12 Dermatillomania Myths Dispelled

January 9, 2013 9:51 am 99 Comments
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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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  • 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.

    • Beth says:

      My daughter also picked at anything and everything. We do not have a picture of her from after 2 without an sore. Dermatologist told us she would grow out of it. 15 years later we are still fighting it. She developed a lot of anxiety over the years.

    • Kara Noel says:

      First off, she may have eczema (which commonly occurs on hands) and be uncomfortable. I would take her to a pediatrician immeditately. I’m not sure why a doctor telling you it’s dry skin is any kind of “risk.”

      She may also have an dermatitis from something she’s come in contact with. If the lotion you are using on her contains mineral oil or other chemicals, it could make it worse. Get a lotion like cetaphil that is designed for skin conditions like this.

      With either eczema or dermatitis, the doctor may precribe/reccommend a cortison cream. I would wait to talk to a doctor before applying it, though. It can have side effects and isn’t appropriate in all circumstances.

      And last, 3 is not too young to develop a picking disorder. I began picking at my scalp when I was 4-5. I’ve been doing it off and on since (I’m 40).

  • 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 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.

  • me says:

    Just a useful tip for while you are watching TV. Put a wet cloth on top of the areas that you pick at. It helps remind you not to pick. Make sure that it is damp though otherwise it will just be like a blanket and you can accidentally forget why it is there. Also, figure out when you pick and find something that requires your attention for that time. Pottery might be good, lots of smoothing out and might give the same feeling if “yes, I made it clean and pretty”. Hope this helps.

  • Julie says:

    I have suffered from this since i was about 13 – so about 26 years. The only thing that has changd is the intensity of my need to pick and the places on my body I pick at. I haven’t chosen this specific places but wish i could because at least then i would chose the least seen parts of me. I am obese and my skin quite literally tears and therefore gives me plenty of opportunities to find sites to pick at. I realised a few years ago that my mum is also a skin picker but in a slightly different way – she picks at the skin around her nails until they bleed but more recently has begun to pick at her scalp. We spoke about it and we never realised that there was a link between that and me spending much of my teenage years ripping craters out of my legs. I am absolutely covered in scars and add to them daily. I am incredibly embarrassed by this disorder and have never told my GP or even my best friend. My husband is aware but having a conversation about it is too difficult for me. I suffer with recurrent cold sores and have done since the age of 15. At this time, because i picked, it became horribly infected and i was left with a 2″ patch of cold sore infected skin on the right side of my chin. This whole area now has cold sores permanently appearing all over it which gives me even more pick sites which take ages to heal. I absolutely despise myself partly for being obese and partly for being covered in scars which i alone am responsible for. I am a mental health clinician specialising in acute mental illness, people in crisis, CBT and child protection. Why can i not sort myself out? I feel incredibly lonely and have periods of depression. I have been on anti-depressants for 9 years and counting and I cannot see an end to this. Help!

  • Chakitta says:

    I’ve suffered with this condition since I can remember, I am now 31. All of it that I have read it true so far….”making already good skin even more perfect by disfiguring it” what a joke…. but that is what we are trying to do! As a kid is started with pulling my hairs out and picking but it never became a real social problem until about 8 years ago…..My fingers and arms are full of scars …. and yet I continue to do it ….not just an hour or 2 ….its more like a day or two. I have a history of drug addiction and yes it is true Amphetamines and meth make it worse……I was so bad on amphetamines , I had no skin on my hands and arms ….even my chin…… I avoided society for weeks and ended up in hospital twice…. I also suffer from severe OCD and maybe depression too …..but I have for years,,,, the drug abuse didn’t help either. I feel very alone and am always trying many methods in hiding my problem, makeup, plasters, clothes, accessories like bangles, armbands and rings…. My folks are aware of my condition and as soon as they see a mark on me…they immediately think I am back on drugs…. but sometimes its not the case…..this leaves me living with permanently anxiety of hiding hiding hiding……………. what I have also started struggling with are my joints in my hands… I do for so long at a time that it affects my joints so badly…. I have got to a point where I cant bend my left thumb…. it locks ….. im permanently on painkillers and I know what the only cure is and that is to stop…… I cant stop

  • I so feel your pain! I hope there is a successful treatment out there for all of us even if its not a one size fits all!

