12 Dermatillomania Myths Dispelled

January 9, 2013 9:51 am 51 Comments
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[[[ Breaking News: The very first documentary on skin picking, "Scars of Shame", will be released in April of 2014! Stay updated by clicking "Like" on its Facebook page. ]]]

With the DSM-5 now officially released, it is imperative that we eliminate all misconceptions about Dermatillomania (aka, “Excoriation Disorder”) and spread the word before these ideas become the majority thought. Many of us have already heard many of the myths listed below, so we need to make sure that these reflections don’t become accepted views on what Dermatillomania is and how it affects us.

1.  MYTH: Skin pickers can just stop at any time.
TRUTH: If this were the case, we would have already stopped because it causes us emotional distress having to deal with the aftermath of marks on our bodies. Our brains are activated by a reward system that reduces anxiety once we get a “good pick”, which can make us feel accomplished thus making us continue the behavior. By the time we get a diagnosis, we will already have the behavior ingrained in our daily rituals, making it much more difficult to reverse the behavior and find other coping mechanisms. We pick at our skin to reduce anxiety but then become anxious because of the visible marks we make, which heightens our anxiety, then we engage in the behavior again as a way to reduce that anxiety, creating a vicious cycle.

2.   MYTH: All skin pickers have an underlying skin disorder causing the need to pick.
TRUTH: While many people start picking at their skin due to skin disorders (ie. Acne, Eczema), not all have one to start with. Having one can trigger the onset of Dermatillomania, but many of us have started with picking at perceived flaws such as multiple pimples/ blackheads causing the compulsive behavior. Some skin pickers, mostly those who are prone to Body Dysmorphic Disorder, never had a skin disorder but found imperfections to pick at.

3.   MYTH: Picking at your skin is the same as “cutting”/ burning.
TRUTH: This is the one that aggravates all of us pickers. There’s nothing as dismissive as when someone tries to relate to you by saying, “Oh, I know what you’re going through… I used to cut myself”. Yes, people are trying to relate but that lack of knowledge about what Dermatillomania is drives us mad!  Some people with Dermatillomania engage in other self-harming behaviors, but it’s not a prerequisite to having the disorder nor is there a direct attachment between the two. A person who cuts (even if it’s compulsively) does so to feel the physical pain in order to release endorphins making him/her feel better as a distraction to not have to cope with emotional turmoil. Many skin pickers have a cognitive distortion that justifies them in picking, so they get on a “mission” and can dissociatively ignore most of the physical pain in order to achieve what they’re set out to “accomplish”.

4.   MYTH: Everybody pops some zits… does that mean everyone has Dermatillomania to some degree?
TRUTH: Dermatillomania isn’t as simple as popping some pimples. There is an obsessive nature behind the urge, which is why it’s been classified under OCD and Impulse Control Disorders. There is a repetitive nature behind picking at your skin whether it’s a conscious decision to place yourself in front of a mirror and ‘search’, an action that begins without you noticing while you watch TV, or something you do while you sleep. Skin picking becomes a disorder when you are unable to stop yourself in the moment, can’t control when you’re doing it/ how often you do it, and it affects your day-to-day living while affecting your self-esteem.

5.   MYTH: To be a compulsive skin picker means that you do so because you hate yourself a LOT.
TRUTH: Many people with Dermatillomania start off with low self-esteem and feel like they want to fix something that is wrong with them and use skin picking as a socially acceptable way of making themselves feel better (it’s acceptable because it’s not noticeable until it becomes a disorder). For all of us, self esteem issues arise or are exasperated by this disorder because we feel alone, can’t control our urges, and blame ourselves; it also prevents us from feeling accepted, makes us feel judged (if the truth came out), not understood, and stops us from even anywhere remotely close to “normal”. The stigma of the disorder and the judgments regarding the marks on our faces/ bodies are what drive us to further feelings of isolation and self-loathing.

6.   MYTH: People who pick at their skin, leaving marks, do it for attention.
TRUTH: Quite the opposite, actually. We spend much of our time trying to cover up the damage we inflict with makeup or clothing so that we can face the world without anyone noticing our scars because a high majority of us are ashamed of the marks- not just because they irritate our skin, but because the action that caused it was at our own doing and continues to be. We try to hide the fact that we have this disorder because it isn’t well-known to the public and the stereotypes attached to it are damaging.

7.   MYTH: Picking at your skin to the extent that it causes noticeable damage on a daily basis means that you are under the influence of illegal narcotics (ie. Meth).
TRUTH: Methamphetamine is a stimulant that can result in skin picking from hallucinations of something under the skin, which falls under an amphetamine psychosis. It is also a stimulant that increases focus and speeds up thought processes, which can stimulate obsessive behavior. Once the drug is removed from the body, the user’s behavior is more than likely to disappear because it is the source that induced the Dermatillomania. Those of us who don’t do drugs have different root causes for our skin picking (see next MYTH).

