All of us have blemishes, scabs, or pimples on our face from time to time—but not everyone is compelled to pick at them. Though there is nothing wrong with popping the occasional whitehead that forms, picking at your skin is something that can prove addicting—and it can ultimately have a hazardous effect.
The Cycle of Skin Picking
If you have ever dealt with this problem, you probably know the familiar cycle. You see a bump on your face, and you squeeze it. Sometimes, you have to deal with fleeting pain or even bleeding. From there, you await the formation of a scab—and when it comes, you pick it off, revealing fresh skin underneath. What sounds harmless at first can very quickly get out of hand, and it is not uncommon for chronic skin pickers to cover themselves in bandages or to use heavy makeup to mask the damage they’ve done.
But if everyone picks, what’s ultimately the difference between healthy picking and problem picking? The trouble comes when your skin picking actually starts to impede your normal life—or, when all the bloody lesions on your face start to draw unwanted attention.
The Hazards of Skin Picking
Some medical professionals say that chronic skin picking is a true disorder—and it’s not without its consequences. Skin that is routinely mutilated cannot fully heal. This can lead to skin infections, and among some individuals, skin grafts are needed.
There are also the social implications; a lot of people who struggle with skin picking tend to avoid swimming pools, for instance, where much skin is exposed. They may also become resistant to any kind of sexual activity—because, again, it requires skin to be revealed.
More than anything, though, the bloodied appearance that skin picking creates can lead to psychological damage. When your skin is in a constant state of mutilation, you tend to suffer from a dearth in self-confidence. This in turn leads to social withdrawal or isolation—something that can damage relationships and careers.
The Psychiatry of Skin Picking
The technical term for skin picking, according to psychiatric professionals, is excoriation disorder. It’s a kind of body-focused repetitive behavior that finds common ground with trichotillomania—a condition that causes individuals to obsessively twist or pull their own hair. There is often some overlap with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), though this is not always the case.
So why do some people develop this condition? On this point, science is inconclusive. It is often thought to be a genetic condition. Others suggest that it may have its roots in a stress disorder—that picking may be a way of dealing with deeper, buried anxieties.
What to Do About Skin Picking
Ultimately, the cause of the condition may not be as relevant as the potential solutions. One of the best ways to respond to a skin picking disorder is to undergo cognitive behavioral therapy, something you can engage through a therapist. This can help you to reassert control over your actions, and break down some of the compulsory aspects of skin picking. There may also be some pragmatic ways to block your skin-picking habit—like trimming your nails short—though these tend to be short-term fixes.
One important note is that this is a real psychological issue, and not merely a matter of willpower. If you find that you cannot talk yourself out of skin picking, that’s a good sign that you need to be speaking about it with a therapist—before the damage done to your skin and to your psyche becomes too extreme.
For those who have dealt with this condition, you might also consult with a dermatologist about the different ways you can replenish your scarred skin. This can be an essential step toward reclaiming some of your self-confidence.
Ultimately, skin picking isn’t something to take lightly—at least not when it reaches obsessive levels. Make sure you keep tabs on your own behaviors—with skin picking as well as hair twisting. If you have any additional questions or need to know where to get help, reach out to New Look Institute.
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