Thursday, August 5, 2010

Recognizing Triggers


My name is Barbara.

And I have an Obsessive-Compulsive Spectrum Disorder called Dermatillomania, better known as Compulsive Skin Picking.

Skin picking as a disorder is new to me. This year was the first that I had ever known there was an actual clinical term for what has always been a part of my life. But then again, when it comes to the DSM, most behaviors fit the etiology of a disorder. This year was also the first that I had decided to do an internet search for information about skin picking. When I'm stressed I go through some really rough patches of skin picking in all of its unconscious glory. I suspect that this disorder has been with me since early childhood. The numerous black spots covering my face in nearly all of my childhood pictures provides the proof. I've always viewed my skin as acne-prone, but the truth is, the black discoloration left over from breakouts probably wouldn't be so promanent if I didn't irritate my skin with picking.

Currently, my ears hurt from the irritations of picking the skin around my piercings. My face hurts from picking breakouts on my forehead. My navel hurts from scratching and picking a spider bite. All sites of irritation have turned black, and will have to undergo a few weeks of treatment with black soap and shea butter in order to fade. And the next time I am extremely stressed out the cycle will repeat itself. I will subconsciously pick my skin, gaining a momentary sense of serenity, and then the pain and shame of the scares created by the cravings of my nervous system. According to, the act of compulsive skin picking is an act of self mutilation, so I guess you can think of dermatillomania in the same terms as cutting.

I am not exactly sure how I am going to pursue treatment for this disorder. It is but a fraction of what ails me, but a contributor to my social anxiety, and is also born of my anxiety. As you can see, when it comes to mental illness/disorders things get complicated. Thus treatment itself is often complicated. So begins the search for an understanding and knowledgable psychiatrist who can provide some great cognitive-behavioral therapy.

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