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Skin picking is an addiction!

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I'm beginning to think that skin picking is really a form of addiction. We have a disease (acne) and if we pick at it, we inflame it or make it worse. We feel remorse or shame because of our inability to stop our behavior (picking). And sometimes the results of our picking causes us to become reclusive and cancel social engagements. It also affects those who love us because we're so obsessed with our skin and overwhelmed by our emotions that we become all wrapped up in ourselves and ignore the needs of others (...yes, we do). Sounds a bit like being an alcoholic!

A person who is notan alcoholic can have a drink and stop. They do not feel remorse or shame because they had a drink because they know that they are in control of it...it doesn't control them. A person who is notaddicted to picking their skin can have a little flaky skin or bump, or even a pimple but they ignore it...it doesn't bother them that much. Or they might even remove the flaky skin but that's all...they don't feel compelled to keep on picking everything on their face.

So what would happen if we handle skin picking in the same way as someone who's a recovering alcoholic? I have a really good friend who's a recovered alcoholic and she's been sober now for decades. What if we followed the same thing as Alcoholics Anonymous? It's worked really well for her and she gets so much support from AA. This forum is like an AA group for skin pickers. It'd be good if some of the "recovered skin pickers" would stick around to help others...

I'll be talking with my friend for ideas on how to apply the AA principles to this effort. And I'll keep a log here on how I'm doing with it as well.

What do you think? Any AA people out there who have ideas on this?

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I agree with you there. I'm on Retin-A and my skin gets really flaky. I have to pick the flakes off...if I try to stop myself then I do it without realising anyway. It's like I can't relax until it's all gone...

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I'd love to be a part of this conversation. It's been 10 years of acne and I'm tired of it. I do think it has become an addiction because it controls my behavior and I can't make myself stop sometimes when I'm in front of the mirror. I can't stop touching my face and feeling all the little bumps when I'm out in public. I've used several different antibiotics and accutane, and it helped a lot while I was on it, but the acne has since returned. I am at my end and I'm out of ideas...glad you guys understnad :)

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Just thinking of picking as an addiction seems to change my whole mindset. I can focus on acne as a disease and picking as the addictive behavior that aggrevates the disease...something I don't want to do! It helps that I don't like addictive behaviors in general and have been hurt by people who are addictive...so I definitely do not want to be that kind of person (...self-involved, etc.)

So far this change in mindset is working...little steps at a time. It's like each day is a new day to not engage in this addictive behavior. And my hope is that someday I may even stop thinking about it but I'm okay if that doesn't happen. Even my good friend who's been sober for a very long time says that she sometimes thinks about drinking and is almost compelled to start it again. But she doesn't...of course she follows a strict AA program. And I'm trying on pieces of AA that make sense to picking as an addiction.

So like AA, I'm calling on a "higher power" for help and admitting that I'm powerless to stop picking myself. Trying to use my own willpower has never worked, at least for me. But for the past week or so, admitting I'm powerless and calling on a higher power seems to be working...go figure!

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I'd love to be a part of this conversation. It's been 10 years of acne and I'm tired of it. I do think it has become an addiction because it controls my behavior and I can't make myself stop sometimes when I'm in front of the mirror. I can't stop touching my face and feeling all the little bumps when I'm out in public. I've used several different antibiotics and accutane, and it helped a lot while I was on it, but the acne has since returned. I am at my end and I'm out of ideas...glad you guys understnad :)

It's so discouraging when acne keeps on returning after trying so many things --- I've been there over and over and over again. But I keep on trying and I'm now following exactly what my derm is says to do. I have to admit that before I always would fiddle around with the treatment routine, even just a bit, and maybe that didn't help. Another thing that has changed for me is that I no longer think I'm ever going to outgrow this...so I'm treating it more like one would a chronic disease. I'm accepting it and trying to get into a maintenance treatment thing that I can do long-term.

