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Dermotillomania (obsessive skin picking)

(39 Posts)
tory79 Sun 12-May-13 10:21:44

Wasn't sure if this would be better off in mental health, but just wondered if there were any fellow sufferers out there who cared to share their experiences or generally chat about it.

My problem is my legs. They are scarred to fuck.

HellesBelles396 Sun 12-May-13 12:11:20

I didn't know there was a name for this. My therapist says it's a way of hurting myself and a sign of self loathing.

FlorenceDaphne Sun 12-May-13 12:18:42

Oh I do this- it's horrendous, isn't it? I pick my legs until there's gaping holes, then pick some more. I just feel that if there's something "bad" or "wrong" like a scab or a hair or pus then it MUST come out.

I also pull out the hair on my head.

I have to attend a wedding at the end of this month and am dreading wearing a dress. I'm applying bio oil each night, but deliberately not looking at my legs, so I'm not drawn to the scabs.

amigababy Sun 12-May-13 12:43:13

I bit the inside of my mouth, for 30 years. With a huge effort of will I stopped for 3 years but due to some stress I an back at it again. I am so annoyed.
I also used to pick spots on my face and back.

the book that helped me stop nibbling is called
Habit control in a day by Nathan H Azrin. It really worked for me, well, for 3 years, so I am going to re-read it and try again. I'm sure it's on Amazon, maybe in the market place.

amigababy Sun 12-May-13 12:45:06

oh, I hair pull too but not so much to cause distress. chewing my mouth is the thing I hate most.

amigababy Sun 12-May-13 12:48:34

and I have read it is a form of OCD.

tory79 Sun 12-May-13 15:26:19

Hellesbells I didn't know there was a name for it either until recently. I read about it on a magazine problem page! I was having cbt for other stuff a couple of years ago, and talked about it with the therapist, but I don't think she knew it had a name either smile Its nice that it does though, makes you feel less alone.

Florence yes that is exactly what I do. Squeeze or pick at something til it bleeds, and continue until the offending item (usually a hair) is out and then pick at the scabs over and over again. There are horrible marks all over my legs. I also use bio oil, but am not convinced it makes much of a difference sad I really struggle with wearing dresses/shorts etc, because they are sooooo obvious.

Amiga yes I have a problem with spots on my face or arms as well. Fortunately I don't get too many, but when I do........ I will have a look at that book, thank you.

tory79 Sun 12-May-13 15:27:38

Out of interest, do your dh/dp's know about this or talk about it to you? There is no way Dh can not have noticed my legs, and I did once tell him what I did a few years ago, but he never asks about it.

noisytoys Sun 12-May-13 15:41:13

DD has trichotillomania (pulls out her hair) she has really big, noticeable bald patches in places sad

chebella Sun 12-May-13 15:50:13

Just to say 'me too'- my feet (yes, it's disgusting), I try not to but it seems to peak around stressful times (v bad after DS1 was born so maybe it's stress-relieving - ironic as I then get stressed about covering it up!). Used to hair pluck as a teenager but seems to have transferred to feet-picking recently.. I wish I knew why as I can easily keep going til my feet bleed - so stupid!

amigababy Sun 12-May-13 15:51:41

I'm sure it's an attempt to self- soothe subconsciously during stress, either low level or serious stress
DD is picking her adolescent spots now just like I did, and my DM would nibble her cuticles till they bled, which I could do if I wasn't careful. So I think it may be slightly genetic.

chebella Sun 12-May-13 15:52:21

BTW, never spoke about it (as in why etc) but I have told my DH to stop me if I'm doing it and he does, unquestioningly, which helps.

amigababy Sun 12-May-13 15:54:23

chebella, it says to do that in the book I mentioned, to ask someone to point it out and stop you, to help give up, so well done asking him to help.

chebella Sun 12-May-13 15:55:40

Now you mention it, I remember my DM sort of absentmindedly scratching her scalp often - I wonder if it's learn behaviour or you're just more genetically predisposed to it. Actually I think I stopped all this when I used to smoke ( similar 'self-harming/relaxing' type activity too!).

