Skin pickers and other strange disorders

This post is about strange disorders and phobias most people don’t know about but probably have.

I’ve recently self-diagnosed myself with OCD and I have a few disorders that I couldn’t put a name to.  Luckily, after a few research, I can finally put a name to it.

Skin pickers: also called Dermatillomania

Pathologic skin picking, and also neurotic.  This is a control disorder. It is the repeated urge to pick at one’s own skin often to the extent that damage is caused. This disorder is similar to OCD.

The characteristics of the disorder:

1) Compulsion to engage in negative behaviour despite knowledge of harm;

2) A lack of control over the problematic behaviour;

3) Strange urge to engage in behaviour and

4) and a feeling of pleasure or relief.

The only explanation I can give to why I do this to myself is it is similar to the urge of people cutting themselves or biting their nails.  Only deeper perhaps. I skin pick my face, arms, back and lips.

Episodes of skin picking are often preceded by tension, anxiety or stress.  The region that is most commonly picked is the face, arms and back.

The cause of this disorder can be because of feeling irregularities on the skin (another Catch-22) and feeling anxious or other negative feelings.

This disorder can cause tissue damage and severe physical scarring.  (My mom scolds me for it and warns me of this, but I cannot stop and I cannot tell her why).

Skin picking can cause feelings of intense guilt, shame and embarrassment.

Skin picking is a coping mechanism and becomes elevated with levels of stress.

Apparently there is a link between dopamine and the urge to pick.  Therefore when you pick, the brain produces dopamine and creates the illusion of pleasure.

There are ways to categorize skin picking behaviour. You could try the Skin Picking Impact-Scale or The Milwaukee inventory for the dimensions of Adult Skin picking.  It measures how skin picking affects the individual socially, behaviourally and emotionally.

I hide from society by trying to cover it up with foundation (which I Hate!) or not going out at all.


You can try these following treatments:

  • habit reversal training (to create awareness of the problem, to become aware of your problem)
  • cognitive-behavioural therapy
  • acceptance-enhanced behaviour therapy.

Other ways to prevent skin picking:

  • Make a closed fist for one minute
  • wear gloves or a face mask
  • sitting on your hands
  • punishment: verbal or water, arm exercises


There is a further disorder that is the urge to pull one’s own hair.  This is called Trichotillomania. The symptoms are ritualistic, has no preceding obsessions and has a high level of comorbidity.

Causes and symptoms:

  • depression/stress
  • anxiety and OCD
  • low self-esteem
  • fear of socializing appearance and negative attention.

An extension of this disorder is sleep-isolated trichotillomania which means to pull hair out while asleep.  I remember many a times that I wake up this way, pulling my hair out and my arms are very sore of the strain.

Trichotillomania can also extend to pulling eyelashes and eyebrows.


There are some behaviour modification programs.


Phobias I suffer from:

Atelophobia: the fear of not being good enough.

It can cause depression.  It is an OCD fear of not doing everything right or make some error in daily routine unless they check or recheck.  Fear of being imperfect.

People with this phobia are concerned with what others think of them especially in the following situations:

  • talking on the phone
  • going for a job interview (will extend on this in another note)
  • eating in front of others
  • speaking in public.

Overcoming self-doubt: you are worthy and deserving of a great life – and the world deserves what you have to offer. (starting this blog, I believe, is one step in the right direction).


  1.  Perfection does not exist: stop comparing yourself to others.  You can look at how well they are doing but that is where it should stop.
  2. Use your superpowers: know and use your strengths.  What is your passion?  Look at what you are already good at.
  3. Nobody gets it the first time: Everybody fails. When you understand the lessons of your failures, you can become successful.
  4. Make a choice: fear is a choice.  You can choose to listen and believe the little voice in you r head or you can decide that YOU have the power.

You are awesome!

Follow the four agreements by Miguel Ruiz with his book by the same title:

  1. Be impeccable with your word: speak with integrity, avoid to speak against yourself and take responsibility for yourself.
  2. Don’t take anything personally (I struggle with this a lot!)
  3. Don’t make assumptions (I am such a hypocrite!)
  4. Always do your best.

Other phobias I have: fear of travelling, fear of going beyond the border and into the world, fear of being in a strange country, fear of the dark.

Something else to add:
Time December 17, 2012

“Skin pickers”: Psychiatrists have long debated whether excoriation, or skin picking, should be considered a mental illness; in DSM-5, it’s now official.

DSM = Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Doctors use this to diagnose mental conditions.


About dada4nonsense

I am a 23 year old (at heart) who loves anything nonsensical

Posted on March 7, 2013, in Notes and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. I have had these conditions all my life. It has affected me in ways that I am still learning about. If you can go and talk to someone, sooner rather than later, your doctor for example it might help you find ways to control the conditions. I am almost twice your age and if I had got the help and counselling I needed sooner it would have been good. I wish you well.

  2. I also have Trichotillomania (as you may have guessed via the user name)
    I will have had trich for 15 years soon…depressing eh? though im still determined to beat it one day 🙂 I have cbt sessions in april and iv even thought about hypnotherapy for it have you considered them at all?
    I wish you luck with everything 🙂

    • I’m already on anti-depressants so I don’t want to become addicted to another type of medicine. I tried to get off the anti-depressants but first I have to find a substitute. My trich is not that serious I have more problems with my skin picking. Looks like I’m the only skin picker who is willing to admit this.

  3. Hello, i read your blog from time to time and i own a similar one and i was just curious if you get a lot of spam remarks? If so how do you stop it, any plugin or anything you can suggest? I get so much lately it’s driving me mad so any help is very much appreciated. Antonietta Gentery

    • Haha! Yeah, I get some Spam. I read it just to have some laughs. Some of the spam comments have nothing to do with what I’ve written in the post and some are so incomprehensible I don’t even reply. I don’t know how to stop it. I’m fairly new with the blogging-thing. Like I’ve said: I read it, laugh and then delete.

      Funny though, WordPress considered your comment as spam. Wonder why?

      Good luck!

  4. Hey there! Great post. I’m almost double your age as well and I’m not proud, but I can admit that I’m a skin picker and also suffer from atephobia. I didn’t know that factored into my not wanting to talk on the phone! I hate the skin picking thing. I’ve learned much about myself and my maladaptive coping patterns as a result of the substance use disorder I developed in college 20 years ago. Since then I have come to realize that the drugs just helped me to have an excuse for all of the other “addictive” and “excessive” behaviors I have.

    Just when I think I’ve really got a handle on this and that I’ve come to understand, love and accept myself just the way I am…then I find another wave of maddening behavior of skin picking, body dysmorphia or general anxiety.

    Good luck to you and I just wanted to tell you that I really enjoyed your post and then information contained. Onwards and upwards!

%d bloggers like this: