My Dermatillomania Recovery

My Dermatillomania Recovery

When my cat died in July of 2014, it shook me to where I stopped picking for days for the first time since it developed into a disorder in childhood. In learning that my chronic behavior was capable of pausing, I sought out local therapy to investigate this shift in my condition.

In October, I met with a therapist and was disappointed when he didn’t know what a BFRB was, and suggested that the textbook on his desk would be the only resource he could use to help me.

I hoped that once I was assigned a professional I could maneuver myself within the system to educate about Body-Focused Repetitive Behaviors (BFRBs) and offer sources for professionals so at least one in Nova Scotia, Canada, could be properly trained to treat people with these compulsive conditions.

My Dermatillomania Recovery
Angela with “Piggy”, 2011
My Dermatillomania Recovery
Dick de Gier Photography, 2012


After coming out of a depression in my early 20s and being public with my disorder, I ignored the pain of looking different due to a compulsion so I could be strong to pursue dermatillomania awareness.

In not knowing recovery was possible, how could I accept the reality that I would have open sores all over my skin forever? Instead of focusing my helplessness, I found my voice in challenging myself to go public and slowly strip away my shame. While getting involved in advocacy seemed like a positive step forward, I wasn’t dealing with the negative impact of cruel comments online about my appearance. My body image had improved over the years, but I was still frustrated with extreme pick sessions and the scarring it left behind.

My Last Attempt for Help

At the third visit with the local psychologist, he and those above him didn’t agree that the TLC Foundation for BFRBs Professional Training Institute was an essential training program to treat skin picking, so we agreed that I wouldn’t see him.

No progress could be made from the distrust caused by a lack of interest or initiative in wanting to learn more about my condition. The same day, my husband was with me to advocate on my behalf (and we signed off on a house!).

When we returned home, a part of me was disappointed because I was no longer naive that my local system was not going to change anytime soon- and certainly not because a patient recommends it. After former employee Leslie at the TLC Foundation for BFRBs saw my post online about this experience, she encouraged me to submit it to their blog and newsletter, where it was published a few weeks later.

An Unexpected Opportunity

That night I received a surprise e-mail from CBS asking me to appear on the American daytime talk show The Doctors.

After eight years of not asking for help for my skin picking, I demanded better for myself and somehow got it with celebrity therapist and BFRB expert, Karen Pickett! Most of my recovery will be explained in our upcoming book EMBRACING DERMATILLOMANIA: Through Pain & Recovery. With our segment being taped in December, Karen and I decided that it was best to begin therapy the first week of January so it would be finished by the time my husband and I moved.

My Dermatillomania Recovery
Backstage of The Doctors
My Dermatillomania Recovery
Working cover for EMBRACING DERMATILLOMANIA: Through Pain & Recovery

Beginning Therapy

I approached Karen with the idea of writing a book detailing our twelve sessions, with additional entries outlining homework and my reflections on the material. She agreed and wanted to co-author it from the therapist’s perspective!

I told her that I don’t know “what’s wrong with me” because I couldn’t stop picking with all my willpower, but would do anything she asked of me even if I didn’t think it would be beneficial so I could say I tried my hardest. If therapy didn’t work, I planned on condensing my experience to a simple blog post.

My picking slowed down quickly the first month, but I didn’t notice an emotional change until the week after I presented at TLC’s 2015 conference in Washington, DC. I had appeared on CTV’s Live at 5 segment, Mental Health Minute, and my face was clearer than ever.

As Dr. Renee Reinardy said at the conference, our BFRB is the messenger trying to tell us that something is amiss the moment an urge takes hold.

Years of Advocacy Led to Recovery

My Dermatillomania Recovery
Karen Pickett and I in her old office

In being discovered by CBS, I earned my way to proper therapy that should be available to all skin pickers and those with other BFRBs.

Being a loud presence online drove me to continue focusing on advocacy that led to my surprise recovery. It’s unfair I had to go on national television for therapy because help should be available in my community.

When I was a child who began exhibiting problematic signs, a teenager when it accelerated, early adult years when I wanted to die, the deterioration of my dermatillomania and mental health could have been prevented.


I had just moved into my house, was fresh in recovery from excoriation disorder, was getting ready for the TLC conference in DC when the documentary was finally released!

The day after I returned home from the incredible conference, I had my final appointment with Karen. It’s as if the sequence of events was tied together in a neat little package, for everything related to my recovery to come together.


My Dermatillomania Recovery
Scars of Shame is FREE online!

I challenge my urges frequently and am told they will die down, but for now I can manage them. As suspected, getting through urges was never about individual “tips and tricks” shared online; it was about becoming mindful of my picking through a comprehensive program that entailed logging, challenging cognitive distortions, learning to be okay with uncomfortable feelings, and much more!

PLEASE help me achieve my goal of worldwide awareness of dermatillomania and other body-focused repetitive behaviors!

BFRB Awareness

Years ago I thought I was a freak, inside and out, and while I had battled some body image issues pre-recovery I wasn’t able to fully confront myself and challenge some deeply embedded beliefs.

I ask you today to find an article on BFRBs and share it with your friends. Tweet it. Blog it. Anything social media related- please, spread awareness! Spread hope and let your friends know that YOU are a safe person who will not judge if they, too, have suffered in silence.

For more information about excoriation disorder and BFRBs, please visit:

The TLC Foundation Logo
My Dermatillomania Recovery
My Dermatillomania Recovery

It takes a collective, a passionate group of people to care about the suffering of another being, to create the awareness needed to alleviate the suffering of others. I want to do what I can to give back to my second family, and provide hope for recovery to the BFRB community.

Thank you for all the support and encouragement you have given over the years.

I am deeply appreciative of your support and motivation, which has helped me continue fighting for the cause, and myself. From the bottom of my heart, thank you for reading, sharing, and believing in me even when I didn’t.

Check out the documentary Scars of Shame and Angela’s memoir FOREVER MARKED: A Dermatillomania Diary. Learn about her upcoming recovery book EMBRACING DERMATILLOMANIA: Through Pain & Recovery. Follow Angela on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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