Overcoming Dermatillomania

Tasneem Abrahams
May 27th, 2017

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For most, it’s only natural to assume that the longer you’ve had your problem (e.g.  dermatillomania), the longer it has to take in therapy, etc., to fully cure.  But is this really the case? The truth is, how long you’ve been struggling with dermatillomania, or how bad it’s been, has nothing at all to do with how long it has to take to get it handled once and for all. It is not about perfections, it’s about overcoming dermatillomania in the long run.

Not about perfection

Most people would consider having high standards a good thing. Striving for excellence can show that you have a good work ethic and strength of character. High standards can also push you to reach your peak level of performance. Perfectionism, on the other hand, involves a tendency to set standards that are so high that they either cannot be met, or are only met with great difficulty. Perfectionists tend to believe that anything short of perfection is horrible, and that even minor imperfections will lead to catastrophe.

Trying to be perfect is also likely to make you feel stressed and maybe even disappointed with yourself much of time because you are not able to meet your standards easily or at all? Over time, you may even start to believe that you are not as capable as others. Therefore, it is worthwhile to consider loosening up your standards a bit to ease the stress and anxiety you may feel from trying so hard to be perfect.

It’s no one’s fault! It’s not your fault that you compulsively picking your skin, and it’s not the fault of your family members. It’s not the fault of the people who because you stress that increases your tendency to pick your skin. It’s a disorder, and the good news is that it’s one that’s treatable. There is no one treatment that has been found to be effective for everyone but different combinations of the various therapeutic interventions can work to limit the skin picking behavior.

Therapy and tools

  • Breathing techniques, you can find very effective breathing techniques online
  • Sketching on an IPad, this is good because you can do it anywhere, its almost like carrying a figget toy
  • Art. To express yourself, paint of write what you are feeling. Or instead of picking make marks on your body with a marker of where you want to pick
  • Medication. Sometimes antidepressants, anti-anxiety medications, and further medications that address other issues behind compulsivity can be helpful in the treatment of trichotillomania.
  • Counselling/ therapy. One-on-one cognitive behavioral therapy is usually the treatment of choice because it’s a therapy that focuses on learning new positive behaviors to replace negative behaviors.
  • Alternative therapy. Animal-assisted therapies, creative therapies, active therapies – each of these can help patients get to emotional places where words cannot penetrate.

As hard as it may be to tell people about your skin picking, having to hide that you are suffering from dermatillomania can increase your anxiety which in most cases will only cause you to pick more. The more you accept your condition and come to terms with it, the less anxiety you will have over it.

Tasneem Abrahams

Tasneem is an Occupational Therapist, and a graduate of the TLC foundation for BFRBs professional training institute. Her experience in mental health includes working at Lentegeur Psychiatric hospital forensic unit (South Africa), Kingston Community Adult Learning Disability team (UK), Clinical Specialist for the Oasis Project Spelthorne Community Mental Health team (UK). Tasneem is a member of both the editorial team and the clinical staff on Skinpick, providing online therapy for people who suffer from excoriation (skin picking) disorder.

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