Home > Dermatillomania (Skin-Picking Disorder) > Guest Blog: Discovering Dermatillomania

This blog was submitted to us after the submitter, who wishes to remain anonymous, was sent a link to the recent post in the Calgary Herald.

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Someone close to me, who is also a “picker” sent me the link to Amanda Siebert’s recent article in the Calgary Herald about Danielle Roberts and the book “Project Dermatillomania: The Story Behind Our Scars”, and I was struck with disbelief! My senses were overcome and all I could think was “OMG!” and “WTF!” It was incredible to find out that not only someone other than the two of us do this, but there are thousands upon thousands!

Since then, I have been reading, reading, reading and, except for the conscious desire to stop (but that is often overridden by the subconscious desire to pick), everything describes me to a “T”: personality traits/mental health issues (low self-esteem, perfectionism, obsession with image, depression, anxiety), coping mechanisms (camouflaging, isolation, image avoidance), self-treatment (creams, cleansers, antiseptics, antibiotics, dermatologists, long nails, short nails, gloves, compulsion substitution, shaming) …on and on. Above all: I never dreamed that there were so many people who, like me, are in a constant battle.

I sent a message to Project Dermatillomania’s FaceBook page because I felt compelled to share, but was not yet ready to “come out of the closet” by posting on sites – then, I found this opportunity for sharing while maintaining my anonymity. I also watched “Katy’s Story” on this site and decided to take this “step of courage”, by putting it in writing (the proverbial: “say it out loud”).

I AM APPROACHING SIXTY years of age. I cannot remember a time in my life when picking my skin was not a part of it.

When I was a young child, I was told that I had impetigo – I don’t know what started the sores on my face, I just remember the scabs and the picking…and I remember the sting and the smell of turpentine being applied to my sores – the only treatment plan provided by a medical doctor.

From there, I progressed to what was diagnosed as acne, which came about the time I reached puberty and involved my face, chest, and back, then to picking dead skin and calluses from my hands and feet. In the past year (age 56), following an awful life-changing event in my son’s life, I started in on my (hidden from view) thighs.

I have been told to “stop” (picking, poking, scratching, pinching, popping, stroking), to take better care of my skin – if you’ve been there, you’ve heard it all. I even asked my husband to smack my hand whenever he caught me picking – bring on the shame!

In recent years, I have wondered which caused what…the lesions (of assorted causes), or the impulse to constantly “scan” and ultimately pick, believing that I can rid myself of imperfections.

With all the reading I have done recently, I do think I suffer (and, yes, that IS the appropriate word) from Body Dysmorphic Disorder – besides the skin conditions, I have always struggled with my weight. Even in high school, at 5’4”, 110 lbs., and actively participating in multiple sports, I thought I was “chunky”. At one point, I even surreptitiously destroyed my parents’  collection of school photo’s. I have only recently become more comfortable with having my picture taken; in these later years, adopting an attitude of “screw ‘em” in many aspects of my life.

When it comes to trying to identify the “trigger”, I wonder about sexual abuse…I have long had the suspicion that I may have been abused; however, I have no actual memory of it (or of much of my childhood, for that matter), so have not pursued it in any detail with the parade of counsellors I have seen, nor with the potential abuser.

Forty years ago, I met and subsequently married a man who, while not without his faults, has always loved me as I was, as I changed, and as I am. There have been times when I know I have engaged in behaviours to make myself less attractive to him, as a test of his love for me – I really thought that being overweight or having bad skin would push him away, providing further evidence that I was not worthy of love; but, to his credit, it hasn’t worked.

That said, my children are living proof that I am worthy: they are (again, not without their faults 😉 ) kind, loving, moral, hard-working adults who fill me with wonder every day, that I could have raised such exceptional children.

I’m thinking that my next “step” (after a deep breath) will be to send the link to my message to my sister, a good friend, and my psychologist – wish me luck!

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Project Dermatillomania: The Stories Behind Our Scars is a compilation of personal stories from skin pickers. All proceeds are donated to CBSN and TLC.

You can purchase the book in print from the CBSN store, Blurb or TLC’s store.
Ebook copies can be purchased from Amazon.

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