Evening everyone. Hope you’re all well 🙂
Yet another new topic in today’s blog post. Well, new in the sense that I’ve not spoken about it before; but I’ve had this particular issue for years. When I was younger, I’d pick the skin around my thumb and fingernails when I was anxious or stressed. It was a distraction essentially. As time went on, it became a habit; something I would often do without even realising. Whether I was actually anxious or not, I’d suddenly notice my skin was sore or bleeding. I only recently looked into it online as it got to the stage where I’d be picking almost constantly. Turns out it’s possibly something called Dermatillomania and it’s actually surprisingly common. Let’s get some facts and science stuff, shall we? Oh and I just want to stress that I haven’t officially been diagnosed with the condition but feel that my experiences match up with what I’ve read so far.
Also known as excoriation disorder, or compulsive skin picking, dermatillomania is a psychological condition that manifests in the form of repetitive touching, scratching, picking, and digging at one’s own skin.
Most people pick at their skin from time to time, but you may have skin picking disorder if you:
• Inability to resist the urge to pick at your skin
• Cause cuts, bleeding or bruising by picking your skin
• Pick moles, freckles, spots or scars to try to “smooth” or “perfect” them
• Don’t always realise you are picking your skin or do it when you are asleep
• Pick your skin when you feel anxious or stressed
• Feelings of tension or anxiety right before picking the skin.
• Feelings of relaxation or the release of tension immediately after picking the skin.
You may pick your skin with your fingers, fingernails, teeth, or with tools like tweezers, pins or scissors.
Well there we go, folks. A brief little window into the general world of compulsive skin picking. Now for some more personal experiences. As I said, it’s something I’m pretty sure I’ve done since I was at least a teenager (I’m 25 now). I do think it began as an anxiety response behaviour but it has since developed into a habitual action; I do it almost constantly and don’t even realise. The skin around my thumbnails is my main target area. I’m almost always fiddling with them in some way or at least touching them. Even as I’m typing this I’m rubbing my thumbs together in-between paragraphs. Or when I’m reading I’ll make sure I’m holding the book in such a way that lets me access my thumbs. For most of you this probably sounds utterly ridiculous. And I luckily don’t pick at them to the extent where I’ve caused any long-term damage; well, nothing that I’m aware of anyway. But the urge to pick is so overwhelming. I bought myself one of those squishy stress toys to keep my hands busy. It does the job when I remember to pick it up, otherwise I’m straight back to it. I think what it boils down to is this: I have to consciously think about not doing it. It’s not something I have to remind myself to do. It’s like breathing or blinking. A constant, habitual action that just…happens. If you sit there now and focus on not blinking, you feel the urge creeping up as your eyes begin to sting and water. Then once you do blink, you feel relief and possibly mild pleasure. Skin-picking is the same. It’s background noise that, when silenced, causes a bubbling anxiety and irresistible urge to start it up again. You become restless and focused solely on the thing you’re not doing but yearn to. So you take the background noise off of mute and the relief washes over you. It’s satisfying too. I’m looking at my dodgy thumbnails now, hoping that the sight of them will deter me from making them any worse. But I know it’s not that simple.