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Hi all. I've been reading these forums for the last few months and they've been very helpful. I wanted to share my experience in case it proves useful to others.
I've always had some sort of SPD/OPD behaviors, but the one that's stuck around the longest is picking the skin around my fingernails. I would frequently pick and bite at the cuticles and skin until it bled, and this was a source of extreme shame. I would occasionally be able to stop biting and only pick, but never entirely.
I'm about to turn 35, and I've become more and more frustrated that I still had this behavior. I've made numerous attempts to quit only to return to the behavior after a few days. However, I've now gone a month without SPD behaviors, which is by far the longest for me. I feel like I've turned a corner, and while I still need to stay aware of my behavior, it has gotten easier over the past few weeks.
What did I do differently this time? I added a more structured approach using a CBT model that I worked on with a therapist. I made a checklist in my "Notes" app and would go through it anytime I was feeling the urge to pick:
1. Identify troubling situations or conditions in your life. - SPD
2. Become aware of your thoughts, emotions and beliefs about these problems. - I have a strong compulsion for skin picking behaviors. The desire is rooted in anxiety and obsessive thinking.
3. Identify negative or inaccurate thinking. - I have to follow these behaviors even if I don't want to.
4. Reshape negative or inaccurate thinking. - I have the strength to change my behaviors.
By going through this multiple times a day, I increased awareness about SPD incidents before they happened, and this awareness allowed me to change them. This method certainly won't work for everyone, but I wanted to share it here since reading your posts has given me strength that I'm not alone in this.
One of the unexpected benefits of going through this is an increase in concentration. I was so focused on obsessively picking that I was unable to really focus on more complex tasks. I've found myself able to read and work with better focus. It's not a drastic change, but something I didn't expect. There's also a tremendous shame that's been lifted -- I no longer feel the need to hide my nails in pictures or in public, no longer need to rotate my hand so that the red or bleeding nail isn't shown toward a person.
My main takeaway here is that increased structure (particularly via CBT) has helped me to avert SPD behavior. You can do this, even if you've failed before. Thanks to everyone who has posted here for sharing your experiences and helping me to feel less alone.