It's the time of year for short sleeves again–exposing all my scratches and scars. My therapist is on my case because my arms and shoulders (and ankles, but she can't see those) are littered with small self-inflicted injuries. I have Dermatillomania, also known as Compulsive Skin-Picking Disorder (CSP), which is frequently comorbid with OCD and related to the more commonly-known Trichotillomania (compulsive hair-pulling). Basically, I scratch myself, and then I can't let those scratches heal properly. It comes and goes with my stress level, so right now it's pretty bad. I've been engaging in these behaviors since I was about 12 and I really don't foresee it stopping any time soon.

I don't do it out of low self-esteem or a desire to hurt myself; it's literally a compulsion. My hands just kind of roam whatever skin I have bare and any bump, scratch, or scab gets picked at. I don't get any pleasure from it, but I do find it relieving and it is very difficult not to do it. Luckily I don't tend to scar too badly.

She asked me to sign a "harm contract" to try and do it less… yeah, I don't think so. The best I can do is keep my nails short (which I do anyway) and keep covered so I can't get to myself. It's also helpful to keep your hands busy, like with knitting, but I would have to knit all day, every day, not to pick at myself.

I have a little bit of Trich too, though it's abated since childhood. I used to pull out my hair and eyelashes. Never did it seriously enough to have bald patches, though. Nowadays the extent of it is compulsively picking split ends. IDGAF about my hair, though, so I'm happy when I'm picking split ends rather than going after my skin.

I also chew on my lips and the insides of my mouth. There's a thick, raised swath of scar tissue from both corners of my lips inside my mouth, where my teeth meet each other. My front teeth are actually worn down to the point that my dentist scolds me from the chewing. I don't know if it's technically Dermatillomania, but it's a self-destructive, compulsive habit and I've been doing it for about the same length of time, maybe longer.

Does anyone else have this, and if so, have you tried to stop it? Got any tips or advice?

1 Comment
  1. ancientgeekcrone 12 years ago

    I'll pick at myself if I have a pimple.  I'll worry it to death, but I don't start it, but if I bread out I can't leave it alone.  I keep my hair short because if its longer I'm twisting it.  If the hair is short and by skin has no eroisons, I'm ok. 

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