I first became unwell as an adolescent. At age 14, I started experiencing severe depression, panic attacks and obsessive tendencies. The obsessive behaviours included compulsive skin picking, a disorder also known as dermatillomania. I began to pick at areas of skin on my face.
When I looked in the mirror, all I saw were imperfections, blemishes, spots, dry skin and black heads. Even now, I still pick at my skin and see all of these imperfections. I am also left with some scars from picking my skin for 11 years. Which feeds the vicious cycle even more as I see more ‘reasons’ to pick it.
I tried to hide the damage from skin picking with excessive make up and other ‘camouflage behaviours’. For many years, I spent 8 or 9 hours a-day picking at my skin and trying to clean and exfoliate it and then even more hours trying to conceal the damage.
I was so ashamed and secretive about my skin picking
I was so ashamed and secretive about my skin picking. I wouldn’t talk to my doctors about it. When I look back, I wish I had sought help sooner but I was always acutely worried what people might say or think.
My secret only came out nine years later when I was 23. I had come out of a psychiatric hospital again, and went from an out-going, life-and-soul personality to a full blown recluse.
To make matters even more complicated, I have other diagnoses’ including bipolar and severe anxiety which led me to attempt suicide several times and led to many hospital admissions and mental health sections.
It’s something which can be difficult to explain to others
My Body Dismorphic Disorder is the reason why I have become a recluse and why I pick at the skin on my face. I struggle every day with the fear of how I think I look. It’s something which can be difficult to explain to others out of fear that they think you’re vain. I believe many other BDD suffers feel similarly to me. The negative thoughts get so bad that more than frequently I think my life isn’t worth living anymore.
I try to distract from my negative thoughts by painting and playing the piano which can sometimes help at times when my thoughts are creeping up on me with an especially vicious and destructive edge to them.
it isn’t greatly understood by many people
I wanted to write a short blog about my experiences, especially compulsive skin picking, as I feel it isn’t greatly understood by many people, including psychiatrists and even for the people who pick themselves.
I, for one, didn’t know it was also something other many people did. For most of my life, I thought I was a freak and the camouflaging and secretiveness re-enforced my core-beliefs about being ‘different’ to others.
I now know, I’m not a freak for picking my skin, it’s just something I do because of my BDD. I see imperfections that other people do not really notice. It is a long-standing habit that is hard to break, although I have now dramatically reduced the amount of time I spend doing it.
Knowing it was something that other people did helped me realise I wasn’t alone.
It is a deeply distressing condition and I wanted to raise awareness about it. Knowing it was something that other people did helped me realise I wasn’t alone.
I would urge other’s who think they have a problem with these issues, including skin picking to try to speak with their doctor. It isn’t worth the harm of trying to cope with it alone. I wish I had sought help earlier but I am glad that I can now talk openly about it and not fear other people’s reactions when I tell them that I pick.
What do you think about the issues raised in this blog? Share your views with us on Twitter >>
Or pledge to share your experience of mental health today and find out how talking tackles discrimination.
If you’re feeling in distress or need urgent support please find a list of organisations that can provide advice and support.