To that end I'm really hoping that the Retin-A + Spironolactone combo, along with extremely gentle cleansing and application of lotions will keep me clearer for longer periods of time and if I flare-up then I'll use Oracea for a couple of months to calm things down again. I'm resigning myself to this kind of regime. Whereas before I always assumed I'd outgrow acne and not have to be using drugs, etc.

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one thing that helped me to stop picking is to just run away from the mirror and go to the kitchen and get a grapefruit. lol, yeah its funny but peeling away at the thick layers gets that "picking feeling" to go away. Try it out :surprised:

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That's funny! But they say that any behavior that competes with picking may help stop it. I haven't found anything that competes with it, except for a mental thought that this could be an addiction and I hate anything to do with addictions so that's a pretty big competing kind of behavior. I do not want to do addictive things!

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I'm using a Retin-A cream and that seems to be very different than the gel. When I used the gel my skin was a red oozing mess and really hurt. But the cream is not that irritating if used like they recommend...ie waiting for 20 minutes after washing before applying. The only thing I don't like about it is that my skin is more flakey...not too bad but at times I can get a real flakey patch. And then another function of Retin-A is to bring to the surface any sun damage and in a snesne exfoliate it. I had a lot of sunburns when I was a child so every month I get a spot that keeps on peeling until the sun damage is all exfoliated in that area. My derm says to keep on using it and overall I'm pleased with it.

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I was going to respond to your PM when I read this post and wanted to mention something for you to think about.

You said you don't like addictive behaviors but feel this whole picking thing might be an addiction and will try and treat it as such. I have no experience in this matter, however, I was wondering if you are a perfectionist by nature or have any obsessive qualities to your personality whereby you might simply be looking at making your skin as "perfect" as it can be at that moment you want to pick. I'm not talking about OCD or anything diagnosed, but merely not liking what you see and wanting to make it look better or more perfect and obsessing about it until you do.

So, in other words, if your skin wasn't breaking out, would you continue to find things or places on your body to pick at, like your arms, legs, or face, would you move on to something else to obsess over, like your hair that day or your eyebrows or your clothes, or would you simply walk away from the mirror feeling pretty? People with problematic skin will understandably spend more time in the mirror trying to make their skin look as "normal" as possible, that's part of it, but once it looks good for the day or the moment, and you continue in the mirror, then you're taking away from living your life.

Good luck figuring this all out. A little suggestion: if you find you have so much time that you're able to spend it in the mirror for long periods of time obsessing over the condition of your skin, you need to give yourself permission for, say, 10 or 15 minutes to get looking good, and then you have to simply force yourself to walk out of the bathroom and take up a new hobby you enjoy or spend time doing anything with anyone other than being in the bathroom. I suggest hiking or cycling or any form of exercise, basically anything that will get you out in the fresh air and enjoying nature. #1 Nature never judges. #2 It's great to exercise for overall good health. #3 Those endorphins help with feeling low about your skin!

Edited by JustaMomToo

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I don't think that skin picking is an addiction. It's a habit, perhaps a compulsion, but calling it an addiction gives it more power than it deserves. To me, calling something an addiction is like saying that it's not your fault, that you are powerless against it and that it's okay if you aren't able to overcome it. Maybe it's just the way that I am wired, but for me, that is the worst attitude to have when trying to overcome something.

There are two kinds of skin picking: the kind that you do consciously and the kind that you do unconsciously when your hands just naturally begin to scan your face and pick at blemishes without you even realizing it. The conscious part in my view is easiest part of the habit to break. Identify the things that generally make you want to consciously pick at your face and avoid those things as much as possible. If that involves you looking in the mirror closely, then avoid doing this. Look at yourself from a distance and only do it once or twice a day. Avoid the need to constantly scrutinize yourself. You know that it is harmful to you, so stop doing it. Don't look for excuses, just do what you need to to get past it.