chebella Sun 12-May-13 15:59:45

Thanks Amiga, it's easy to feel ashamed of these things but there has to be a way to break cycles by asking for 'support' - even the type of support that is a 'stop it!' ( normally I don't take 'advice' well from DH let alone a curt albeit friendly 'order' but I hate my scarred feet and the behavior that causes it).how old is your DD? Must be hard to witness for you Amiga.

chebella Sun 12-May-13 16:02:45

Amiga is your daughter old enough for you to address this with her through sharing your own mouth-chewing? Maybe you can 'watch' each other, invent some reward you can 'work towards'?

PurpleThing Sun 12-May-13 16:04:46

Interesting. I do this too (my face is a mess). My ds is tiny but he picks away at any scab he has and scratches my moles when breastfeeding. It really seems like he can't help himself rather than he's copying me.

ariane5 Sun 12-May-13 16:06:09

I do this. My fingers look like they have been in a shredder and they hurt where I pick the skin round my nails. Have done it since I was a child.

I also picked every c pox scab off when I was 9 and am scarred and recently picked my heel and then couldn't walk as had no skin left on bottom of my foot.

I just can't stop doing it sad

chebella Sun 12-May-13 16:10:08

Well, if nothing else we're not alone!

justabigdisco Sun 12-May-13 16:13:39

I do this. Definitely linked to stress. If I've had a bad day I can just FEEL all the blocked pores/blemishes on my face and I have to get to a mirror as soon as I can hmm
Good idea about getting someone to point it out. Although my husband does tell me to stop sometimes and I just get arsey with him hmm

tory79 Sun 12-May-13 16:19:38

I never do it in front of dh, but I do do it in front of ds sad I am desperately trying to stop that as he's 19m now and might start copying.

It is definitely stress related but its also just an ingrained habit now I think.

bonzo77 Sun 12-May-13 16:26:30

Feet with me too, mostly. And spots and ingrowns, anything really. It's only really my feet that are unsightly now. DH does it too, though to a lesser extent. DS is 3 and has started on nails. All my family do it, it was only really as an adult that I realised not everyone does! hmm

justabigdisco Sun 12-May-13 16:50:00

Oh yes my DD is 16m and I'm desperate not to pass it on to her, but I do sometimes do it in front of her. Must stop...

HellesBelles396 Sun 12-May-13 17:28:38


Skin around nails until it bleeds
Skin on feet until it bleeds
Spots until they bleed (back snd chest particularly scarred)
Dry skin
Lumpy skin
Skin that looks different to other skin.

I do it most when stressed and I hate doing it. I think the therapist is right, I would not do it if I felt good about myself.

amigababy Sun 12-May-13 17:43:16

chebella DD is 17 and gets very self conscious if we remark on her picking, or nail biting.
She wants to do psychology at university a nd be a clinical psychologicist . I might try to get her to read my book as part of her "studies " lol.

When I stopped before I didn't say I was "trying to stop " I said "I am stopping biting my mouth " and I became very aware of my hands moving to my face, as that was the precursor to the next action. Really focussing on your hands and keeping them still, or thinking STOP when they move to the face ( or legs or feet etc) helps to stop the action in it's tracks.

amigababy Sun 12-May-13 17:45:04

and as I did it when I was driving too I would focus on having both hands on the steering wheel to keep them out of mischief.

Slavetothechild Sun 12-May-13 17:59:47

Omg I co this pick spots on my face until they bleed and twice the size they started as. Also the skin around my fingers just can't stop !! Thought I must be the only one smile

DowntonTrout Sun 12-May-13 18:05:41

shock this is me too.

I rip the skin aound my Fingers til they bleed and I can make a tiny spot last for weeks. Ive always presumed it was a nervous habit but I didn't know there was a name for it.