  • Melissa Luning says:

    Girl…we must be the same person. I relate to everything you just said. You aren't alone.

  • Kim CR says:

    Wow, I have been a ‘picker’ since I was in my very early teens and on the occasions that I visit home the pleading of my parents of “stop picking” which I was so used to all those years ago can still be heard from time to time when I stand in front of the mirror in front of them. I once went to a psychiatrist who told me that I had underlying issues, he was patronising, I didn’t want to hear what he had to say, I was 14 and in denial but also in pain-mentally and emotionally, I attended 1 session. I
    can see why the AA steps would have some useful tools, sober myself for 5 years using the AA program, it is the thing in life that I am most proud of, however it is not a program which seems easily transferable to my picking, in honesty I am not sure why. My picking can be worse some times than at others and I can have relatively clear complexion from time to time, however it seems short lived and although I get most anxious about my face it can effect any part of my body. I hear you all, deep within my soul. The shame, the anxiety, the fear of judgement, the self loathing, then the justification that ‘…there as far worse things I could be doing’, especially after successfully getting recovery with other issues- but then that’s all part of the denial isn’t it. So, something that I have learned from AA is that when an issue becomes so painful that you cant live with it or without it, I start to seriously look for the answers. I am here because I started to search for information, I wanted to know that I was not alone and indeed it seems I am far from alone. I suppose that I am looking for practical tips, ways that I can help myself (no insinuation that Derma is self inflicted, but it is only me that can change what I do, with the right support).
    Thank You. We are not alone in this.

  • Hi i too don't really know where to start and i have all the anxiety side of this but i completely mutilate my fingernails and all the skin surrounding them and i do have to say the severity does always depend on how anxious i am at the time but need never actually goes away ! i haven't had average looking nails since i can remember :( and also have only met 2-3 other people with these kind of continuous symptoms and it is definitely relieving to know that we're not alone, i will definitely be looking into this more as i had no idea that my habit could actually be a disorder until now, thank you so much or this information !

  • Andy says:

    Hi, my name is Andy. I am 47 years old and I have been picking my fingers since I was around 5 years old. It has been with me all that time. It started with biting my nails, I used to bite them so badly that the ends of my fingers grew over the nails. At around 26 years old I moved from my nails to the skin around my nails. It started with the skin around my nails and as I chased the edges that I had created, it would migrate to all of my fingers. I would pick and bite my fingers when ever I was at anxious moments but also other random times. It got to the stage that I was picking my fingers at pretty much every waking hour that I was not using my hands for any other reason. The truth is I was picking my fingers so much and so badly that they would hurt and bleed all the time and would be difficult to bend them. When ever people would see them they would say “ohh what’s happened to you hands, or what’s wrong with your fingers which was very embarrassing but I did just get used to that. The reason for my comments is two fold really and the first is, that I have passed it on to my 16 year old son, I am not sure that it is just because he has watched me do it for so long or if he has another reason. I will say that he is not an anxious boy. but either way it is another really bad symptom of this issue, and the second and final reason for my comments are that after 47 years of this awful problem, I have finally almost stopped completely. It has been a very difficult process and during this time I have had plenty of relapses, But I am almost there. I have managed it because of some very basic reasons. 1, I have tried to set a good example to my son and 2, I have battled the mind games we play with ourselves when we are trying to stop. The many mind games we play during this process can be simplified to just one mantra, and it is this: NO MATTER WHAT YOU TELL YOURSELF TO TRY AND JUSTIFY PICKING, “JUST STOP”. I would tell myself that I would just get rid if this last edge of skin and that would be it, but of course that would just make another edge and another edge !!!!! When you are ready to try and stop, “JUST STOP” NO MIND GAMES OR EXCUSES. “JUST STOP” I hope that this is of some help, maybe not, but at the moment after 47 years my hands are great and for the first time I can every remember my hands look normal.