8.   MYTH: Skin pickers see things on or under their skin that isn’t there; they are experiencing a psychosis.
TRUTH: A smaller percentage of skin pickers do experience psychosis, but there isn’t  a direct correlation between skin picking and psychosis; the most common co-morbid disorders to go along with Dermatillomania are Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD), Anxiety Disorders, Trichotillomania, Depression, and Personality Disorders. In the cases of a psychosis being the main cause of the skin picking, the behavior will discontinue when the psychosis is treated; keep in mind, there are a smaller number of individuals with psychosis who have Dermatillomania as a separate issue- it is a disorder, not a symptom, for these individuals.

9.   MYTH: Dermatillomania is a made-up disorder made to enhance the DSM- if it were a real disorder, it would’ve already been in there.
TRUTH: Why would someone make something like this up- what is there to gain from it? Trichotillomania (hair pulling disorder) was added in the DSM III- R while skin picking remained a symptom of other disorders, such as Borderline Personality Disorder, falling under the self-mutilating category. It was hidden in the contexts of mutilation, as causing harm to your skin means to mutilate it, but it wasn’t further explored as a stand-alone disorder until later on. This is one reason why comorbidity is so high with other mental illnesses. The other reason is that Dermatillomania affects much more of a person’s life that by the time it’s recognized, it’s already created problems in other areas of functioning which attributes to other mental illnesses.

10.  MYTH: Picking at your skin is just a bad habit.
TRUTH: While the behavior of skin picking can be considered habitual in nature, dumbing it down to “habit” is hurtful to us; when we hear of a “bad habit” we can’t help but think of instances such as it being a bad habit for a male to never put the toilet seat down in a predominantly female household despite reminders, cutting your toenails and not throwing away the clippings on a regular basis, or consistently not wiping crumbs off of a counter after fixing yourself a sandwich when being told to a million times. It is better classified as obsessive-compulsive or even a behavioral addiction.

11.  MYTH: Skin picking isn’t a serious issue- it’s superficial because it only hurts someone’s appearance.
TRUTH: The simple act of a person popping a few zits is harmless, but the disorder Dermatillomania IS a serious issue that affects all facets of life. Social and physical isolation, suicidal ideations, embarrassment, a lack of control that starts to trickle into work/ school/ other thoughts (depression and/or obsessive), and anxiety over a lack of control, being seen with marks, social anxiety, or generalized anxiety. This is just a short list of how it hits us emotionally, but it isn’t the only way we are affected.

Physically we are prone to infections, even if we keep our “picking tools” (clippers, tweezers, pins, etc.) and picking areas clean. There are life-threatening bacteria out there that are resistant to anti-biotics and all it takes it one wrong one to enter a wound before there’s nothing you can do about it. Of course these are more rare circumstances, but there’s a reason why our guardians had a ritual for us when we scraped our knee that included cleansing, Polysporin (or rubbing alcohol), and a bandaid- imagine having to do that to every wound all the time! From entering the “trance-like state” where we dissociate and don’t feel the full effects of the pain we’re inflicting, we can (and it’s documented) tear into muscle or veins/ arteries that need immediate medical attention.

It may seem superficial to many, but when you have a malformation that you can say was done by your own hands, the shame and guilt is enough to consume a person.

12.  MYTH: There is no treatment for Dermatillomania.
TRUTH: Here is the good news- there are treatments to this disorder. While Dermatillomania is highly resistant to treatment, there are methods that are known to help the sufferer. The most common treatments are Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)  which includes Habit Reversal Therapy and Stimulus Control and/ or SSRI’s (anti-depressants) to try to lessen the severity of the urges. Other methods include, but are not limited to, hypnotherapy, acupuncture, meditation, prayer, yoga, support groups, and an AA program. TLC implements a program called “Hands-Down-A-Thon” that many people who pull their hair or pick their skin partake in for the specific community support.

Research has been done on a supplement called N- Acetyl Cysteine which increases levels of gluthione in the body, seen in a study to reduce the urges of hair pulling when taken in higher dosages. It has not yet been looked into for long term use past 3 months, so it isn’t an approved method but shows promise for people with BFRB’s.

No, I don't have cancer, AIDS, a "bad habit", an infectious disease, and I don't do drugs. I pick my skin and it's a real disorder- I am not alone.

Share this article or click “like” at the top of the page to further help make this disorder known to the general public so we can all gain access to treatment providers and educate the world about a little-known disorder that affects up to 3% of the population. You can help our cause.

