This Common Nervous Tic Could Be a Serious Mental Illness
— Laura Donovan
August 11, 2016

I was actually surprised by the way this article is written.

It started out like any other article I’ve read full of misinformation, and that’s what I was expecting. Then it took a turn in the right direction and was very informative.

I, personally, didn’t take anything away from it. It certainly wasn’t the most informative piece I’ve ever read about dermatillomania.

Dermatillomania is so much more complex than they describe it here, if you’ve never heard of it before, this is a good place to start, but I recommend doing more research.

Dermatillomania is something I’ve struggled with for a very long time, undiagnosed. In fact, I’m still not officially diagnosed but I know I have it – I’m not self diagnosing, I promise.

I have mentioned it to my doctor, but I was sort of deflecting the conversation about self-harm, which he only brought up because the nurse who talked to me first saw some scars and put a note in my file. I was aware of dermatillomania and trichotillomania (compulsive hair pulling) prior to the conversation. I mention the picking and that I had pulled out basically all my eyelashes (at that particular point everything was really bad). He mentioned trich, but not derma or excoriation. I’ve since told my counselor about it and he acknowledged the skin picking but not the trich, so I think it’s really just a lack of awareness on their part.

My dermatillomania is really bad right now. I’ve picked off 4 small moles and have about 30 spots in different areas of my body that are not healing because I keep picking. My eyelashes are a bit of a mess right now too.

Another article from The Mighty I wanted to share and relate my own experience to.

I only just learned about this disorder less than a year ago.

The named was previously, dermatillomania, in the DSM-4, but, was renamed in the DSM-5 to excoriation disorder. I don’t like the word excoriation. It just sounds super gross and makes me uncomfortable, so I prefer the old name, dermatillomania. It also sounds better with trichotillomania, which is compulsive pulling out of hair (scalp or body). The two disorders are commonly seen together. I struggle with both, but more derma than trich, and usually the trich triggers the terms because pulling out a hair, it can sometimes bleed and scab, or later cause an ingrown hair, which often becomes a pimple. It’s a visicous cycle.

It isn’t as severe for me as the girl who wrote the article which is also why when I first heard of it I didn’t think I had it (the photo on Wikipedia is super gross), but one of the symptoms is having failed attempts to stop picking, which I have had plenty of. Another important symptom is that the picking takes significant time out of your day, more days than not, which it did. My skin maybe doesn’t look quite as bad, but it is just as stressful, painful, and anxiety triggering.

For me though, I’m generally not searching for the blemishes. My biggest trigger is visual. If I see something in the mirror, once I know it’s there, I cannot forget about it. Same goes for if I happen to find something by unintentionally touching my face, I can’t forget stop thinking about it and touching it.

It used to be a lot worse on my face than it is now. Maybe I’ve had less pimples on my face, therefore less reason to pick there. I don’t know. Although I have been getting a lot of those little tiny pimples around my nose, but they clear up at lot faster than others. Lately though I’ve been more focused on my arms. It used to just be above my elbows (I have tons and tons of tiny little scars) but it’s gotten really bad and now, I constantly have no less than 5 scabs on each arm, below the elbow.

This article I just read on The Mighty is an excellent description of what having a BFRB is like: When Biting My Fingers Took Over My Mind

Whether mild or severe, anxiety triggering or triggered by anxiety, it is difficult to live with and not easy to get over. If we could stop simply because we wanted to, trust me, we would!

I know I have tried so many times to stop picking at blemishes, even the smallest ones, (dermatillomania) or plucking or pulling out any hair that looks even slightly out of place or like it doesn’t belong (trichotillomania). I’ve tried countless times.

I even try countless times to stop when I’m in a full blown picking/pulling session, my mind will be screaming, STOP IT, STOP IT NOW!, but I just can’t get my fingers away from my skin, or put down the tweezers, or stop my eyes from noticing that one other spot that I missed.

Long before I knew these were actual disorders, I thought that I just had this super weird habit and that no one else did this, and was so embarrassed by it that I never told a single person because they would think that I was crazy. But now I know differently. I’m not the only one!

For me, it is easier to hide, most of the time, because my target areas are generally covered by clothes. However, I do often target my face. I can’t go out with my face covered. I try to hide it with makeup, but the instant I notice a new pimple, whether I see it in the mirror in the bathroom at work or I just happened to touch my face while driving or sitting at the computer, it is all I can think about. Even when I’m NOT actually thinking about it, I’m touching it, trying to judge whether or not it will explode when I’m not looking or if it’s noticeable enough for the people around me to see it and think, eww, she has a pimple.

I fight the urge to actually pop it because I know it will bleed and/or turn into a huge red bump. No matter how hard I try, eventually it will get popped. No matter how much I know I shouldn’t and how much I fight the urge, it will happen. Whether in aware I’m doing it or not, it will happen. I often don’t realize what I’m doing until it’s already happening.

That is only part of the daily battle of having a BFRB.