If Stress Had A Face

If stress had a face this would be it…

My 'stress' face.

My ‘stress’ face.

I wish I knew a healthier way to cope with my stress. This disorder is slowly killing me from the inside out. Although of course it is quite possible that this disorder could kill me from the outside in. With every wound comes the risk of infection and I’m no stranger to infections.

The cause of my stress may also be the reason I go quiet on here again. I am back to working 4-5 nights a week, full-time uni goes back on Tuesday, my little man goes back to school on Wednesday, I have a 5 week teaching practicum coming up in mid-October and on top of all of this I am still trying to sort out my furniture and a home for my cats from my break up almost 2 years ago now. I know I have taken on too much. I always do. I have an extremely addictive personality and I get addicted to work and study just like I am addicted to picking at my skin. I don’t know how to slow down. I find keeping busy helps with my Dermatillomania but at the same time the pressure it puts on my heart and my brain and my body – sometimes it feels like I will have a nervous breakdown and never come back from it.

Fresh from tonight's picking session.

Fresh from tonight’s picking session.

I attended an OSPA (Obsessive Skin-Pickers Anonymous) meeting online about a week ago and this helped me come to the realisation that I am powerless over my skin-picking. It is an addiction and it does have a hold on me. Unfortunately unlike drugs and alcohol I can’t simply abstain from the substance for the very addiction is me. My fingers, my nails, my hands always constantly searching my skin for the next spot, the next pimple, the next blemish, the next scar to reopen. THE NEXT FIX! How can I distance myself from myself long enough to beat this thing once and for all?

Fresh from tonight's picking session.

Fresh from tonight’s picking session.

Once I came to the realisation that this disorder has more control over me than I want it to, I contacted an addiction recovery clinic here in Perth, Western Australia. I explained Dermatillomania to them and I wondered if they would be willing to take me on as a patient. Although they had never treated anyone with my specific disorder they advised me that they had successfully treated a number of patients with compulsive disorders using a drug called Naltrexone. In their words: “Naltrexone works to block the opiate receptors in the brain, but a flow on effect of this is that it reduces surges in dopamine (surges in dopamine are what gives you the pleasure and reward from doing a certain task)”. So although the drug would stop my picking from feeling good it appears that it would also stop other things from feeling good. This wouldn’t be a problem if it weren’t for my depression. However given how low my mood can currently drop I worry about how dangerously low it could get if I no longer experienced any pleasure whatsoever.

I fill shelves at a department store for a living so my hands often get cut and scratched when opening boxes or hanging things on racks. This then gives me blemishes to pick at. My hands are badly scarred from years of endless picking.

I fill shelves at a department store for a living so my hands often get cut and scratched when opening boxes or hanging things on racks. This then gives me blemishes to pick at. My hands are badly scarred from years of endless picking.

The good news is that I haven’t given up yet. I still want to beat this and I am still exploring my options. Addiction treatment and/or having my nails surgically removed are two options I am considering as last resorts. In the meantime (now that I am finally working again) I am hoping to be able to afford the regular upkeep of acrylic nails and I may even start looking for a new psychologist or hypnotherapist to work with again. This is the longest I have gone in my life without seeing a mental health professional (from the age of 8 years old I have seen one regularly). Sadly I had to finish up a 4 year relationship with my psychologist in January of this year as she was offered a job elsewhere and it was a great opportunity for her. Up until this point I have been coping but I know I’m at the stage where I need the help again.

I've even started picking at my chest again!

I’ve even started picking at my chest again!

This post was a bit ranty and maybe a bit all over the place. It’s 3:00am here and I have a splitting headache but I just needed to write and get things off my chest so that maybe just MAYBE I can sleep tonight. I have spent the last few days and nights picking sometimes until 4am in the morning and sometimes for over 3 hours straight. I know I need to start taking better care of myself but I also know I don’t have the time right now to do that. I often think of deferring uni for 6 months and really knuckling down and working on this condition but at the same time I worry that having nothing on my plate will only contribute to more picking. At the moment it seems like a lose-lose situation whichever way I turn. So for now I will leave you and myself with the serenity prayer, sometimes referred to as the AA prayer:

~ God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference. ~


Posted on July 21, 2014, in Picking, Pictures. Bookmark the permalink. 15 Comments.

  1. Thanks in support of sharing such a pleasant thought,
    paragraph is nice, thats why i have read it completely

  2. Keep on going! There are low points but you are on the right path, seeking help, writing about it to work it out, and trying to find solutions, like using fake nails. Have you tried fidget toys? I have some putty, worry stones, stress balls, but I don’t always keep them nearby, which is key to conditioning yourself to using them. Advice I need to follow myself!