 

Subscribe to Angela’s blog to get updates on the Scars of Shame documentary, awareness campaigns, research findings, and musings about this disorder. If you have ever felt alone in your struggles with Dermatillomania get your copy of the ground-breaking memoir FOREVER MARKED: A Dermatillomania Diary, available for any reading device or in soft cover.

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51 Comments

  • Kat Underwood says:

    I suffer Dermatillomania. I wish it was as simple as some of these things, such as its not a real disorder, if it was it would be in the dsm….I pick at my skin, it brings me comfort, shame, strength, sadness, and scars me for life both physcially and mentally. I wish my doctors would have told me about this long before now, instead of me learning about it on the net after believing for so many years I was crazy, alone, and not worth being pretty….

    • I understand completely, Kat. I was finally told by my dermatologist after going through all of my teen years feeling like a 'freak' and so alone. I hid it for social survival and I knew the marks on my face could be attributed to acne. It's more difficult as an adult because a smaller percentage of adults have acne, so other accusations are made instead to make sense of how we look. The world can be so judgmental at times!

    • Rebecca says:

      Ditto what Kat said. I haven’t had medical benefits for a few years so I haven’t officially been diagnosed, but I’ve been searching off and on for 5 years trying to figure out what this is. When I found the information on dermatillomania out there on the internet (including this site) I literally cried in joy and sadness that others are experiencing this too (joy of not being alone, sadness because I wouldn’t wish this on anyone).

      • I have this inner- conflict too, Rebecca. I want more people to find all online supports, be informed, find out they aren’t alone in their struggles but once true awareness about this disorder is acknowledged years from now we’ll see just how many people suffer. A lot of people stay away from professionals also, fearing the reactions they may get from an uninformed doctor/ therapist. When you do have the means to look further into your diagnosis medically (if you choose to), ask around for professionals who deal with various matters on the OCD Spectrum, including detail Dermatillomania. Many times having this disorder means there is a co-morbidity of another mental health affliction that may be exasperating symptoms of the picking. In the meantime, there are lots of resources I’ve compiled on http://www.skinpickingsupport.com that you may find useful. :)

    • macy says:

      I know how you feel. Everyday I wake up and look in the mirror and just stare……i mainly pick at my chest so it makes it extremely hard to buy shirts bc I dont want someone to see that I pick…..wishing you could.just stop…i hate looking at myself…then you feel like no one will ever be attracted to you…its a lot to bare and for someone to say its not serious obviously has never walked in our shoes

  • Thank you so much for dispelling some of the myths surrounding Dermatillomania. As a sufferer of Derma for over 20 years now, I’ve heard them all! I especially hate the drug addiction myth. I have been accused many times of being a meth addict because of the marks all over my body, particularly my arms. In fact it even caused me to lose a job once. I don’t do drugs and I don’t ever think there are things under my skin so I become angered when people can be so naive about this condition. Then again there is not nearly enough awareness of it as there should be. It’s great to see others putting themselves out there and giving this condition a much-needed-voice in society. Thank you!

    • Oh no… I can’t believe you lost a job over something false! Nevertheless, having a meth addiction isn’t a reason to fire an employee anyway. I also get angry hearing about this condition in vain or misunderstood because it’s real and the suffering is beyond what other disorders have (not to compare per say, but we don’t have the supports or even education from clinicians) which destroys lives. I think there are many types of Dermatillomania that will be exposed as research continues, but sadly we must wait until that happens. Until then, we can support each other and be each other’s encouragement. :)

    • Tiffany Spangler says:

      OMG!!! That angers me so much too! But in a way, I’m kind of glad that somebody asked my husband if I was using meth. If it wasn’t for that person, I wouldn’t be on here looking for help. I knew people looked at me with disgust and pity, but never knew what their real thoughts were. Another person I came across would get mad at me every time I picked, she told me I could just stop if I wanted to. Well dummy, I want to, but can’t stop!!! They should think that if I could just stop picking, I would have done so by now. So many people are uninformed and ignorant. So many people feel they have to lay their “insights” on you when they don’t know shit. I could go on and on.

  • Christina Wallace says:

    I was wondering if there are any societies in the UK that would maybe like some fundraising assistance for this disorder? Any direction you could point me in would be awesome.
    My sister has Trich and seeing what she goes through is hell. I would like to offer a fundraising oppertunity to any society who might greatly benefit to all related disorders.

    Kind regards and respect on your open veiw and bravery.

    Christina Wallace

  • Veva says:

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this, what a great article! I’ve posted a link to it on my skin picking blog. :)

  • Meagan says:

    Wow, this was a GREAT post. I have recently learned about dermatillomania, but I’m quite sure I’ve had it for several years. I look forward to reading your other posts, and looking around on your blog. Great site!!

