Dermatillomania (picking at your own skin)

For as long as I can remember I’ve had this really gross habit that I often feel self-conscious to admit to. Sometimes I pick the skin around my fingers or on my lips. I’ve no idea why and despite the fact that I’m tired of having sore unsightly fingers I often don’t notice what I have done until it’s too late. Sometimes the urge is triggered by the desire to clean up a piece of jagged skin but mostly I seem to catch myself doing it when I’m either feeling anxious/stressed or I’m thinking really deeply about something. My family have noticed this habit and have on many occasions tried to stop me, but it just leaves me feeling frustrated. There’s just something about picking that feels oddly pleasurable.

I’d never actually considered seeing a doctor or looking this issue up before as I just always assumed it was simply a bad habit on my part. I’m also able to get by mostly without any consequences to this as I don’t often pick through too deeply. Even so, I am really worried that one day I’ll end up with an infected sore or something. No matter how much determination I pour into breaking this habit though, I can’t seem to control it. I once grew my nails long and dressed them up, but once again I eventually succumbed to the urge to pick. I’ve also tried covering my fingers up but then I just ended up picking at the plasters until they fell off.

When I first met my boyfriend I was really embarrassed to show him my hands, but then he told me that he too did the same thing; for once another person understood. I then recently thought, ‘why haven’t I looked this up before to see if there are others out there with this habit and perhaps maybe a solution to break it.’ So I Googled it and was surprised to find that there are actually a fair few people who do the exact same thing. I then stumbled across the term ‘Dermatillomania,’ which is a disorder (often associated with OCD or anxiety) in which people compulsively pick at their own skin. The two main reasons for doing so are either a response to certain emotions or Body Dysmorphic Disorder (the need to constantly try and clean up your skin.) Often it is difficult to stop because of the way the brain can make us feel rewarded for certain repetitive activities. While I think that my situation is a lot milder than some of the examples I’ve seen I wonder if this condition could explain my own behaviour.

Phew, I guess this was a pretty weird subject to bring up, but it feels kinda good to possibly have an explanation. I also wanted to share this in case others are also suffering from a similar issue and just like me are feeling embarrassed about it. I think everybody has their own thing, habit or behavioural issue though and there’s absolutely no need to feel bad about it.

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About wallcat

I have a strong passion for computing. In particular programming for which I am able to use a variety of languages including C++, Visual C#, Blitz Basic, Actionscript 2.0, Python and Lua. I also enjoy web-design and have some knowledge of HTML/CSS, PHP/SQL and Javascript. As well as programming I have a strong background in art and enjoy drawing in my spare time. When Iā€™m not sat at my computer I like to keep fit by going to the gym or using my exercise ball.

4 responses to “Dermatillomania (picking at your own skin)”

  1. MissLynne says :

    I have a lot of problems with picking my skin, especially around my ears. It is very common and its a normal way of coping with stress and anxiety. I am going through CBT and it has helped me a lot with it.

    • wallcat says :

      I feel like I was born with anxiety issues (seems to run in my family a bit) plus I have previously been diagnosed with moderate depression, so perhaps this is just a by product of that. I hope that your CBT continues to go well and good luck for the future.

  2. Sarah says :

    I have a similar issue that only really comes up in situations of anxiety (except I chew on the skin on my lips and fingers). Yeah. Not becoming.

    Something that has helped me is to keep the areas super hydrated (with things like Chapstick or cuticle creams). Without having that dry skin to pick/chew, it is much more difficult for me to do so!

    Good luck!

    • wallcat says :

      I was really surprised to find out how understanding people can be about this. I always worried that my bad habit would gross people out; especially when my fingers start to bleed. I’ve mostly just ignored this issue throughout most of my life, but recently the soreness on one of my fingers has been annoying me and yet every time I try to let it heal I seem to somehow fail at it. Thanks for the advice, I’ll give it a go. šŸ˜€

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