MoreBoober Sun 12-May-13 18:27:24

Me too hmm
Former finger biter but never been able to stop picking and chewing the skin around my fingers. Go through good and bad periods. I didn't realise there was a name for it. I try to avoid it but using a filing board and filing round my fingers so I'm less tempted to start picking. I find the habit stressful in its self and once I'm started its hard to stop!

I do. On my scalp.

ouryve Sun 12-May-13 18:30:41

DS1 goes through phases of it. He has ASD and if he has a scratch or a scab, never lets it heal and often chews the skin around it, if he can get at it.

pipsqueakz Sun 12-May-13 18:32:55

Ah I'm not alone! I'm bad with my legs arms and head im just as bad with my husband. I do have ocd. I'm gonna sound like a nut job but its a clean problem I have. Like dead skin and dirt shouldn't be there. I've been like it since I was young. My mum took me to drs and mum would tell me if I didn't stop she would wrap my arms and legs in bandages.

ChasingStaplers Sun 12-May-13 18:35:39

Me too.
I pick my nails, bite cuticles until they bleed, pick at spots relentlessly, pick my toenails, pick at ingrowing hairs, scratch my scalp until it scabs.
Sometimes I pull my eyebrow hairs and eyelashes out.

Pretty sure most of it comes from anxiety in social situations and as a consequence of being in an abusive relationship. Wish I could stop sad

OrangeLily Sun 12-May-13 20:44:32

I think DH has this. I didn't know it was actually a thing. I just asked him if he was picking his arms whilst watching the football earlier and he looked a bit guilty but claimed not to remember.

I know some of you have said bio-oil would the palmers cream help?

5madthings Sun 12-May-13 20:49:25

Another picker, i have eczema as well so its not good. Mainy my hands, elbows and scalp at thd moment. Every now and then i manage to stop and my skin heals but as soon as i get an eczema flare up or dry skin etc i just cant leave it alone.

Its stress rekated and my cpn said its a form.of self harm. No idea how to stop.

Niknakpaddywhack Wed 15-May-13 12:19:07

I do this too sad and I am so embarrassed by it but still it doesn't stop me. My nails and fingers are slightly better now (just around one thumbnail) and my face is much better since I have found something that stops me getting spots in the first place, but my legs (ingrown hairs) and my feet are terrible - it hurts to walk today sad. Why do I do it??

I have often wondered whether hypnotherapy would help- but I think I would be too ashamed to admit my problem.

amigababy thank you for the book recommendation - I will definitely order it.

Wednesbury Wed 15-May-13 12:40:16

I'm another one. DH really notices it and is very blunt about it and tells me to stop, which I am grateful for, as often I haven't realised I am doing it. I don't tend to do it in front of DCs as I am generally too busy and my hands are full when they are around, it is when I am sitting still working. It was better when I worked in an office as I did try to think about it and not do it in public.

Both DCs have a tendency to scratch at themselves though when sitting still, so I do wonder how genetic it is. DS (5) scratches at his hands and picks into his nails, DD (3) scratches at her belly button and collar bones. My sister has admitted she does similar things (scratches at scalp) but mine has been quite bad lately, I had three scars on my face recently. To try and help stop I try to think of my face as a 'no fly zone' and keep my hands away. The mental equivalent of a dog collar!

I do feel very silly about it, but have little doubt that it is to do with anxiety/depression. I have read a bit about it and for me it is to do with a sort of need to smooth away imperfections.

I have itchy skin anyway, but if I scratch until there's a scab I will compulsively pick at it so it never heals.

I also bite the hard skin around my fingers.

I've done it since I was little, no idea how to make myself stop. If I could get rid of the itch it'd be better, as I don't pick unless there is a scab.

Queenofknickers Wed 15-May-13 14:00:57

I do this too - I pick skin around my fingers and especially thumbs and chew my cheeks. I've notices I don't do it on holiday - I'm pretty sure it's stress related. Doing it constantly today as anxious about going back to work next week. I suppose the best thing is to deal with the underlying anxiety....

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