  • Leanne says:

    Thank you for starting this support website and for this post. It hits the nail on the head and describes all the things I have felt over the years because of this disorder. The isolation, self-loathing, and shame are the worse. Those mornings when I have to figure out what to wear to cover my arms and chest and shoulders and collar bones – those are such awful mornings. I hardly recognize myself anymore (both physically and psychologically). This disorder definitely overwhelms me and makes me feel apart from everyone else in society. I wish I had the courage to tell more people that I suffer from this, or even post it on FB – but I’m too ashamed so I keep it hidden (except for about 4 people who I have confessed it to). I’ve also often thought about AA meetings from the perspective that I would LOVE to have that feeling of being included in a group where i don’t have to hide or feel shame. That would be an amazing feeling. Sometimes it’s hard to remember I am a person outside of this disorder that wears me down and makes me so sad.

    • I understand completely, Leanne. Sometimes it’s hard to see past the scars we’ve created and our self-image becomes distorted because of this. Some people have used AA’s 12 step program as a way to curb their picking. While I am not a fan of the AA model, I can respect its value and successes it has achieved for its original purposes… but there are mental health groups you may want to look into for inclusion about the feelings you are experiencing to know you aren’t alone in that, even if others can’t directly relate to what’s causing them for you. xox

  • Jenn says:

    Very well said! Thank you soo much for posting. :) im at the point where i dont care who knows i have this issue.the more awareness the better.nobody even knew i had it because i didnt WANT anyone to know i did.i would move (still do who am i kidding!) from one area to another depending on certain things like the weather,clothing i would be wearing soon,my work schedule etc. there are worse things that we could do than pick ya know? so ive shared this on my FB and will continue to raise awareness! :) i believe there are more underlying issues at hand like gmos and vaccinations etc that over the past 20 years have dramatically increased diseases and disorders.but thats just my opinion.Ive picked (also a tad of trichotillomania as well) since i can remember.probably since about 5 years old.the longest ive gone w/out picking is 2 weeks tops.im sure i cheated myself alittle here n there but for the most part did good.it is a viscious cycle.i also believe the more natural approach the better.all drugs have side effects that bring on other issues while only masking the underlying issues that may cause these disorders.

  • Somnus says:

    I wanted to say thank you. Your openness has inspired me to be more honest about my condition as well, and I’ve even gone so far as to make a public blog post about it (here: http://somnuseternus.blogspot.com/2013/02/ocd-dermatillomania-and-me.html , if you’re curious).

    I can’t tell you just how isolated I felt before I stumbled on this page. I really, truly thought I was alone in this, but it’s like we share a story.

  • sue says:

    You all may think I’m nuts but I have a 3 year old granddaughter who will not stop picking the skin from her fingers. Having skin on her fingers drives her crazy! Before I even read some of the comments and articles I said to my daughter that what my granddaughter is doing seems to have some OCD familiarity to it. One article I read said a very small percentage of children under the age of 10 can have this disorder, but 3 years old? Is that even possible? I am definitely concerned. She does it at home and at daycare, which they have also brought to our attention. Do we dare bring her to her pediatrician and have it probably chalked up to dry skin or something else? We put lotion on her.

  • Mitzi says:

    Thank god for the SSRI’s. I only have 3 open holes right now. You have no idea how huge that is for me. I just wish I knew this all when I was a kid. I was far too little to have pimples, I didn’t have any image issues, I just NEEDED to make the holes. It never hurt, but I knew it was bad. I used to lie and tell my parents I was itchy (so many medical creams, obviously they didn’t do a thing). I would even scratch in my sleep, I would wake up with my fingers all bloody… I cut my nails once, I cut them so far down I couldn’t possibly scratch. I made it almost two whole days before I just couldn’t stand it anymore and I made a really bad mess of my leg using a hairbrush. The damage was so bad I never cut my nails down again after that. I just learned to wear long pants or at least 3 pairs of stockings at a time, throw away anything white. … Eventually I trained myself to stop scratching my legs, but I started scratching my arms instead. By the time I weaned myself off my arms I was attacking my face, then my back, then my scalp (seriously, never dye your hair with holes in your scalp), etc etc queue vicious cycle. … Not until I met someone with this same problem did I get any real help at all and its like magic! It worked really well for me and I went from dozens of holes to almost none overnight! Now I see my cousin covering familiar spots on his legs and I know just what to tell him.

