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NSM1992 , 22 Mar 2015

New to this site, and I have a question...

So, a brief history. I'm a 22 year old female. I've been a skin picker since I was young... around 11, I think. It started off with tweezers, digging into the skin around my knees and such. Got my first staph infection when I was about 13 from doing that. As I've gotten older, I'm now just obsessed with my pores, and I like to use my fingers. I have torn up my chest and knees over the years, and I have fairly significant scarring.
Anyway, so my question is related to my boyfriend. We've been friends for years, but only started dating about 8 months ago, which is when he became privy to how serious my picking problem is. He seemed very accepting of my problem at first, before he had ever seen fresh results, but now when he notices I have fresh sores he gets pretty upset. Not ever angry at me, but just sad and worried, I think. He tries to control his reaction, but the look on his face when he sees it is really hard for me to deal with. He basically says that he doesn't understand why I can't stop and tells me to just not do it. It makes me feel guiltier and it gives me anxiety about him leaving me or hating me, which actually makes me picking worse in the long run, I think. So my question is this: is there any way I can explain my problem to him in a way that a non-picker will understand? every time I try it makes me sound crazier to him.

3 Answers
March 22, 2015

First of all, I must say that I absolutely identify with what you have asked. I have skin-picking, and also I was a cutter, so have rather serious scars all over my body. I also had a boyfriend who just didn't understand and kind-of made me feel ashamed about it. The way I explained it to him was that I suffered from stress, and it is a known stress response in animals. My sister is a biophysicist, and she explained cutting and picking as a way of making the body release the hormone norepinephrine, which people feel the need for if they are feeling threatened or pressured, especially if they are also physically depleted. So yes, there is a perfectly rational explanation to offer your boyfriend. What we do is a response to stress and pressure, and, while it is a self-destructive response, it was the best one we knew of at the time, and no-one has a right to make us feel shamed for that! It sounds like you are a wonderful girl and your boyfriend is a lucky guy, so no more feeling bad.

March 23, 2015

Thank you so much for your response :) it really made me feel better to know someone else has gone through this, and the science behind it may help him understand. I don't think he makes me feel ashamed on purpose, I think he's just confused and worried... but it would make me feel better if he could understand what is going on with me!

March 27, 2015

He needs to learn about CSP - and by understanding it, he will be more equipped to sympathize and help you out. I must say this - the fear of him leaving you and hating you is your own. His reaction is most likely nothing more than concern for you. He may try to hide it because he doesn't want to hurt you - or you may be sensitive about it. So don't automatically assume he is going to leave you - because being sensitive about the issue will only add another layer of stress to something that is already stressful. I get it, it is easier said than done – but once you remove the “taboo” or the “omg I have this terrible problem”, your CSP is a subject you can talk about openly when you need to. Encourage your boyfriend to help you/ask questions. My husband and I are very open about it – to him, the amount of skin picking is a sign of how stressed I am/something going on. So if I am having a ‘bad week’ he’ll ask if everything ok and we’ll take it from there. We also joke about it. If he sees me picking, he jokingly slaps the hand away and says “Stop messing with my goodies”. We both laugh, and move on. For me is a way of someone helping me control it without feeling ashamed about it. :)

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