Unconsciously picking at your skin is more difficult because it is beyond your control. The important thing to do is just to chip away at the habit. Every time you catch yourself doing it, stop immediately. I realize that this process can be quite frustrating, but when it comes to stopping yourself from unconsciously picking, your goal should be to maintain continuous progress. It won't happen over night, but the longer you keep at it, the less you will do it until you eventually realize that you are no longer doing it at all.

I realize that this can be difficult and I don't mean to sound ignorant or to make light of anyone's struggles, but skin picking is not a disease. I think that breaking past this mindset is instrumental to getting over this habit.

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I totally agree with the thoughts about addiction. I've never really been an addictive person myself except for the behavior that surrounds picking...which was what caused me to make the connection...actually out of deep empathy for people that I know who struggle with their alcohol addictions...and with deep empathy for my own struggle with skin picking. The comment about alcoholics not having bottles taped to their hands makes me think of the fact that I don't have tweezers taped to my hand but sometimes the urge to pick using such an implement is incredibly strong...so strong that I unconsciously wake up from a picking session with a tweezer in my hand and not remember ever picking it up. I wonder if that's what it's like for some alcoholics. In other words, it's easier said than done to just not pick up a bottle for an alcoholic and a tweezer for a skin picker.

I'm a bit of a perfectionist and I'm beginning to think I have a distorted image of what my facial skin really looks like. This is from having very severe cystic acne throughout my early adulthood until doing two rounds of Accutane. Even after this I breakout in large pimples every few weeks and I'm now almost 60 and have been on every treatment available with little success...mostly because docs don't like us to live on antibiotics forever (the only thing that really works for me). I most likely have some PTSD around all this because I have never been able to trust that my skin will stay clear for any length of time...unless I'm on full strength antibiotics.

If my skin is clear or mostly clear I do not obsess about other things but get on with my life. I have seen this again and again...but as I shared above this only happens if I'm on full strength antibiotics. My derm is very patient and she's trying to get me to where I don't have to rely on them. For many years before my most recent go at treating acne I just used BP regime and I broke out in terrible cysts for decades. It was very damaging to my self-esteem and I'm still recovering from those years of just trying to do OTC treatment.

This is where I begin to think in terms of addiction. Some people are genetically prone to alcoholism, their bodies function differently (through no fault of their own) and therefore the urge to drink is greater and much harder to avoid. Those of us with acne are prone to skin-picking because our bodies, actually our pores, function differently from people without acne. I'm speaking about urges...the urge to drink and the urge to pick the skin. Both have a base in how the body is not functioning well. For the alcoholic it is how the body over-responds to certain stimulants and then there is the urge to drink to satisfy the "thirst". For the skin-picker it is how the pores over-respond to sebum and get inflammed and then there is the urge to take care of that bump or scaly skin, etc. It's these overwhelming urges.

So we do all we can to change how the skin function...take meds, apply lotions, etc. But those of us prone to skin-picking (which I think is most of us who have chronic longterm acne...) also have to change our mindset. I just think the AA method has some validity.

Does this makes sense?

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i've dealt with picking at my skin since i was around 11 or 12 years old. i'm 16 now, 17 in a few months, and i've completely destroyed the skin on my face, neck, chest, shoulders, and even arms. i never really realized how serious of a problem it was until a couple months ago when i found out there was actually a name for it. its a huge relief knowing that people out there are experiencing the same thing.

i won't leave the house without lots of make up to hide the scars on my face and neck, and always have jackets or 3/4 sleeve shirts(most of the scars are from the elbow up) i've never really been able to talk to friends or family about it, because they just don't understand how serious it really is. the only when i know how to explain it to them is to compare it to a cigarette smoker, you know its bad for you, and you don't want to do it anymore, but its just so hard to quit. i have bad acne naturally, and don't have health insurance so i've never been able to see a dermatologist. i quit drinking multiple cans of soda a day and that seemed to make a pretty big difference, but i know it'll never completely go away. i always feel so pathetic and disgusting the days following a bad picking. i can barely look in a mirror without wanting to cry in frustration.