  • Pam New says:

    I am a fellow Bluenoser, but I was transplanted to Ontario many years ago. A few days ago my Mom told me about the article in the Herald, and she kindly sent it along for me to read. I have to say that I KNOW I have been a picker for a long time, but only to a mild degree by the sounds of things. (rarely more than a couple dozen spots at any 1 time) Actually, I think it is mostly the pain that helps me keep the numbers and severity under control. But there are times when even though it has made me cry, I still feel like I am watching myself carry on my merry way picking at every little cut, scratch or whatever. And it is only the last couple years that I have been trying to figure out what was going on, why I do it, and how I can stop. When I first even realized/noticed what I was doing, I thought it was like my migraines. I have had some good success with a process called “Focusing” (there is a book out with this title, and I think the last name of the author is Gendlin, written in the 80′s sometime) for my headaches, and I was sure this could lead me to an understanding of why . From there it would be a quick fix. Then on to some “Thentix” lotion to help fade the marks and done! Since then, I have gone on a journey thinking it might be an addiction, or a symptom of OCD, or just a bad habit that now I was aware of doing it I could easily stop. My husband has started yelling at me and slapping my fingers, assuming that will be the end of it, because he says so!!! AS IF!!!! Or maybe I should say, if only *sigh Truthfully, I have been wondering if keeping everything covered up just makes things worse, so this summer I plan to try getting out in the open and the sun more. I wear t-shirts and long pants because my husband has a real thing about the possibility of skin cancer from the sun. But I used to enjoy being in the sun, not excessively, but often. This is the next step I plan to take/try.
    Thanks for listening to my little tale. I am always pleased to meet new. folks

  • Claire says:

    I just turned 15 and I have had dermatillomania since I was about 12. I never knew what it was or really thought about what it was until I stumbled upon this disorder yesterday. I had always thought that it was just me and I had something seriously just wrong with myself. It got so bad that for a whole year at least, every single night I would stand with my face up at the mirror and try to squeeze out and pick out all the little marks that I would see or think are forming. I couldn’t pull myself out of it while I did that or even try to, but after I would feel self conscious and like I have to hide myself. I also pick at my fingers and pull the skin off around the nail as a sort of compulsion which really hurts and when I do it at school and my fingers start bleeding I get really nervous and uncomfortable and have to wrap the sore in my jacket sleeve to stop the bleeding. Both of these compulsions really interfere with my life but are just so hard to control. Ways that I have tried to prevent it are: not touching my face to feel any bumps or anything, holding my hands tight behind my back when I walk into a bathroom and look in the mirror, getting something small to hold and keep my hands busy when I would otherwise pick at my fingers, and walking outside when I feel like I’m about to pick my face.
    Thank you so much for everything that you do and making people more aware of this disorder. :)

  • Terri Sneddon says:

    Finally a name for what I am doing :) I’ve been picking at my skin mostly face, back & arms for as long as I can remember I’m now 36 I have good times and bad thought I was alone I would love to get help but every GP I have ever had has told me they aren’t infected and just stop :( easier said then done so glad I stubbled on to this site by just googling skin picking didn’t expect to find anything. maybe next time I go to the dr I can show him this website and get help. I’m getting married in 10.5 mths and want to look my best and I know I have future operations coming up. I was so scarred they wouldn’t do the last one I had 6 weeks ago as they asked if I had any scarring or wounds I had 4 days to try to not pick & let them heal I wore gloves and moisturised and drank lots of water it helped a little but I felt like I was going to go nuts like now I have the urge thank god my hands are busy and I am thinking about it.

  • I suffer so much with this, sometimes It gets so out of hand , I only stop because I cant stop, I start crying and begging myself to stop. I have stopped the worst of it. But every time something goes wrong I feel this urge to hurt and carry on, get rid of whatever ugly is in me. I will never be able to wear a skirt again, or wear a bikini. I am ashamed… Thank you for the guidance.

  • Peter Errey says:

    I'm not really sure where to start. I've had the disorder for a while now. Im ashamed and feel like no one I know even knows the severity or has any idea about the disorder. How I feel about my skin affects everything I do in life. My confidence especially. Im a happy person and thought I could cure myself but I can't :( I need help and Im too scared to tell anyone of my friends about it cause of my shame. I dont know what to do. Im so over this disorder, its dragged on for years. I'm afraid my skin will never get better because its too far gone. All I want is clear skin.

  • Caitlin Lewellen says:

    I remember I started when I was six. First it was the feet. I would use my mom's sewing needle to pick at the soles until they were in shreds and I could hardly walk. Sometimes it was out of stress, other times boredom, but most of the time, I hardly was aware of what I was doing. Then it went onto my fingers. My mom had taken me to multiple of doctors, but they didn't understand it. I could see my mom was desperate, and I started to hide the wounds around my thighs and stomach when I found a new target spot. I finally convinced my mother that I had stopped, then went back to the feet. When I first started puberty, I would pop my zits, but then I would keep trying to pop them even though I knew they were already empty. I would get these huge sores on my face. Every time I looked at a mirror, I would search for bumps to squeeze. It got to the point of having skin infections on my legs and feet causing a subsequent emergency room trip. Enough was becoming too much. I had to deal with this. I've been going to therapy and taking medication. I have gotten a lot better. I still have urges, but not nearly as much anymore. To all of you out there, know that there is hope and help. Information needs to be spread about this issue. Sorry, if my reply was lengthy. I needed to give a cathartic response.

