Bad Habit or Dermatillomania?

Since I have done a blog entry about Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), I thought I would talk about Dermatillomania/Excoriation Disorder. If you have not read my post about OCD, click here. How is excoriation disorder related to OCD? It is a mental illness that is obsessive compulsive. What exactly is it? It’s a skin picking disorder.

Now most of us have popped a pimple or picked a scabbed. Some of us do it often like it’s a bad habit. So what makes dermatillomania a more serious condition than a bad habit? Well, for one, individuals do it often and it takes so much of your time, that it affects your life. There are times of remission in between, but that’s usually when it gets too bad that the person let it go through a healing period so they can pick at the wound again.

What can happen if it goes untreated? Noticeable tissue damage and marked distress or impairment in daily functioning. The way is can be treated is by seeing a specialist to get the special care the person needs. Most likely they will need medication to help with the compulsive behavior. Also, therapy sessions to find the root of it and to gain positive coping skills to avoid such behavior. According to the TLC Foundation, dermatillomania, affects 5% of the population and 75% of them are women.

Just like OCPD, I did not know excoriation disorder exist. I found out about me having OCPD from my therapist. However, dermatillomania, was something I kind of self diagnosed. One day I was scrolling through Tumblr and reading about different mental illnesses. Until one day I came across with a post about dermatillomania. I saw a lot of entries that made me think, “Oh wow, that’s me! That’s what I do! That’s how I feel!” So I took a step further by doing some proper research, which confirmed it for me. But before I decide to hit the ground running with this discovery I said, “I’m not an expert. I will talk about this with my therapist on my next session” So I brought it up. She asked me questions and she verified that I was correct. I do have an excoriation disorder.

Before my diagnosis, I’ve never thought there is something terribly wrong with me. I thought it was a really bad habit. A bad habit that affected my life. When I get super depress in the morning or stress out before going to school (started around high school) or work, I would be in the bathroom picking my skin. It comes to the point it have made late. I usually do it to my toes. I didn’t care, because at the beginning I usually wear shoes that covers my toes. Now my style has gotten a bit more feminine, I want to wear open toe shoes, but I can’t.

What made it worse is when my Lupus have gotten worse during my college years. It caused a rash in the middle of my face (traveled from my left check, cross my nose, to my right cheek). It’s common for some people with lupus to have it. They actually name it the butterfly rash, because it’s kind of shape as a butterfly. Anyway, I was so embarrassed about it that I would pick at it. I took the rash as a symbolism of everything that was wrong with me (mentally, emotionally, and physically). The rash represented everything I hated about myself. I wanted to go away. So when I picked it, if looked fine, but the very next day or a few hours later it has gotten worse. In those moments, it felt like a harsh reality that no matter what I do, my life will get worse or stay horrible.

I was a very athletic kid. Even with me, being out of shape right now, I can still handle rough physical contact. I always felt my body can handle physical pain. But when it came to mental and emotional pain, I did not know what to do. They best way for me to channel the pain was to let it out physically. So I took all my stress, anger, sadness, and insecurities onto my body, because my body can handle it. I gave all of my eternal pain to it. So I scratch, bite, peel, pick, and sometimes cut my skin. I felt such relief at the end. I felt lighter. But later when I look at what I have done, I felt worse. Because, all of my pain was invisible. Nobody was able to see. But damaging my skin, definitely displayed that something wasn’t right. So I always make sure it was places that can easily be covered up and/or won’t damage often.

Even during my teen years, I knew something was up. Because the same thing I was feeling was similar as to people who cut themselves. The reason why I shrugged it off, is because I know I’m not the only one who picks skin and it isn’t as serious as cutting. Even though years later whenever I went to the emergency room for suicidal thoughts/attempts, they always ask that questions, “Have you thought about or try to self harm before?” I’ve always lied, but I always wanted to mentioned the skin picking. There was this one time I did mention it, but the nurses and social workers brushed it off like it was nothing serious. Because they brushed it off, and they are the experts, I told myself to brush it off.

However, I am glad years later I stumbled upon the posts on Tumblr and still reached out to my therapist.. This whole time, I knew it wasn’t right and I’m glad I had found out. It brought relief and made me begin the healing process. Do I still pick? Yes, but it’s not as bad as before. With time I have gotten better at it. Still working on it. I hope this entry (and any entry I have/will post) have helped someone who is currently in a similar predicament that I was in. I’m glad to bring knowledge and insight on these mental illnesses, but I hope it encourage people to seek out help from experts so they can be guided into the right path. I want you to know, you’re not alone and just like me, you can do it too. Just have to adult one day at a time.


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