  • Im seriously crying too its just such a relief to know im not alone. My mother constantly tells me to stop but she doesnt realize i honestly cant… she doesnt realize how badly i want to

  • molley says:

    Mental disorder is some thing I that wish never to experience again in my life till I die and if if I see any one of the same problem I will do all that I can to help, because it some thing you do not wish for.i was down for for 2 years that was what I was told by my love ones who never stop looking for a cure to my problem. They said they came across a great doctor name DR Alaska who told them to relax that all was going to be okay with me after the test and treatment it only took me 7 days for me me normal again. That is why I have took some time out today to say thank you. i know you will not hear me but the world is hearing me and I know they will help me thank you.if you need his help here is his contacts dralaskajohn@gmail.com or call him +2348169591194

  • Savannah says:

    I am diagnosed with bipolar type 1. Because of the constant depressive states, I started picking at my skin to relieve stress and bring my mind into the present. I was also diagnosed with folluclitis. I have picked so much that I wear long sleeves at all times. It wasn’t until just this year (I’m 25) that I sought true help. First I addressed my bipolar. I tried medication after medication to stabilize my moods. Once I was balanced, I noticed the urge to pick was almost gone. I then started seeing a CBT therapist. My need to pick is completely gone. Unfortunately I’m left with horrifying scars. I’m getting married soon and refuse to set a date because of my scars. They are all over my body. I am seeing a new dermatologist on Wednesday and am ready to be completely honest. I got the psychiatric help I needed, so I am able to battle the scars without worrying about creating new ones.

    It IS possible to stop. I did it. I would pick for hours. I could have picked for 3 days straight if I let myself. It’s almost weird not having that urge anymore.

    I hope those who read this get some hope. It can be treated.

  • Joni says:

    I am 35 years old and have picked at my skin for as long as I can remember. I had no clue it had a name! I quit wearing shorts about 16 years ago due to the questions and comments from people and haven’t been in a bathing suit for over 8 years. I am happy that I am not the freak I thought I was, but now I am not sure what to do with my new information. Thank you for having this information available. It is so nice to know I am not alone!

  • Debbie says:

    I just started reading about this disorder and although I have not been diagnosed I believe I have it. I am 51 years old and I can’t remember a time that I did not have scabs all over my arms. At least as far back as high school. I pick at all of them every day. I am constantly trying to find something to make them better. My mother use to yell at me all the time for picking. My daughter gets so angry and disgusted when she sees me doing it or she sees blood all over my arms. I have been depressed all of my life. A year and a half ago my life completely changed for the worse. I lost my job after 14 1/2 years. I hated the job but for the most part it paid the bills. A month later my mother passed away and then 4 months after that my dad passed away. My depression deepened. I finally got the courage about 6 weeks ago to go to counseling. I am also going to see a physchiatrist next week. This is something I am definitely going to discuss with both the counselor & the physchiatrist.

  • Tish says:

    What can I do for my 6 1/2 yr old daughter who has been doing this for over a year now? It started with bug bites, and that is still what makes it “flare up” the most, but I am almost certain that it will evolve into what I’m reading about here. I want to be able to help her now instead of waiting!

  • Jemma Hickman Singaram says:

    Hmmmm, I am 40, have done this my whole life and now I find it has a name? Who knew? Obviously not me…

  • I am so glad I started a google search on skin picking because I started to realize that I can't stop and now see my 4 year old starting to pick. I'm glad I'm not alone and that it has a name…problem now is I have to wait at least 4 months to see a specialist.

  • Heather says:

    Obviously, I too, obsessively pick. My shoulders, arms, head, ears and sometimes back and neck are pock marked and scabbed on a regular basis. There have been time periods where I also pick my nose till it bleeds. When it gets bad, I do cover with makeup and clothes. I never knew this was a real condition until now, just something that I’ve done my entire life. Though I’ve been through bouts of depression, anxiety, and was even diagnosed bipolar, and been on too many medications to count, my skin has never been able to completely clear. I never knew this may be associated with my mental state, just something I constantly had the urge to do.

    My question to you all is this – not only to I get the urge to pick at my self, I also get the urge to pick at others. I pick at the dry skin on my husband’s face and in his ears, and get the teensy weensy blackheads on his back (he never really breaks out like I sometimes do). My father, on the other hand, has had some severity of acne his entire life and even into his 50’s gets large pimples and black heads on his back and shoulders and cheeks. I absolutely cannot resist the urge to pick or pop something when I see it on either of them. It’s compulsive and I’m sure many would find it gross. I’ve heard them say, many times, “You’re picking at nothing!” when I just know there is something there – something I can get out of it. Sometimes I will see completely strangers with a blackhead or pimple and it takes everything in me to not want to “help” them out. Does anyone else pick at other people (or try to, or get the urge too) in addition to picking at themselves?

