will help him to calm down and feel less threatened.

February 19, 2015

I highly recommend getting him involved in a youth group at a local church. You'd be surprised at how many young loving children there are in the world. Maybe all he needs is a friend.

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