  • john foote says:

    hello im so glad I found this soport ..im realy getting so sick from picking sores all over me and thay are allways raw and getting real big…this is the first websit that I found that in all the years ive been searching the web wow im loking for a doctor that may help me …

  • Taylor says:

    Thank you for posting this. I’ve had trichotillomania since I was 5 (I’m 23 now) and suffered for a long time; strangers asked prodding questions/made rude or just plain mean comments, and even my close friends and family did from time to time. Now that it’s more widely understood, I encounter this less often–but it does still happen, and it definitely still hurts. I’m just more comfortable with myself to shut them down or educate the ignorant, haha.

    I also just found out recently that my father had dermatillomania–though I’m sure he didn’t know it had a name. My mother picks at her scalp and often has deep wounds under her hair. My little brother came to me recently and asked if a wound on his face was infected–when I asked where he’d gotten it, he admittedly shamefully he’d done it to himself, to “even out” his skin after a pimple came in. Because of my struggle with trich and the research I’d done, I was able to educate him about dermatillomania and help him realize what he’s been doing all these years–in secret–is nothing to be ashamed of.

    I spent so many years wondering, “Why me? Why did I get trich and no one else in my family did?” But now I realize that I’m NOT the odd one out. My entire family suffers from the same core problem; really, it was just a fluke I started pulling my hair instead of picking my skin.

    When I became pregnant, I started picking at my scalp. Though a new habit, it progressed quickly and is now almost as severe as my trich. I don’t like that I do it, obviously, but I’m able to accept it fairly easily because of my experience with hair-pulling. I’ve always picked scabs (I actually eat them, too–is that weird or do other people do that?) so honestly, the scalp-picking felt natural, and kind of inevitable.

    Anyway. I just wanted to say thanks again for posting this. TTM and DTM are very similar in so many ways, and unfortunately share so many of the same misconceptions. Maybe someday the truth about these conditions will be common knowledge. Until then, all we can do is help spread the correct knowledge to others.

  • Ashley says:

    I’m glad someone understands out there that these things are not just a bad habit or to be written off so lightly. I’ve had this for YEARS. I find it weird, though that everybody seems to know how old they were when it started. I really cant say when I started, one day I just noticed that I did it for long hours and it made me feel so much better until I pulled away from the mirror and saw how damaged my face was and I felt like crying. However, this is my normal. I’ve always been really great at makeup and wear it really well, so alot of negative emotions were do-able and really only limited to right after I did it. But then one day I was in my moms living room and realized I was picking at my skin without a mirror, and without my even knowing I was doing it. Thats when everything got bad. I would do it at work, at my moms house, everywhere. and it got so bad that makeup didnt really cover it all that well. What upset me the most is that I have very beautiful, resilient skin. I always have, so the only thing keeping me from feeling pretty is me. also, I’ve felt more embarrassed as ever because I recently got married and my husband sees it now, not just me. He says I’m still beautiful, but everyone on this site knows its not. You can take the most attractive person alive with the physical effects of this and they will look ugly.

  • Katrina says:

    I don’t know if it’s considered dermatillomania at all, but when I get severely stressed or anxious.. I tend to scratch and pick at my scalp or my upper arms (I have little bumps that are like dry skin). It’s probably a lot less severe than it could be. But it does become distressing. I know my scalp isn’t from dandruff alone because I wash my hair often enough and use a special shampoo (I’ve been through just about every dandruff shampoo). Anyway.. Today I saw my sister scratching her scalp. And I know she’s going through a lot. But suddenly I didn’t feel alone. Then I found this. Thank you.

  • Archaniel Rafael says:

    Thanks for this, I, too, am a sufferer. Things have gotten a bit better for me since I have been treated for anxiety and depression with antidepressants. I have been treated with these for almost 14 years now and am on a much lower dose than what my initial dosage used to be – but the skin-picking problem, although milder, still perseveres.
    I hope it just keeps getting better – even if it doesn't stop completely, I want it to keep subsiding and I mean all of it – the depression, the anxiety, and the skin-picking.
    I guess I have these problems because of some other problem in my family that are, and always will be, pretty much out of my control. It's difficult to see your dad and brother to struggle with alcoholism for example, and to only be able to do so much about it.
    I guess the skin picking with its simple and immediate gratification just helps to forget about one's problems – if only for a while.
    I still pick daily. I need to be able to forget on a daily basis then, I guess. I basically still worry in vain on a daily basis about things that I can't change.
    Recently I started meditating with youtube videos by Eckhart Tolle and I think this is helping a little as well though.
    I hope everyone with these sort of problems tries all available therapy approaches and really gets the help they deserve. It's a long and drawn out process but it's worth it: I have to say I a m much better than I used to be in the past.
    There can always be – if only a little more – light as we progress through the the tunnel of the illness.