    • Heather says:

      Additionally, it sometimes hurts them, but I justify it by laughing it off or saying they are being a baby. I say “toughen up” or “man up”, just so they will let me continue.

  • Megan Collins says:

    I'm actually so happy that I came across your article. I recently learned that there was a name for something I had been doing as long as I can remember. I loved your truths on the myths and honestly cannot believe there are more people out there that understand, I can't JUST stop. In middle school I would get comments from close friends and other not so close that I looked like a meth addict. I almost missed an important dinner for an organization I was part of because I could not find something long enough to cover my arms. I went through high school and the beginning years of university covering my body with clothing that was too warm for hot days but it was easier to cover it up than think everyone was looking. I am 23 years old now, I have probably been picking my skin since I was 10. I am so thankful that there is a way for other people with dermatillomania to talk about it because it is something I feel ashamed off. This article was 100% correct for me when I was reading it and I just want to thank you for that.

  • Lauren DeValcourt says:

    I've been doing it all my life, since I was a baby. Mom tells me stories of daycare teachers pulling her aside to tell her I had a problem, to try to guilt me into stopping. I wish it were anywhere else on my body, then I could cover it up and hide it. But its on my lips, until they bleed, every single day, and I go through lipstick like crazy just trying to hide the fact that I can't control myself. Comments only make it worse, and when I can't sleep the dark circles make people look sideways like I'm a drug addict. People need to pay more attention to this disorder medically, so I can finally find a way to stop this. I don't want to drive myself to bleeding every day, I don't want to yell at people to tell me to quit mid session, I don't want to do this anymore. I'm just so glad they've finally diagnosed it as its own stand alone disorder. Maybe I can finally get some traction. I say that every time I try to quit though. Lets be honest, its not going anywhere.

  • Lauren DeValcourt says:

    Have you seen a doctor about your child though? Like do they tell you its a genetic thing? I srsly don't want to pass this onto my kids because of bad genes or something.

  • Alex Clark says:

    Hi Im not sure if it is genetic or simply mokey see mokey do type situation but my mum picks and has done for as long as i can remeber (not quite as servere as me) and for as long as i can remeber i have picked also. Just thought i would let you know

  • Lauren DeValcourt says:

    Alex Clark well shit. this is just the gift that keeps on giving. thanks for responding.

  • I saw my family doctor but all he can do is give me a referral to a specialist. I actually researched a specialist in my area and got the referral paperwork from them before going to my family doc. I have been diagnosed with moderate depression and was taking Cymbalta for it but stopped when I was pregnant with my first…went back on it after the birth since I didn't nurse and immediately noticed myself picking. Stopped the pills again with my second but have been back on them for a year now and am picking again. I know it has to do with an anxiety thing…the pills are helping with the depression but not the anxiety. As for the genetic thing, don't want to scare you or anything and haven't had a specialist confirm, but just from now realizing what this is, I've looked back and my dad and sister both pick and my nephew had a problem with hair pulling during a tough time in his life. I don't want to overreact too much to my son though because I think its mostly boredom right now but I'm keeping a close eye on it and will definitely talk to the specialist about it…when I finally get an appointment that is.

  • Katie says:

    I didn’t even know skin picking was an actual disorder. I have always picked at my skin, cuticles, acne, lips, and feet. My thumbs and lips receive the worst of it, I will wake up in the middle of the night from destroying my thumbs or upper lip. It’s comforting to know others do it, too. I have always thought of it as a habit of mine, brought on by anxiety or boredom. The goal for me is never self mutilation or pain to numb the pain. If fact if I am consciously picking, it’s usually to “reduce” acne or unwanted skin. This always backfires without fail and I regret it. My initial intention usually is improvement. It comforts me and makes me feel better in the moment but it usually hurts or looks hideous when I’ve finished destroying my hands, face, or lips. I do frequently worry about infection and insist on wearing gloves whenever interacting with patients (I’m a new nurse). Thanks for the post, I learned a great deal about my “bad habit”.

