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My Secret Life with a Skin Picking Disorder

Even though we are told not to, most teen girls, at one point in their lives, have squeezed a pimple on their face. Throughout my high school years, I would do more than squeeze my pimples though. I would squeeze and scrape my acne until my face and body would form bloody craters. Messed up right? Honestly, I assumed that my skin picking would just go away after the stresses of puberty and high school. But when the skin picking continued into my first semester of university, I decided to get checked out by a doctor. That is when I learned that I have dermatillomania, a mental disorder associated with obsessive-compulsive disorder where individuals repetitively pick at their skin, often causing pain and damage. Although I was conflicted on publishing this article, I wanted to share my day-to-day struggles with dermatillomania.  

1. It can happen at any time 

Yes, I will pick at my face and body whenever I look in the mirror, but it can really happen at any time. It can happen when I am daydreaming, when I am bored, when I am angry, when I am stressed, and even when little bumps and blemishes on my skin are bothering me. Although I try to only pick at my home, sometimes I cannot resist the urge to pick or scrape my face in public.       

2. It makes me feel good 

Even if I feel guilty and embarrassed later, my skin-picking episodes often provide me with a weird sense of pleasure, calmness and relief. As messed up as it sounds, something about picking at my bumps and blemishes makes me feel really good.   

3. It is time-consuming  

After a hard or stressful day, I can often go into “skin-picking mode” where I waste minutes and even hours squeezing every whitehead, scraping every piece of dry skin, and picking every blemish until my face is a bloody mess. As a result of these skin-picking episodes, I also have to spend hours every day cleaning my bleeding face and covering my scars and blemishes with copious amounts of makeup.      

4. My family and friends do not get why I cannot just “stop picking” 

I love my family and friends, but throughout high school the people closest to me would often make comments like “why is your face always bleeding?” and “why can’t you stop picking?” Believe me, if I could stop picking, I would have a long time ago. Although dermatillomania is a rare disorder and it is hard to understand why I cannot just “stop picking,” please be kind and patient with me.     

5. I feel self-conscious and terrible without makeup  

As I have had dermatillomania for many years now, I have many scars and blemishes on my face and body that I try to hide with makeup. Sadly, my skin-picking disorder has created many feelings of embarrassment and shame for me to the point of not being able to go out anywhere without an extensive amount of foundation and concealer. I often feel so self-conscious and terrible about my disorder that I am scared to be intimate with someone and scared to run into my floormates at night when I am not wearing makeup.

This whole idea of having a skin picking disorder is very new to me and I am still learning about my condition. Most girls squeeze pimples on their face, but if you are picking and scraping your blemishes to the point of bloody craters, that is an entirely different situation. If you find that you have experienced any of my struggles, there are treatments for dermatillomania to help including medication and cognitive behavioral therapy. There are many great resources to help you get started including Western’s Student Health Services and Psychological Services as well as online tools like https://ocdla.com/compulsiveskinpicking and https://www.skinpick.com/. Yes, my skin picking disorder gives me gut-wrenching feelings like shame, embarrassment and sadness, but I know that I am now on a path to recovery. Even though having dermatillomania is hard right now, I know that one day I will be able to look in a mirror and, rather than actively look for flaws, have the power to gaze at my reflection with a big smile and just keep walking.    

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Anika is the President of Her Campus Western. She is a fourth-year student studying media and creative writing at Western University and would love to work as an advertising copywriter after graduation. When she's not doing Her Campus things, you can find her baking, watching movies and shows, playing video games, and hanging out with friends.
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