    • fxk2 says:

      Thank you for this reply. Everything you mention hits really home, bringing a moment of mixed sadness, relief, compassion, and mostly, HOPE.
      I’m aware this disease will be with me throughout a lifetime, and I’ve managed to find medications that actually work, even though the disease is still inside me. Now, I can actually function and make it through my day. Progress is progress, This is a world of progress, compared to horrors in past experience while the illness was out of control. I don’t even know how I managed to stay alive, and I will do everything in my power to avoid going back.

      thank you

  • Archaniel Rafael says:

    Talk to your doctor, I suggest, they can refer you to a specialist. Tghere are people out there that wil be happy to help you through this. You would only be struggling on your own but that's completely unnecessary. I know it maybe hard to tell someone you think you have a problem, People worry others will not understand, will dismiss it as though it is nothing, or sometimes people just worry, they may start to cry while explaining…. But doctors are used to tears, there are a lot of people with these and similar problems, some doctors have these problems themselves… Everyone has some kind of pain in their life that they are afraid to confront. The pain wants to live too it doesn't want to stop existing an is very resistant. But it's not worth it not to fight it. There's enough pain everywhere, we don't have to also inflict it on ourselves ourselves….
    I wish you, and all off us well! There is always hope things will get a little better…….

  • Maria says:

    thank you so much. I think my mother suffers by dermatillomania, but no doctor “sees” it, nor she really wants to be cured (she’s “just” …desperate -and i’m too. My legs, too, seem that image).
    Thanks for your help.
    -Sorry about my awful english, i can read but not write it-.
    Have a good life, more than ours.
    Maria

  • Maria says:

    “more than ours”: sorry, maybe “better”, not “more”

  • Marie says:

    thank you everyone for your comments.I am the adult daughter of a habitual alcoholic. I remember when I was 5 I started picking my feet my toes until they bled. I would put hydrogen peroxide and alcohol on them, wrap them in band aids and put my shoes and socks on and walk in pain daily.I graduated to ripping my fingernails and skin from around the nails, but they too were easily hidden with a bandaid here or there. today I’m 43 years old and just found out through this website that I have a condition, a real disorder. I know now that I’m not alone. I’ve been suffering in silence since I was a child. Now I have to find help; I just want to say thank you, thank you all for your bravery incoming forward, out into the light. Thank you for letting me be me, allowing me to be heard and finally admit this out loud.

  • Vera rudinica says:

    I only became aware of this disorder recently when I noticed a daily ritual of picking my scalp all over. I got tremendous feelings of satisfaction and competence if I was able to have the scalp all smoothed out and no bumps left standing ( so to speak). It stated as an unconscious scratching whilst talking to people and then developed into a systematic daily activity and then some more. My fingers would start tingling to get at my scalp and quite unconsciously I would find my hands in my hair.
    Not sure about anti depressants helping because I have been on them for years and only developed this quite recently.
    I guess if we have a predisposition to compulsive behavior it is just one more expression of that. I only need to do a new behavior or learn something new and off I go, good or bad. Weird as. Great to have sites like this for reading other peoples experiences and learn of new ways of looking at this behavior .

  • Barb Germann says:

    I recently saw an episode of Dr. Phil where this issue was discussed. I have been picking since I was a teenager and am now 58 years old so have lots of scars to remind me of the compulsion. I confess that I thought it was a “bad habit” and I lacked impulse control – therefore it was my fault I picked and my fault I couldn’t stop. Since the show I have been researching the issue and am so relieved to learn I am not alone. I am heading to my GP today for a referral….am excited to get started at stopping.

  • Kitten Schaefer says:

    I’m so happy that i am not the only one. Am 48 and have picked since a way young child. Staryed with knee scabs and well…got worse. No haircut in over 10 yrs (scalp sores=scared to go), when i had ins, was told by multiple dr’s to….just stop, grow up, wear gloves, etc…..i cant wait tobe alone so i can pick…i am disgusted and so lonely. I live in my room so no one will see me and all my “angry” sores. Tried natural remedies but am just so ready to give up. Never wanted to be alone but no guy in their right mind would want to touch me or be seen with this. Pick so much and consistantly that my skin burns 24/7…thighs, rear, upper arms, upper back and scalp. I have no job nor ins. Thank you for letting me open up….no looks of “judging” or disgust here