  • I've been doing this for 8 years. Always doing it without realizing it to the point where my arms and chest were completely inflamed. I always had to wear long sleeves and jackets and in arizona makes you stand out alot in summer. ive learned to contain a lil but its never stopped. my mom has always told me to stop, has told me how ashamed she is of me for what ive done to my skin never understanding, i myself never understanding why. wasnt till recently when my boyfriend told me to use him as a replacment, to pick his skin instead that ive finally tried finding a way to stop. i couldnt stand the fact that i started doing it to him, without even realizing while i would try to wake him up, when he'd be sitting on the computer or even just hugging me and thenid still continue to do it to myself. im so happy i found this article and many others, i cried realizing i wasnt the only one. im hoping i'll finally be able to end this so i can actually be comfortable with myself and wear normal clothes and stop having my boyfriend worry about me

  • I'm thinking about starting a page about Dermatillomania to help myself and others. There are few out there, but more light needs to be shone to this issue and more discussions need to be started. The more help the better right?

  • Cat Clarke Logan says:

    I have literally yelled out loud to myself to stop but couldn't. I thought it was just me, I'm so relieved and now motivated to stop, knowing it's a real disorder and I'm not alone.

  • Cat Clarke Logan says:

    Lauren DeValcourt My father did it and so do I. I think mostly because we have a related hereditary mental issue. Just something to watch for.

  • Cris Littrell says:

    YOUR post is spam and has zero to do with the disorder of dermatillomania so STOP SPAMMING LEGIT THREADS YOU IDIOT.

  • Cris Littrell says:

    I am so relieved to find this thread and to read your post on it. i have been doing this dermatillomania daily for at least 5 years now and feel completely out of control. I too am relieved to not be alone anymore.

  • I am so thankful for finding this support group. I have picked my skin since I cannot remember and I am 53 years old now…will be nice to talk to others that share this dreadful curse.

  • alison says:

    I’ve had this disorder since maybe 3rd grade, I’m 34 now. I tell myself everyday that its just a bad habit and I can just stop. What’s wrong with me that I can’t stop. I’ve had an anxiety disorder for so long and have learned how to manage it for the most part or at least look like I’m managing it. My friends all know I pick and I hide it as best as I can. At work, I choose to work a shift apart from other because my anxiety is an issues and picking is one of the ways I cope. I’ve tried hypnosis and it helps for a few days to give the hope to stop. I even work as a mental health professional and am so aware of what I should be doing and how I should try to help myself. I feel guilty helping people sometimes because here I am a person who has scabs on my head arms legs face and I’m trying to help them. I love what i do but i wonder if that feeds my guilt and shame.

    I’m trying acupuncture for it tomorrow and looking forward to that.

    I just got my hair done today and my head stings from the hair dye getting into my scabs. I worry the hair dresser thinks I have bed bugs or some sick illness.

    I feel better knowing you all have this too and that I’m not alone. It makes me sad too tho knowing that others are feelingthis bad about themselves too. To pick and pick until we scar and bleed.

  • Lyssa says:

    I’m seventeen years old and I’ve probably been picking since I was like 5. I’m not sure. But I pick my scalp real bad and it sucks because sometimes I catch myself doing it at school or in front of people and I feel so embarrassed… It makes my arm tired too cause I’ll lay in bed all night picking scabs on my scalp. I’ve been wanting to bleach my hair but how can I do that when it already hurts washing my hair with shampoo! Ugh I just wish I would stop. Glad I’m not alone though… I’ve felt really embarrassed about it. I’m also thinking I have BDD but I don’t know how to talk to a therapist about it. I feel like they won’t take me seriously but I know that it’s serious.

    • ariel lovely says:

      I also do it all night which is what drove me to look up if other people did it to because during the day I do not really notice. But at night my arms will ache and be in so much pain but I feel the need to run my fingers on my scalp and pick any little bump I can find. Sometimes there is even blood under my nails because of it. I am going to try my best to wear pony tails and bobby pins to block it now that I realize this needs to stop but I am just glad it could be worse.

  • Fatima says:

    I have had this problem for over 15 years now. I’m sick and tired of my husband constantly hitting my hand and telling me to leave my fingers alone, like if I was a child doing something wrong. He even does this in front of other people, making me feel so ashamed. I feel he does not understand, no matter how much I try to explain this disorder. I try to do it in secret and in my trance sometimes think I am doing it in secret when in fact, I am not. It makes me very anxious to not be able pick because my husband could be watching. And then I feel anxious because my fingers look so ugly after picking for a while. I feel embarrassed to shake somebody’s hand because they will feel my hands are not smooth due to this. I feel so depressed that I cannot control myself and feel so alone with this.

