Skin picking is a disorder characterized by repetitively touching, rubbing, scratching, picking at, or digging into one’s own skin. It can take many forms—from squeezing pimples to picking off scabs or even cutting oneself with sharp objects. People who pick their skin may do so in response to feeling anxious, stressed, bored, or as a way to cope with uncomfortable feelings. While it is not uncommon for people to pick at their skin from time to time, it becomes a problem when it interferes with daily life or causes significant distress or harm.
A Personal Story
I started picking my skin when I was in high school. It began as an unconscious habit; I would absentmindedly pick at my skin whenever I felt bored or anxious. As the years went on, I found myself picking more often and more intensely. Eventually, I noticed that my skin was permanently scarred and discolored. As much as I tried to stop, I just couldn’t seem to break the habit. The physical damage caused by my skin picking had a huge impact on my life. I was embarrassed by my appearance and scared to go out in public. I felt ashamed and isolated.
The Impact of Picking Skin
Skin picking can have both physical and emotional consequences. On the physical side, people who pick their skin may experience discoloration, scarring, infection, and even tissue damage. In extreme cases, skin picking can lead to disfigurement. Emotionally, people who pick their skin may feel ashamed, embarrassed, and isolated. They may also struggle with low self-esteem and have difficulty forming relationships.
Causes of Skin Picking
There are several potential causes of skin picking. On the psychological side, skin picking may be a way to cope with difficult emotions such as anxiety, stress, boredom, or loneliness. It may also be done as a form of self-harm or as a way to express anger. On the biological side, some research suggests that skin picking can be caused by imbalances in serotonin levels or changes in brain chemistry. Additionally, environmental factors such as lack of sleep, poor nutrition, or excessive caffeine intake can contribute to skin picking.
There are several effective coping strategies for skin picking. First, it is important to identify your triggers and find ways to manage them. This could include avoiding stressful situations, engaging in relaxation techniques, or trying distraction activities like reading or listening to music. Additionally, it can help to practice good skin care habits such as moisturizing regularly and avoiding harsh products. Finally, seeking professional help from a therapist or doctor can be beneficial.
Breaking the habit of skin picking can be challenging, but it is possible. Start by setting realistic goals and tracking your progress. When you start to pick your skin, take a few deep breaths and focus on the sensations in your body. Then, try to distract yourself by engaging in a different activity. Lastly, reward yourself for making progress and remaining skin picking-free.
Seeking professional treatment for skin picking can be beneficial. A doctor or mental health professional can provide guidance and support while helping you develop healthier coping skills. Treatment options may include cognitive behavioral therapy, medication, or hypnotherapy. Each of these approaches can help reduce compulsive behaviors and improve quality of life.
Support groups are another great resource for people struggling with skin picking. These groups provide a safe space for people to share their experiences and find comfort in knowing they are not alone. Support groups can also offer practical advice and tips for managing skin picking triggers. There are many online and in-person support groups available, so it is important to do your research and find the one that best fits your needs.
Skin picking is a common but serious disorder that can have both physical and emotional consequences. While the exact cause of skin picking is still unknown, there are several potential causes including psychological, biological, and environmental factors. Fortunately, there are many effective coping strategies and treatments available to help manage skin picking. Finally, support groups can be a great source of comfort and encouragement. If you are struggling with skin picking, know that you are not alone and that help is available.