Everyone uses the term OCD so lightly – “oh I’m so OCD”. The reality is it is a crippling condition for some. I’m let off lightly compared to some people, but here is my embarrassing secret… I have Dermatillomania.
What is Dermatillomania?
If you have dermatillomania you habitually and excessively pick, scratch, gouge or squeeze at otherwise healthy skin, usually on your face and lips, but it can be any area of the body, such as the hands, scalp or arms. Sometimes people use fingernails, or use tools like pins or tweezers. The bleeding and bruising caused risks infection and scars.
Those with the condition experience intense emotions, it is typical that they experience an intense urge to pick and tension increases until they do. Then comes a sense of relief but shortly followed by guilt, shame and embarrassment.
Dermatillomania usually develops during teenage years or early 20s. The cause is not known but theories include that it is a type of addiction, it may be a way of relieving stress or anxiety or it may be a form of self-harm to seek temporary relief from emotional distress.
Due to the embarrassment caused by this condition few people seek help. If you think you have this please go to your doctor. Your doctor may refer you for CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) or Psychotherapy.
In the meantime here are some tips:
- Occupy your hands with something else until the urge passes, or put on gloves.
- When tempted to pick, care for your skin instead – for example, apply moisturiser.
- Aim to hold off the urge for longer and longer each time if you can’t resist it altogether.
- Keep skin clean to avoid infection.
- Stay busy.
- Get rid of tweezers, pins and any other instrument you might be tempted to use.
- Try squeezing a soft ball or playing with blue tack instead.
Information taken from NHS
Dermatillomania & me
Time to reveal all I suppose… since I was a young teenager I’ve always had a habit of picking the skin off my feet, the cuticles and skin from around my nails and scratching the skin off my scalp.
I go through fazes, it is so upsetting when I can’t even wear flip flops in the summer! If you see me with no paint on my nails, or chipped paint you’ll know I’m going through a bad patch because I always like to have beautifully painted nails but I can’t stop myself when the obsession comes.
Sometimes I pick the skin so deep on my feet that I can’t walk without searing pain. Sometimes my scalp bleeds so badly just moving my hair hurts. And all the while straight after I finish I panic about getting an infection or septicaemia so I dollop on tons of savlon.
I finally admitted to this when I was seeing a counsellor and they re-assured me it was normal and that a lot of people with OCD have it. I’m currently having CBT and I am getting help for it.
Please don’t be embarrassed – get help!