  • Sylvia Exley says:

    Totally scratch my head. Hate doing it, but can't stop. At least now I know others do the same.

  • Can you send me a friendship request? I would love to explore the possibilities of starting an online program. A constructive way to unite and beat agony this together.

  • Beth Mae says:

    Cris Littrell I too have this and it's amazing to know there are others out there

  • charlotte says:

    ive been suffering with dermatillomania all my life. Only recently did i discover it was a real disorder. My mum and sister have it mildly but somehow i ended up with it badly. It took over my life. i used to swim a lot but stopped because i was too embarrassed. i only wear tops that cover all my marks. i pick everywhere that i can, but mainly my face, shoulders and back. i spend hours just picking. i always find myself at school planning my next session. ive tried so hard to stop but the most i can go is a few hours. im having cbt at the minute which im hoping will help. i also have fake nails to make it harder to pick and i often wear gloves to help stop. its a long and hard road to recovery but im just fed up of this disorder, the scars and the embarrassment. i would really appreciate someone who understands what im going through to email me at charlottejenkins77@gmail.com because i dont know anyone else who has this and i would love someone to talk to about it because i just feel so alone and could do with some support. Together we can fight this, stay strong guys, the road has to change somewhere :)

  • Larry Brash says:

    Hi, just happened on to this site and found this Myths page. It is excellent and dealt well with the myths that self-proclaimed totally-unqualified non-sufferers try to propagate.

    I am an Australian psychiatrist and occasionally run into to people with these disorders (trichotillomania mainly), but who have been referred because of depression.

    Of interest, animals also suffer from these disorders. I was chatting to my vet and he asked me about Prozac (in was back in the 1990’s). He showed me a parrot that had pulled most of its feathers out. The bird did well on Prozac.

  • Sue says:

    I’ve been picking my face and fingers for over 30 years. I have been diagnosed as bipolar and I have
    PTSD and a generalised anxiety disorder. My face has not been clear in years, I use concealer to cover the
    marks and sores and have tried various healing treatments such as Tee tree oil, acne meds and if it gets
    too bad oral antibiotics. I feel sad, ashamed and embarrassed and my self esteem is at rock bottom. I
    avoid social situations and spend hours in front of the mirror. After a picking session I feel ashamed and guilty and then spend more time trying to cover up the evidence. It’s very reassuring to know that others
    suffer this awful condition. Stay strong, remain positive and remember that you are not alone.

  • Madi Fagliano says:

    I am so glad I found this website! I am 19 years old and I have been picking since I was 2. I constantly pick when I am alone or with my family. I have scabs all over my back, head, arms, and legs. Winter is my favorite season because I have a good excuse to cover everything up. I recently found out that there actually is a name for this condition. I am thankful that there are other people out there who know how I feel every single second of the day. My own parents cannot understand how picking makes me feel and why I cannot stop. I have just started to go to a psychologist who continues to help me once a week. These myths and truths are a breath of fresh air—finally! I am going to ask my lovely parents to read this website! for those who found this website recently too: Hang in there, and know that you are not alone! God loves you, and he will help you–and me–get through this! :) If anyone wants to talk with me, email me at madelaineblu@gmail.com

  • Deborah says:

    I have skin picking issues feel very ashamed and depressed and also suffer from low self-esteem prior and because of my face being picked. Please e-mail me at debeva@hotmail.com

  • Kaitlyn says:

    Thank you for this article. I’ve been picking at my skin for quite a long time now. Because of it, i’ve started lying to people, avoiding people and have had it interfere with my daily life. Anyone who knows about my problem tells me to stop, making me feel terrible about myself. I hate doing what i do to myself, and i have cried so many times over it. It’s good to know that there are others out there.

  • Sara says:

    I used to bite my nails when I was a child. I stopped, but then my newly grown nails allowed me to pick at my skin. I’m not sure which is worse. Until this week, I really believed I was the only person with this problem! I used to tear the skin off the soles of my feet, which I believe was a reaction to being molested by a neighbour when I was very small. It made walking terribly painful. I still can’t believe no one noticed. It was tremendously painful. I have a boyfriend now who smacks my hands every time he sees me picking at my fingers, but if I could stop on my own, I would. I hate doing it. I’m ashamed of how my hands look. I have to say that it’s reassuring that I’m not alone. Thanks for your post.

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