Dr. Kingslea Moore, Family Nurse Practitioner
I find myself on a daily basis telling patients to “stop scratching”, “stop picking, “stop popping”, and “stop peeling”. Many patient encounters include how to avoid scratching, and how to reduce the compulsion to pick or pop. My interest in Dermatology is partially because I myself find satisfaction in picking! My inspiration for this blog post is how to address this skin abuse, and treat ourselves with love and healing.
The medical term used to describe skin picking disorders is Dermatillomania. Skin picking is a nervous or anxiety related disorder that is also referred to as Skin picking disorder or SPD. Quite often the habitual picking begins with understandable circumstances. Perhaps a blemish is the target of the picking, such as an ingrown hair, insect bite, a minor imperfection, and is often temporary. For some reason, we develop an irresistible urge to pick this minor imperfection to the point of pain and destruction. The original picking creates a bigger target area on which to focus attention, thus picking, so the habit becomes self-perpetuating.
Why is picking such a problem? Although one may have clean and washed hands, the nail beds, nail polish, and fake nails are notorious for harboring bacteria that is not easily washed off by common hand washing techniques. Inflammation and subsequently scar tissue also develop when we rupture and disrupt the skin’s surface. With the skin being the body’s largest organ, we want it to be well cared for.
The American Academy of Dermatology recommends that patients whom excessively pick should be either co-managed by a mental health specialist and dermatologist, or managed by a specialist who has experience in both psychiatric and dermatologic disorder.
I believe with a little conscious skin love and self control we can curb our urge to disrupt the skin barrier.
- Using the appropriate lotions to encourage soothing touch of the skin
- Cover the area with long sleeves, pants, or bandaids
- Meditate on the impulse to pick, if comfortable while sitting on your hands. Some yogis say you “burn away Karma” when you resist an unhealthy compulsion. OKAY… this might be a little out there for some people…
- Try to always touch your physical body with compassion and awareness…
- Redirecting your attention by taking a walk, draw, write, play an instrument, or clean the house
- Playing with bubble wrap can give the same tactile sensation of popping pimples
- Forgive yourself immediately if you do pick. The shame of being imperfect can often lead to more shame of being “out of control” when we pick.
Park, K. Koo, J. (2014). Skin picking disorder. UpToDate. Accessed 08 Oct 2014 http://www.uptodate.com/contents/skin-picking-disordersource=machineLearning&search=Dermatillomania&selectedTitle=1%7E1§ionRank=2&anchor=H15211858#H15211858