i've tried to quit soo many times, but in the end i always end up giving into temptation, and once i start i get a "well i already fucked up, might as well go all out" mentality. i recently picked so severely that i got deep open wounds.. i was so desperate to hide them so my mom wouldn't be disappointed that i put make up on them, which made them swell up and make my face look deformed. after cleansing the area to get all the makeup and bacteria out i did a cold compress and took some benedryl to make the swelling go down. i've just continued to apply neosporin hoping that the wounds will heal soon.

sorry for writing so much, i just found this site and am really excited that someone can relate to me /:

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I totally agree with the thoughts about addiction. I've never really been an addictive person myself except for the behavior that surrounds picking...which was what caused me to make the connection...actually out of deep empathy for people that I know who struggle with their alcohol addictions...and with deep empathy for my own struggle with skin picking. The comment about alcoholics not having bottles taped to their hands makes me think of the fact that I don't have tweezers taped to my hand but sometimes the urge to pick using such an implement is incredibly strong...so strong that I unconsciously wake up from a picking session with a tweezer in my hand and not remember ever picking it up. I wonder if that's what it's like for some alcoholics. In other words, it's easier said than done to just not pick up a bottle for an alcoholic and a tweezer for a skin picker.

I'm a bit of a perfectionist and I'm beginning to think I have a distorted image of what my facial skin really looks like. This is from having very severe cystic acne throughout my early adulthood until doing two rounds of Accutane. Even after this I breakout in large pimples every few weeks and I'm now almost 60 and have been on every treatment available with little success...mostly because docs don't like us to live on antibiotics forever (the only thing that really works for me). I most likely have some PTSD around all this because I have never been able to trust that my skin will stay clear for any length of time...unless I'm on full strength antibiotics.

If my skin is clear or mostly clear I do not obsess about other things but get on with my life. I have seen this again and again...but as I shared above this only happens if I'm on full strength antibiotics. My derm is very patient and she's trying to get me to where I don't have to rely on them. For many years before my most recent go at treating acne I just used BP regime and I broke out in terrible cysts for decades. It was very damaging to my self-esteem and I'm still recovering from those years of just trying to do OTC treatment.

This is where I begin to think in terms of addiction. Some people are genetically prone to alcoholism, their bodies function differently (through no fault of their own) and therefore the urge to drink is greater and much harder to avoid. Those of us with acne are prone to skin-picking because our bodies, actually our pores, function differently from people without acne. I'm speaking about urges...the urge to drink and the urge to pick the skin. Both have a base in how the body is not functioning well. For the alcoholic it is how the body over-responds to certain stimulants and then there is the urge to drink to satisfy the "thirst". For the skin-picker it is how the pores over-respond to sebum and get inflammed and then there is the urge to take care of that bump or scaly skin, etc. It's these overwhelming urges.

So we do all we can to change how the skin function...take meds, apply lotions, etc. But those of us prone to skin-picking (which I think is most of us who have chronic longterm acne...) also have to change our mindset. I just think the AA method has some validity.

Does this makes sense?

i think the difference between someone who picks at their skin constantly and someone who is addicted to picking is that the addict will go looking for any imperfection they can find, anywhere. even if their skin is perfect, they will pick because it makes them feel slightly euphoric(a rush, a relief, etc.) i've found myself picking because i'm stressed about something, and when im sitting there infront of a mirror, all i can concentrate on is finding something new. it distracts me from all my problems, if only for a few minutes or hours. its a sick way to escape from reality. and that's what most people abuse/become addicted to drugs and alcohol for, an escape. idk maybe i'm just crazy, but that's my opinion on it being called an addiction.

Edited by holololy

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I've been picking my skin aggresively for the past 3-4 years of my life. My face is hard to recognise! I think I'm one of the severe cases cos I do unconsciously as well, not merely mirrors. I scracth my face while watchin tv or someone talkin to me I have fingers there on my face or back, if cant find anything then I pick my nail cuticles I used to do that nail thing esp at university during lectures!

