What It's Like Living With Skin-Picking Disorder

Updated on January 4, 2019
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ShiraJena has suffered from dermatillomania for many years and has learned to cope with it using various methods.

What Is Dermatillomania?

I have been living with a body-focused repetitive behavior for over ten years, and there is still a lot that I don't understand about myself and this disorder. A body-focused repetitive behavior, or BFRB for short, is a mental disorder that manifests physically. There are a few different types; hair pulling and skin picking are the two most common. Skin picking, also called dermatillomania, is when a person picks at their skin enough that it causes damage. The most commonly targeted area is the face, though many other areas of the body can be targeted, as well.

Many people pick scabs and pop pimples, but dermatillomania is much more than that. It is usually hard to control, and it sometimes relates to obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and anxiety. Some people will pick when stressed; perhaps it started as a habit that has now gone too far. Some will come across inconsistencies under their skin and feel the need to remove them. Though this looks more like a physical illness, it is not. I have struggled with dermatillomania since I was a child, and I wanted to make others more aware of this disorder that is rarely talked about.

Self Harm vs. Dermatillomania

When I was in college, I didn't have the resources needed to cover up the many scabs on my face. Many people, strangers even, would ask if I had taken a bad fall. Family members would constantly worry about me. The hardest part was not being able to stop destroying my arms, legs, and face. I was not able to control when I picked, and would sometimes need to run to the restroom to stop the bleeding. People sometimes associate this with is self harm, though it is completely different. Self harm is when someone hurts themself purposely. People with dermatillomania have an extremely difficult time controlling their picking. They don't pick at their face because they want to self harm. People pick because they have anxiety or feel the urge to remove imperfections from their skin. Though dermatillomania might look painful, it is not in an attempt to self harm.

My Experience With Dermatillomania

I had dermatillomania for a few years before I even knew what it was. Only a few months after I came across an article online, I got diagnosed. I was more happy than not, excited that I wasn't alone and that I wasn't crazy. I would sit in class and rip the scabs off my face, wiping the blood with my sleeves. I didn't know what was wrong, and I didn't know how to stop myself. It got to the point where I would constantly be moving, never giving myself the time to pick. I stopped seeing friends, worried about what others thought of me.

Eventually the dermatillomania became apart of who I was, and I forgot it is noticeable. I didn't wear makeup, and I would find myself having a ten minute conversation with a stranger about how I fell down the stairs. I would come home after a long day, and need to spend an hour in the bathroom, popping every pimple and removing every scab.

I still have dermatillomania, and I know that it won't just disappear. One of the hardest parts of dermatillomania for me was coming to understand that I will have it for the rest of my life. There is a small chance it will go away, but not without time and energy, energy that I don't have right now. Like an addiction, it will always be something in the back of my mind.

Dermatillomania Resources

There are a few different treatments for dermatillomania, though there isn't an immediate cure. The most common treatment is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. There are also medications that help with anxiety which could be contributing to the dermatillomania. I have never gone to therapy, but I have developed my own coping strategies. Below, I will list some resources that may be helpful for you, or a loved one.

Know That You Are Not Alone

I did not write this article for attention. There aren't many people who have shared personal stories about their dermatillomania online or elsewhere. When I first learned I had this disorder, I wanted to find someone I could relate to. I wanted to know that I wasn't alone. I hope that my story helps someone else who is struggling, and helps others become more informed.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

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