I’ve been struggling with skin-picking, also known as dermatillomania. It is a type of body-focused repetitive behavior. I do it when I’m angry, anxious, sad, stressed, or even bored. It is an unhealthy coping strategy to deal with anxiety, and I’m happy to say that I haven’t been doing it as much. If you struggle with this or any type of damaging behavior, know that you are not alone. Thankfully there are many ways to focus your energy on something less damaging.
I have a skin disorder called eczema, which causes dry and inflamed skin. My mom would always tell me to stop picking at my skin, and I used to blame it on my eczema. “I have to do it. My skin is gross.” But as I said that, I realized how counterproductive skin-picking is. You do it because you notice an imperfection, but picking actually makes that imperfection worse. My insecurity began to destroy my skin, and for a while I was afraid to leave the house.
Body-focused repetitive behavior is often unconsciously done in hopes to calm anxiety or tension and damages the body. Nail biting, skin picking, and hair pulling are examples. Body-focused repetitive behavior may or may not be based on an insecurity or underlying problem. This is why someone may just think their behavior is a habit. It can cause emotional distress and even more anxiety.
I’m not sure why I pick, but I think it has something to do with striving for perfection. I’ve learned to embrace my skin, even though I don’t like it. Even though I have eczema, I am not inferior.
How can someone stop these behaviors?
- Do something with your hands!
- Write, draw, pull grass from the ground, tap a pencil…anything.
- Put away the mirrors.
- This will cause you to focus on your imperfections.
- If you find yourself picking or pulling, tell yourself firmly, “Stop.”
- Then direct your attention somewhere else.
Lately, I’ve been wearing clothes that don’t hide my flare-ups, which is a milestone for me. “Self-care over self-hate” is a mantra I repeat in my head. Don’t destroy yourself in hopes to reach perfection. I’ve been discovering myself, not criticizing my body, and that has made a huge difference.