Like people starting a diet once in a while I promise myself I'm never going to pick face again but then I do 1-2 pimples cant resist, and makes me give up my resolution competely.

I've never been an addiction prone person, never for alcohol or smokin or drugs or a man! lol it took me so late to realise I am addicted to skin picking. I'm upset why noone told me before this is an addiction sth shld be cured or treated psychologically before. People only say dont pick ur face it leaves scars! lol like i dont know! when someone says dont pick ur face in educative manners like I dont know anything about skin makes it more irresistable to pick for me, like saying I'm the one who gives decisions about my skin and I know how to make it look good.

I'm hopeful however cos realising a disease-addiction whatever u call, is the first step to heal it. Now I dont see my habit as an innocent normal thing. This is good cos makes me wanna recover and be normal. Good luck to us all, amen!

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This website has helped me a lot in understanding what a horrible thing I'm doing to myself. I heard it from message boards of here so u might have heard already: GREAT WEBSITE! thanks acne.org for letting us know good things to cure ourselves.

http://stoppickingonme.com/

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Hey :) As a skin picker myself, I completely agree that skin picking is an addiction related to OCD, stress, habit, depression, wanting an escape from reality, needing to feel a rush... and the list goes on. Realizing that picking is a bad habit that needs to be stopped is a step to recovery so I'm happy for you for doing so! I'm currently also trying to stop picking, we need to support each other like AA groups do.

holololy, I completely relate to you! A lot of what you wrote reminds me of myself. It's impossible for me to open up about this to friends or family, which makes me feel isolated and depressed and leads to me picking. That's why I'm on this board now, opening up to strangers. Before I use to think that no one else had my problem since I've never met anyone with who had it. Remember that there are others like you out there and that I'd love to talk and help out!

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I'm starting to do better. I decided to be totally up front with all of my doctors (derm, family doc, therapist) about it. It was really hard to do because I'm so afraid of being judged...but I know this is a key step in the AA program and so it makes sense to try with an addictive picking problem.

My family doc started me on allergy testing based on the itching that goes along with my urges to pick. He thinks allergy histamines in the skin get inflammed and start some of the urges! Isn't that interesting? Anyway allergy testing has already turned up some surprising results - ie that I'm allergic to shellfish. Guess what I was eating all during the holidays! My derm reassessed my topicals and actually upped the tretinoin cream in order to get better healing. And it seems to be working. I never would've guessed that would happen since I thought tretinoin cream would be more irritating at higher doses. But she says higher doses heal the skin cells and normalize them at a quicker pace. Plus my skin's looking a bit nicer so at least when I look in the mirror I don't think about picking as much (less flaky skin, etc.). I was so afraid what my therapist would think -yeah I know this is what I should be talking with my therapist about but it was so embarrasing to admit this flaw. She was totally sympathetic and not judgemental. I'm showing more of my feelings with her...crying, feeling sorry for myself, etc. and it feels good to let it all out. I was afraid that if I let out all of these feelings it would make my skin flare up more but that doesn't seem to be happening.

Anyway this is really new territory for me. I feel unsure of where it's all going but it feels right. I can actually look in the mirror right now and often not have the urge to pick. Not all the time but more than is usual for me. I guess the key thing is I'm not hiding it from others anymore.

Sharing with you all here on this site was the first step...a big one but it felt safe. And just hearing about what you're going through made me seem like less of a freak so it felt safer to try sharing about it with others.

Thanks and hugs to you all.

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it's amazing how much popping zits can control your life. I've always felt very alone because I didn't feel like it was a "normal" problem and I couldn't get support to stop it from anyone because they didn't understand how paramount of a problem it was for me. I'm glad there are people here who understand. I am going to move on and be healthy now. what is the AA program?

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AA stand for "Alcoholics Anonymous". The principles apply to any addiction though and I have found them very helpful in overcoming this issue.

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