    • Thank you for your words of encouragement and for your advice! I have a few fidget toys as well but like you I keep forgetting to always have them on me. It is hard to break something you have been doing for so long! Wishing you all the best in your journey to recovery 🙂

  3. Hey, I just wanted to send encouragement from France. I’ve been suffering from this for the past 4 years apparently (knowing about it for two months) and your blog was really instructive, so thanks for being so brave. Just finding out about this disorder was a first step for me, but I still have a long way to go. Things that help me: dim light when removing my make-up (with a scented candle so I can barely see my face in the mirror), cutting my nails reaaal short (I know you seem to love your nails but it’s actually less easy to pick so it acts as a reminder that I should be doing better things instead), wearing gloves while sleeping (looks weird esp. as its summer…) aloe vera gel is awesome to repair without the oily feel and niaouli essential oil is good on pimples as they just dwindle and disappear within two days. Not doing it i can feel the stress building up and i start crying for no reason and get really twitchy, but i hope it gets better without my going back to the bloody mirror! Anyway, i hope you overcome this, we all count on you! and also i dont know if anyone ever told you but I think you have a claire danes look about you 🙂

    best of luck, x FrenchGirl

    • Hi French Girl,

      Thank you so much for your words of encouragement, your tips and your beautiful comments 🙂 They brought a smile to my face! I need to try and dim the light in my bathroom so candles might be the way to go and I am looking at getting fake nails as they worked a treat for me last time! I find if I cut them short I just end up doing more damage unfortunately. I also love the sound of that essential oil for pimples, I’ll have to see if I can find some here. Thank you again for visiting my blog and leaving a comment! All the best to you in resisting the urge to pick… I know how hard it can be! Xx

  4. Wow. I’m both so glad and so not-so-glad-kinda-scared-looking-for-another-excuse-why-I-don’t-have-time-to-read-this-so-I-don’t-have-to-think-about-it-because-it-makes-me-feel-so-ashamed-and-guilty-and-depressed. …. Is that too many dashes? 🙂 What a bummer. You’re completely right. 100%. I feel EXACTLY the same way & I could put you to shame if I posted MY face pix….makes you look like a Cover Girl!! 😛 Hang in there (see you haven’t posted in over a month so I can only imagine….). If you ever wanna talk to a stranger who “gets it”, you can find me lots of places (I just followed you on Twitter). You can also go to about.me/graveyardwalker which has like a dozen links lol… 🙂

    • Hi Amy,

      Perfect amount of dashes 🙂 and I can totally relate! I’ve been super busy lately so just getting around to approving and replying to everyone’s comments and hopefully I will manage to write another post soon! Thank you for following me and for visiting my blog! I shall look you up now 🙂


  5. Do you have a Tumblr?? You should definitely follow me I have a picture that resembles the one you drew:) heres my link. http://beautiful-dermatillomanic.tumblr.com

  6. Thank you for being so brave and sharing. I hope you are doing better.

  7. Hi, I’m 31 and from Adelaide and I’m absolutely desperate. I’ve never admitted to anyone, even myself, before that I might have an actual compulsion or condition that makes me pick at myself, but I think I do. My face looks like the surface of the moon right now and I’m honestly surprised my kids and partner can say good morning to me without recoiling. I’m under a LOT of stress at the moment and I think that’s why the compulsion has flared up again. I’ve got a thesis to write and haven’t been sleeping, and quite often I find myself sitting at the computer in a sort of trance, fingers roaming my face to find some imperfection to dig away at. I bought my son some fake blood/wound tattoos for Halloween tonight and I was privately horrified, thinking, ‘My face looks like I already put half a packet of these things on!’ :-/ Anyway, I’ve got a doctor’s appointment in 30 minutes so I’m going to do my best to ask for help. What I actually feel like doing is slathering on about an inch of foundation and pretending everything’s dandy, but I know if I don’t tell my doctor, I’ll kick myself later. I have to do something about it, it’s at the point where I’ve been wrapping myself up in a hood and scarf to drop the kids at school, and I avoid going out as much as possible. It’s horrible and I just want to stop doing this to myself. 😦 Thanks for this blog, it was such a relief to read it! Xxoo

  8. Thank you for posting this. I didn’t know that I have been suffering this for more than ten years now. I have been through remissions but now, I’m back to my old ways. My marks are mostly concentrated in my face but if I get any kind of wounds or scabs in my body, it would never heal properly because of my constant picking. I have learned not to cover my face but when people would notice the huge, dark, brown marks or wounds (They would usually ask if I just recently had Chicken Pox), I would start picking on them again.
    I may have self-diagnosed and I know that it’s not healthy to do so but I come from a family and community where psychological inadequacies (like depression, manic or not, or anxiety disorders) are very much frowned upon and even considered as a source of irritation for others. They would quietly berate me for not handling myself better, for not thinking and doing healthier things – because I am a nurse, practicing or not, I should know and do better. That is when I realized that I am addicted to it, picking my skin. Because, knowing and doing are two different things. Yes, I do know healthier ways to cope with my moments of depression and I also know ways how to cope with some of my anxieties. But what I cannot do is to stop.
    A friend told me once that I just need to relax. I did find time to relax but then, my hand would creep up my face and look for those rough or smooth bumps and I would start to pick on them, absentmindedly. And it didn’t help that I suffer from acne and that some of them would turn to small keloid scars.
    I think, my best support is my two closest and dearest friends. When we went to this trip together, they noticed my constant “face picking” and they would take my hand off my face (always gently, like as if I am a child) whenever they see me start. When I suffered from abrasion on my shin, one got me Betadine and made me clean it. When they realized that I would have scabs over it, they immediately made me cover it with band aid when the wound dried. I even joked to them that I think they need to put chili on my fingers so that I would immediately regret to start picking my face and they seriously considered doing it. But my friends wouldn’t be always there and that is when I knew that this is a battle that I need to face, in most of the time, alone.
    Thank you for sharing your story. Now I can breath a little bit easier. I am starting to change things, one small baby step at a time. After all, the road to recovery cannot be taken in one huge leap. ^_^

    • Thank you for sharing your story. And you’re right, recovery does take time but you sound very determined and with the support of your friends, I’m sure you’ll manage to fight this.

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