Home > Dermatillomania (Skin-Picking Disorder) > “Skin Picking: The Freedom to Finally Stop,” an Excerpt

The following is an excerpt from Annette Pasternak, Ph.D’s new skin picking self-help book, Skin Picking: The Freedom to Finally Stop, which can be found in e-book form on amazon.com and through Kobo.


Congratulations! Please give yourself an appreciative pat on the back. Beginning to read this book is an important first step toward freedom from chronic, ongoing and destructive skin picking. Chances are you have had a skin picking problem for a very long time and have tried very very hard to get yourself to not do the behavior, to no avail. Any amount of effort you have tried and perhaps succeeded at, temporarily, you have ultimately gone back to picking with a sense of hopelessness that you will ever be free of this compulsion.

Having been there myself, I completely understand. But from now on, I want you to think, “No more hopelessness.” Simply trust that it can be done, and from now on, focus on learning how and taking positive steps. When you focus on hopelessness and doubt, that only causes the hopelessness to grow. You’ve already done that enough, haven’t you? Did you know that if you look at a wall by the side of the freeway instead of the lane you are in, you will likely drive into that wall? (Don’t test it!) I know where you want to be – you want to have perfect skin and feel great and be 100% skin picking-free. But if you look at that as the only acceptable place to be, and you see how far you are from that reality, you’re not going to be able to do it. Yet I know you are capable of taking small positive steps and being okay with gradual progress, and with where you are at each moment along the way. Starting now, see if you can open yourself up to being okay with how you are right now. Because only when we are focused on now do we have the power to choose, and each choice we make now determines our future. When you make peace with now, you will get a future that is bright with all the possibilities you deserve.

Chances are, if you are a skin picker, you are also a perfectionist. Know that perfectionism is your enemy, more than the skin picking is. You can even look at the picking as a symptom of the perfectionism. Nobody is perfect, and if you continually strive for perfection, you will never measure up, and the thought of being “less than” will make you miserable.

When I was 28 years old, my friends and I went hiking in the Grand Canyon, and stayed overnight at the bottom of the canyon at Phantom Ranch. One of the rangers, in her talk that night, told us that the next day when we hike out of the canyon, the rim of the canyon would always look so far away. For nearly the entire day, it would never appear any closer, and with our tired legs, we might feel discouraged. But then she told us the secret to staying motivated. “When you get tired,” she said, “turn around and look behind you, and you will see all the trail behind you, winding back and forth, this way and that. You’ll see you have actually made some progress towards the top. You are actually getting somewhere, step by step.” She was right. The whole hike out of the canyon the next day, the canyon rim looked so far away, so high up, like it wasn’t ever getting closer. But we saw a lot of progress looking back, progress we couldn’t see in the process of slowly trudging forward on our increasingly tired legs.

Looking constantly at the “canyon rim” when we have a long way to go is not fruitful. It is better to get satisfaction from merely putting one foot in front of the other, even at those times when we are tired of the whole journey. We need to take satisfaction in knowing that all we need to take care of right now is simply walking uphill, rather than down. We need to trust that walking continually uphill inevitably gets us to where we want to go.

So, as you do the work in this book, see if you can take satisfaction in the fact that you are taking positive steps. And focus on that, rather than feeling you don’t measure up, or how much further you have to go to stop your skin picking, or to heal your scars. Trust that it can be done, make up your mind that you will do it, and then bit by bit, go boldly forward on the path ahead.


Annette Pasternak, Ph.D. is a certified Holistic Health Coach, Yoga teacher and Brain Gym® Instructor/Consultant in Los Angeles. Formerly a research scientist, college professor and high school chemistry teacher who struggled for more than two decades with chronic skin picking, Annette is now dedicated to helping others, worldwide, break free of its tenacious grip. Contact Annette through her website at www.stopskinpickingcoach.com.