Dermatillomania: the skin picking disorder

You may be wondering from the title of this blog, what is a skin picking disorder? It is no secret that most of us have squeezed a spot, pestered a pimple or scratched a scab, so when exactly does this everyday habit turn into something serious?

For me, I realised that I was suffering from a skin picking disorder when picking at my skin became an obsession: I couldn’t sleep if I hadn’t sat at my vanity and extracted every blackhead from my nose, I couldn’t eat before aggravating every little bump across my cheeks and there was no chance that I was leaving the house without poking and prodding at my pores in my bathroom mirror. It became abundantly clear that I had a problem when even though there were no visible blemishes on my skin; I was still closely inspecting my skin for something to dig at.

After my realisation, I decided to research why my habit had developed into this harmful obsession. By reading articles from the NHS and Mental Health America, I found that the compulsive urge to pick at my skin can be known as dermatillomania. Dermatillomania is a mental health condition that falls into the body-focused repetitive behaviours category. It is characterised by the repetitive picking of the skin, hair, or nails to the extent where harm is caused.
I noticed throughout my reading that many people who suffer from dermatillomania experience the same feelings of satisfaction and release from stress and boredom when they squeeze and poke at their skin as I do.

Dermatillomania can cause people to go into a trance-like state where they do not immediately notice the damage that they are doing to their skin, only the fulfilment and relief they are experiencing. There have been countless times where I have sat in front of a harshly lit mirror feeling as though I can’t have done that much harm to myself in 5 minutes, only to realise that over 30 minutes have passed, and irreversible damage has been done.

When I finally snap out of my trance and back away from the mirror, the feeling of satisfaction immediately subsides. I am left covered from my forehead to my chin with angry, red bumps. Tiny, unnoticeable blackheads have grown into inflamed cuts and minuscule pimples have developed into painful sores that I know will only turn into unattractive scabs as the days pass.

Despite the physical effects of my picking, the part which affects me the most is the feelings of embarrassment, guilt and self-consciousness that arise from causing so much damage to my face. These feelings cause me to go into a manic repair mode where I apply every serum, face mask and toner under the sun to try and reduce the bumps and redness. When this doesn’t work overnight, I choose to stay in my room and hide away from the world so that nobody has to see (and judge) my lack of self-control.

After a while of being trapped in the revolving door which is dermatillomania, my partner noticed both my physical and psychological uncomfortableness. This led me to open up to him about my struggles and together we decided to investigate what I could do to help me stop picking.

Many long-term solutions were recommended to me online that I still need to explore, such as therapy, regular visits to a dermatologist and identifying and avoiding triggers that create the urge to pick. However, some of these strategies are time-consuming and expensive, so I needed to find immediate solutions.
Therefore, I decided to take the advice I had been given on a dermatillomania support group on Facebook and make someone aware every time I felt the need to pick. So far, I have found this helpful as having my partner’s support and encouragement has convinced me to leave my skin alone. I have also discovered that keeping my hands and mind occupied when I want to dig at my face makes it much harder for me to pick. I have begun to time my reading, writing and Netflix binging to when I feel that dreaded urge to pick, meaning that I have a healthy distraction.

I also began to research what skin care ingredients can aid in reducing redness and soothing sore skin. Niacinamide, Salicylic Acid and TeaTree are some of the main ingredients which are suggested by trusted skincare sites, so I invested in products which include those.

A product that I cannot recommended enough is the Clarity Face Oil by Gaia&Vie. It includes TeaTree, Vitamin E and Omega 3 which all work as anti-inflammatory agents to soothe skin and fight breakouts. This skincare product helps my confidence when I’ve given in to the temptation to pick as the reduction of bumps and redness makes me feel as though I can leave the house without being gawked at!

If you or someone you know is suffering with dermatillomania, don’t be afraid to ask for help, and always remember to be kind to yourself.



About the Author
"I am a Fashion Marketing student in my final year of university where I specialise in and thoroughly enjoy fashion writing! I am also a social media coordinator, where I write copy and create graphics for an agency. I hope you enjoy this blog and perhaps learn something new about dermatillomania.
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