I Have Dermatillomania (Skin Picking Disorder)

I have Dermatillomania (skin picking disorder). This is the first time I have written about this on this blog or anywhere online, ever. I’ve only recently told one of my siblings that I have this. I’ve never told a doctor.

Here is my resource page on the topic that I created recently:

Dermatillomania/Skin Picking Disorder

This is really hard to address straight on. I’m feeling a lot of anxiety and worry. Anxiety just because it is so hard to admit to this issue, there is a lot of shame there that has been hidden for decades. The worry is that I will write this post and feel worse or more ashamed or that no one will respond, and again I will be alone with this.

I’ve had it since I was a pre-schooler. It got really bad the year that I was four years old. My mother was very abusive during that time period, both physically and sexually, and I was not very effective at ameliorating her rage or abuse. Well, I was four.

I was already biting my fingernails down so I don’t think that I had much nail to damage myself with. I started scratching at my nose and the area beneath that and I cannot say if the dermatitis issues started before or after I started scratching at myself. I had dermatitis for the whole year of kindergarten and the whole year before it, my parents were forced after one year of doing nothing into taking me to a doctor and getting a prescription cream because I was going to be starting school.

It took a long time to heal, the whole year of kindergarten. Not surprisingly when I was in school the whole day I did much better. I was able to eat three meals a day, that was heaven to me. Eating, such a normal thing and yet not something I was usually allowed to do when my mother was alone with me, without an older sibling or an adult present as a witness. I knew that things would get better and better the more that I could stay away from her and the older I became the easier it was to hide from her.

I was fixated on my nose for most of my childhood after that. I picked at my face through all my teen years. After some recent years of flashbacks about my mother I remembered that she was the one who fixated me on my nose and face, through her bizarre abuses of me.

As a child I could not stop myself from picking at any scab, over and over, so it took a very long time for anything to heal. I was very much an outdoors gal, for obvious reasons, (wanting to be far away from her and only having brothers my age to play with) and had lots of sores and scabs from all my adventures outside. Sometimes I will wake up and find scratches on my arms or legs and not know how they happened, scratching an itch and not paying attention or doing it in my sleep, I guess. That can still happen.

About ten years ago I woke up with several deep scratches on my nose and around that area. I had seen a new therapist a few times and felt that I should stop seeing him, that made me decide he was wrong for me. I was deeply disturbed to see that it had been happening again while I was asleep.

At eighteen I started having issues with my feet, dry, cracked, or flaky skin and that is a trigger and again I tended to try to make it better, but sometimes that doesn’t help. I still deal with this now. My feet get so dry and cracked sometimes, it happens so easily. It used to be the bottoms of my feet, but the dryness and issues there have improved a lot in the last few years, but it still happens on the sides of my feet.

I’ve tried so many things to make it better; the disorder I mean. Still it’s like I avoid it most of the time, but there are 24 whole hours in the day and it is hard to control us all and to stop everyone from focusing on something that will not make it better and will only make it worse and yet that truth does not deter me or us one bit in believing that it will make it better by getting one little piece of skin off of our body.

I am working on that, because I realized recently that I am not the only one of us who does this behavior, hardly surprising that I’m not the only one in our multiple system who has this issue. Now that I know, I am working on it more; by learning more, doing more, and speaking up more. I learned that many people with the disorder often only fixate on one part of the body, so that makes me think my issues are worse, since I have dealt with many parts of my body. I guess I need to learn more.

When I think of that time period from three to five years old now I am flooded with so much love for me/us. I have so much admiration and devotion to that strong willful child who knew she wanted to live, and survive, and grow, and feel the fresh air on her face, to walk in the tall grass and fields, to talk to her guardian angel, to love God, to stare at the night sky out in the country, to breathe the free air, to talk to animals and love them, to know her intelligence and to love it so much and to fiercely protect it, to laugh, and to never have to see her abuser ever again. That fierce beautiful skinny little girl. I love her. I love her so much. I love her fiercely. I love us. I have so much love and compassion for what we have survived, our mother abuser. We survived her! We are a fierce warrior. We are totally fucking badass. And we will heal from her.

Any hugs or good thoughts or prayers are much appreciated. Good and healing thoughts to you all.

Skin Picking/Dermatillomania Resources

As with anything that involves research, life choices, health issues, and healing I wanted to caution, let the buyer beware. I have only included links here that I researched and found to be reputable, mostly from non-profit organizations, or other survivors. Even if something is free of cost, it can still have consequences in your life, both negative and positive, exacting a cost, so let the buyer beware when making any choices, educate yourself. You deserve to get the right help that assists you in healing.

I caution against online therapy, buying books, and giving your money to someone who says they have a treatment for you online. Look for the most reputable resources, you deserve the best and the best healing assistance.

I would recommend educating yourself and acquiring a therapist and/or doctor who are reputable and knowledgeable and sharing with them the specifics of what you are dealing with.

What is Skin Picking Disorder?

The TLC Foundation for BFRBs

Understanding Skin Picking Disorder

Understanding Body-Focused Repetitive Behaviors

What is Dermatillomania?

Life With Dermatillomania  (Psychology Today)

Expert Consensus Treatment Guidelines

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy


Treatment Options

Grounding/Coping Skills

Self-Soothe/Comfort Skills

Alternative Therapies

Self Help Strategies/Articles

Helpful Hints

Tips and Tricks

Helpful Tips and Tricks

List of Strategies

How to Stop Picking

Things to do Instead

For Family and Loved Ones

Treating the Whole Person: A Personal Users Guide Part 1

Treating the Whole Person: A Personal Users Guide Part 2

12 Dermatillomania Myths Dispelled

6 Myths About Dermatillomania

Canadian BFRB Support Network

What is Dermatillomania?

Skin Picking Disorder Fact Sheet

Dermatillomania Resources