  • K says:

    Thank you so much for this informative and refreshing article. It’s so nice to know I’m not alone, however, I would never wish this disorder on anyone.
    My symptoms started when I was about 6 or 7. I pulled my eyelashes out one by one, without realizing what I was doing. Nothing helped when I’d try to stop, until all my eyelashes were finally gone. Then I started chewing the inside of my mouth until breaking the skin, causing open sores, irritation and sometimes worse. By 8, I grew into bulimia. A full blown eating disorder, lasting 25 years and amost killing me. Skin picking started in early college, I struggle every day with my overwhelming urge to pick, pop, scratch ect. I’ve never experienced skin problems or acne, but I hate how the scars look on my face. It’s the most isolating feeling, accompanied by shame and guilt. After many years doing modeling, I feel like the marks on my face can’t even be covered in Photoshop. And I’m terrified of being seen in the wrong lighting or without makeup.
    My heart goes out to all of you who struggle with this illness. The pain is unbelievable, but at least we understand each other’s feelings.

  • K says:

    Btw, I’ve been on 40mgs of celexa for many years now. This medication has seriously changed my life, I can’t say enough positive things about it. I recommend trying it, although medication is different for everyone. Keep in mind, finding a medication that works is always a trial and error basis. Don’t give up the search, there’s meds out there which will help improve your life. Just be patient and don’t give up!

  • Molly says:

    My skin picking started as a teenager. But i picked at my fingers, my right index finger was my main target. It was always sore, especially to write with, and I usually covered it with a bandaid, to hide it’s uglyness. It wasn’t until years later I stopped picking my finger. All seemed well until I met a man had a child to him. He cheated on me many times and was awful to me so for 6 years I picked at my skin any lump I picked at and scratched and squeezed. I had boils on my face (very very painful) now scared, which adds to the lumps and imperfections on my chin, eyebrow, lip and back of my neck. Since leaving the relationship (1year now) my picking has extended to my chest and boobs. I’m a single mum running a business that up until recently made me very little coin. I notice when I get busy and stressed I tend to find lumps and make sores on my face. It’s an aweful disease and no one understands who doesn’t have it. I’m on antidepressants (due to the ex) have been for 2-3 years. I wish it would just go away like I achieved with my finger, I almost prefer to go back to my finger at least I could cover it up although it was always so painful.

  • Molly says:

    My daughter picks at her fingers too. Not from seeing me do it. Could this disease perhaps have a herideritory line to it? How can I get my daughter to stop when I can’t stop picking at the lumps on my skin?

    • fxk2 says:

      yes, this is a very strong genetic predisposition. Unfortunately, medical research and the study neurological function cannot be identified as easily because we lack information needed to determine family history of the disease. Whether or not you have a family member who recieved accurate diagnosis or treatment, the disease is very apparent once symptoms begin to surface. My brother and I have ADHD, depression. It became unmanageable by the time we reached late teen’s or early 20′s. At age 6, I fully developed extreme habits and behaviors, by age 8, full-blown bulimia. Over the years, various habits manifested and deeply effected my life. My mother suffered from mild depression and OCD, however, my father suffered from schizophrenia. Neither of them ever recieved the correct diagnosis or treatment. Over the years, I watched schizophrenia transform my dad into someone I never knew. He’s lost more than anyone can imagine, leading to a devastating bankruptcy, millions in assets and real estate, and losing a successful business he dedicated a lifetime to building.

      I wish I had the answers to your parenting dilemma, but I don’t.
      Only suggestion is to speak with her directly about what she’s facing, and support her 100% of the way. Tell her its totally ok to feel lost with the behavior, but there’s medical professionals who may help, before it gets worse…
      Let her know, she’s not alone. She’s NOT facing it alone. You may not understand 100% of her feelings, but she’s not alone.

      best of luck

  • Hope says:

    I wish there was some easy way to stop..I’m only 13 and have suffered for years…I have many scars and hyperpigmnetation on my arms, face, back, and shoulders. I restrict myself very much on my clothing because I don’t want anyone to see my marks. I’ve tried using makeup to cover up..It’s extremely depressing. I’m also Arab, so the dark marks stand out on my skin. I wish could get some help before something this serious stops me from living..

  • Sheila Hilpertshauser says:

    Wow. After years and years of picking at my fingers and now at my face; after years and years of my mother telling me to stop and now of my husband begging me to stop…and after years and years of wanting to stop, but telling myself that this time I will finally scrape off all the dead skin and all the scabs off my face and then I won’t have to pick anymore…just this once…just this one last time…and realizing there is never just one last time…the scabs keep coming, the facial hair keeps needing to be plucked and the dead skin on my fingers keeps returning…I cant’ stop.

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