Driving is a prime environment for skin picking behavior, but competing responses can help. People who pick their skin fall into two categories:
Driving is one of those activities that many people do alone and as a private place, or it can become automatic allowing one’s thoughts to wander.
In habit reversal therapy, before considering replacement behaviors, you learn to recognize circumstances and locations that trigger picking. For many people, driving is a frequent location. Once triggers and behavior patterns are recognized, you learn and develop strategies to disrupt the behaviors you want to change. One of the strategies for disrupting behaviors is the development of competing responses.
Competing responses are movements that are incompatible with habitual behaviors like skin picking. Think of something that is the opposite of the behavior you want to replace. It should be something you can do for longer than a couple of minutes and will be more less unnoticeable by others. It may be something challenging that you do with your hands, or something easy to do that just keeps your hands occupied.
Examples of competing responses that can be used while driving include:
Choosing effective competing responses is a process of trial and error. A suggestion is to track what you try and how it works. For example, maybe you have a 30-minute commute from work and your after-work commute is a usual time when you engage in picking behavior. As an experiment, for one week, pick a different competing response from the list above. On a piece of paper, write the day of the week, your mood when you leave work, the competing response you try, and how many times you felt the urge to pick at your skin. In addition, write down how many times you actually picked at your skin. At the end of the week, look at the results for the entire week to determine which competing behaviors seemed to work best. Then, try that one competing behavior for at least 3 days and track the results. After the 3 days, try the next successful competing response and track the results. Continue this process until you find the competing behaviors you like best, are easiest to implement, and have the best results. Skinpick.com created a free self-monitoring tracking app that can be downloaded on android and apple devices.
Implementing competing responses takes some time and progress may be slow. Set reasonable, achievable goals for practicing the competing responses. When you achieve your goals, celebrate or reward yourself somehow. Keep track of all the goals you achieve and once a week or once a month, look back at what you achieved. Then you’ll notice the difference.
Rego, S. A. (2012). Beating body-focused repetitive behaviors: A two-pronged approach. Presentation at the Anxiety Disorders Association of American convention. Retrieved from https://www.adaa.org/sites/default/files/Rego%20194.pdf