April 3, 2014

samanthaI suffer with a mental illness called Dermatillomania, a body focused repetitive behaviour, which is a continuous compulsion to pick at your skin. It began in my early teens, around age 13, when I started to get acne just like any other teenager.

Despite the damage I was doing, I still found it normal

When I saw/felt that I had a lump under my skin which was far from being an actual formed spot, I would squeeze and pick at it until I was satisfied that I had got the 'crap' out of my skin. As a result of this, I would be left with a large sore, which would then scab more than twice the size of its original existence. I remember not being able to wait to get home from school to squeeze my face (which I would do for hours at a time), despite the damage I was doing. I think at this point, I still found it normal as I knew that everyone would get spots, and my behavior wasn't effecting my daily life.

It took a good few years for me to finally admit that I was the problem

I noticed that it was getting worse when people would ask what had happened to my face, and that I found it embarrassing, but still just believing that I had bad acne and that I had a normal bad habit of picking at it. It took a good few years for me to finally admit that I was the problem. I just assumed that it was something I would eventually grow out of, it wasn't until around the age of 18 when things really started to go down hill.

It began to affect my mental state

I became more deeply indulged in picking at my skin, to a point where it not only had an effect on my physical appearance, but my mental state too. So I made an appointment at the doctors to talk about what was going on. The nurse that I saw payed no attention to what I was trying to tell her and almost ignored what I said, continuing with the other reason that I had made the appointment for. This really knocked my confidence and made me feel like I was alone, and genuinely crazy. Why was I doing this to myself?

I was referred to a therapist for Cognitive Behavioural Therapy

At a later date my mom took me to the doctors, where I basically broke down in front of the GP. This was the first time I was taken seriously, and referred to a therapist for Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, which I have recently come to the end of.

During this time, I found that addressing this problem I had, as an actual issue, made it become more of an issue. I would wake up in the middle of the night and go to the bathroom to pick. I do feel that CBT has made a positive impact on dealing with this, as I am completely aware of what triggers the behavior, and often able to act on it.

I find simple day-to-day tasks extremely frustrating

Currently, I'm up and down with these stages that I go through, and find simple day to day tasks such as getting ready in the morning, extremely frustrating. But I'm hoping that in time, after all I've learned I will be able to balance these stages out. I'd like to say that one day I will be cured from dermatillomania, but deep down, as I know that there's no actual cure for this, I think it will always be with me, and a part of who I am. I can only hope I can control it, rather than it control me.

I believe no one should suffer in silence

There are lot of people in the world who have a lot worse circumstances that they have to live with than body focuses repetitive behaviors such as dermatillomania, I just believe that no one should suffer in silence, and people should be open minded to what they don't know, which is why I've shared my very personal experience of this condition, in hope that other people who suffer with it, will feel comforted that they are not alone.

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