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The Cyclical Nature of Dermatillomania
Ok so this is an abbreviated version of the lessons learned from over 15 years of picking, so please bear with me! I believe I have finally found a way to deal with this issue. The first thing I want to address is the fact that everyone keeps referring to their habit as "disgusting" and "shameful" and I have long ago abandoned using these titles when referring to my condition. I just don't find the self-loathing that goes along with them to be beneficial. I know that you are all thinking "but....it is so disgusting!..." but the fact of the matter is that humans collectively have thousands of disgusting habits that are made to seem less destructive because almost everyone participates in them. For example: People all around the world gather to celebrate important dates and occasions by systematically destroying their livers with alcoholic beverages. Because this habit is collectively accepted and TALKED ABOUT, many people just cannot bring themselves to feel guitly about something that is a world pastime. Besides, drinking feels great! However, as many of us know, it is also incredibly addictive. I draw this parallel bewteen ritualistic drinking and skin picking because I have done both and feel that they are very similar. Now, on to the picking... Note: If you are in remission you might want to avoid reading this next part.... . . . Picking. I still remember the first time a friend introduced me to this very interesting and time consuming habit. I say that it is interesting becuase a very funny thing happens to me every time I start to pick (which I will get to in a minute)... I am a start/stop picker and by that I mean I can usually quell the cycle of picking for quite some time. However, once I see a nasty blemish (or several) I seem to be irresistably drawn toward the mirror, like a piece of space dust being sucked into a black hole. Indeed, once I start picking it really does feel like "I" disappear. I become nothing but a restless hand seeking out tactile imperfections in my skin once the other obvious blemishes have been totally obliterated. I mean that sometimes I even enter into something like a Satori-like state, which would be fine except for the fact that I am systematically destroying a major organ of my body. : c I feel that in many ways, picking while sitting inches away from the mirror functions much like meditation. I mention this becuase it is impossible to say "yesterday I was picking and my thoughts totally stopped" becuase that would entail more thought, but this is really what happens for me, even though I can only reflect on it after the fact. I start to pick and my overstimulated mind SHUTS UP. It is unfortunate that it comes at such a high cost. All I know is that once I give in to the *almost* irresistable urge to pick, time seems to stop. I also know that this seemingly automatic reflex releases some sort of small amount of naturally occurring opiate or other neurotransmitter, which must explain why it feels so good. Onto what people don't want to talk about. Picking feels good. I am not ashamed to admit it. I caught my roommate picking at her husband the other day (lol) and she immediately looked embarrased and ashamed. I smiled at her and said that it was totally fine, I do it to mine all the time. The only people who were getting the short end of the stick that day were the guys of the house! LOL.It seemed that she relaxed after that and looked less mortified. Just by our talking about this subject it seems that we can alleviate some of the massive psychological burden associated with the behavior. So that is another thing I have learned: Encourage yourself to address the issue when it becomes relevant. See a friend who obviously has this problem? Is it getting worse? Talk to them! Even if it seems scary to address, it really is not. SO many people do this, it should not even have a stigma anymore. Be verbally supportive of others who feel alone with the problem (in real life and not just on the internet) It will help you feel better too. Now, onto to the meat of my post. This is how I STOPPED PICKING. Disclaimer: you have tried everything, why should I assume this will work for you? I won't asume that it will work, but it worked for me. This is also very similar to how I quit drinking. Firstly, I will address what starts off a cycle of picking. My list (in order of descending influence): 1- Stress 2- obvious breakout, must eliminate signs 3- started picking the day before, must continue to pick the next day even if there is nothing there. So, stress makes me break out (damn it!!) and stress also excaberates my desire to groom uncontrollably. Maybe this makes me feel more in control. Like, I can't control the source of my stress but I can control what I do to this large patch of skin that is covering the back of my left arm? Hm.... so, stress makes me more vulnerable to this habit. I mention this becuase it is the preliminary source, like an underground spring that eventually turns into the freakin' Nile. Once I pop one, the next day I will have to find two, which is not a problem usually because all the oil spreads around. I draw a parallel to alcohol here becuase this is also how my experiences with the firewater would go... each time I pick at my skin I have to do a little more until I am eventually hunched over the mirror for quite some time. (Or hunched over a bar, passed out...) So, the ONLY way I found to stop picking at my skin was to resist the urge to walk towards the mirror. I don't mean stop doing your makeup, I mean differentiate your "makeup time" from your "picking time." Then, you are either walking towards the mirror to wash your face or put on makeup and nothing else. This means that if your picking is brought on by stress and visual stimuli, you have to stop yourself in your tracks at the EXACT moment you start to get sucked into "mirror-land." The first time you do this will be the hardest, but if you do it once, you will most assuredly be able to do it again. Scenario: Oh look, a bastard pimple- trying to claim my face as it's own. I'll destroy you!! Gahh!! *starts walking towards mirror* *FREEZE* what am I doing? why? This is not going to help anything.... I have had experience with this method over and over again. STOP WALKING. Look at your whole face, blemish included. WALK AWAY FROM THE MIRROR. It is so important to look at your whole face. Try to see it as a whole, even with an imperfection or collection of imperfections. If your blemish is inflamed or red, your body is trying to heal it. Let your body do the work and don't introduce more bacteria to the area. I have found that if I break the cycle here, I can control the urges. This urge for me is all about the hand/eye connection. If I can feel an imperfection and I pick at it while doing something else, I can easily stop, however, if I am picking in front of the mirror, I forget I have a name, I forget everything and like I said, I become just a hand. I HAVE to stop BEFORE this stage or all is lost for me. Actually watching those little bastards give up their lives under the cruel domination of my hand is too pleasurable, too addictive.... I have found that the key here is to break the dopamine/serotonin cycle of daily picking. I have only had one method work and this is it. This method takes an incredibly large amount of applied conscious decision-making. It also takes a whole lotta self-love. You have to love yourself enough to be able to stop hurting yourself, but you also have to very very carefully understand that once your are held fast by chemical dependencies it is very difficult to break them, and at that point it is no longer about love anymore, it is about something that seems too powerful, and indeed in many ways becomes uncontrollable withough cognitive therapy or medication. I am just offering up what works for me. I am not suggesting that this will work for people who have been way further down the rabbit hole than I, nor am I suggesting that there is no place for therapy or medication. I just sincerely hope that at least one person benefits from my little monologue here. Hope I haven't offended anyone! c: P.S., I love you all. Being a human is not easy. <3 Katherine
May 23, 2009
All I can say is.... THANK YOU : ) I am a recovering drug addict and my picking is defenitly a feel good substitute. I will take any suggestions I can get so reading this is defenitly helpful.