“Want to go to my parent’s for dinner tonight?” my boyfriend would ask.
“No, can I just hide out at home instead?” I would respond.
I didn’t want them to see my poor face, red with spots and bruises. I would notice a pimple on my face, and naturally, lean in to try to pop it. But over the years, my seemingly harmless habit morphed into compulsive skin-picking, and I would end up scouring my face for the slightest imperfection to pinch, squeeze, scratch, or claw at.
“Stop, you’re only damaging your skin,” you’re probably cringing. Oh, believe me, I know…and yet I’m also absolutely convinced that if I “gently” remove that sesame-shaped blackhead lodged deep within the pore, my skin can finally heal properly. It’s so inexplicably satisfying that by the time I realize I’m doing more harm than good, it’s too late.
Well, apparently, there is an explanation – it’s classified as skin picking disorder, or Dermatillomania. A counselor once described skin picking as a temporary escape and release due to classical conditioning (think Pavlov’s dogs). Much like nail biting, skin picking disorder is a chronic, body-focused, repetitive behavior that can help relieve feelings of tension or anxiety for individuals. By identifying the triggers, it’s possible to replace the behavior (start with things that will keep your hands busy, such as painting nails), learn to cope in healthier ways, and slowly disassociate from the conditioned stimulus.*
While some people can spend hours everyday picking at their skin, luckily my picking sessions usually happen monthly when I start to break out (ugh thanks hormones🙄). One of my 2018 New Years Resolution is to stop picking because it unfortunately has affected my social life and self-esteem. For those who can relate, please know that you are most definitely not alone. I’d love to hear about your struggles, and of course, if you have advice, please share 🙏
*I am not a doctor or medical professional. I just want to share my story, so take my understanding of this with a grain of salt.