Jump to content
Acne.org
Search In
Find results that contain...
Find results in...
JLopez

Relationship Between Self Harm And Skin Picking

Recommended Posts

For as long as I can remember I have struggled with some level of social anxiety. I am not diagnosed. I have not spoken to a doctor about this. But I know that my childhood memories are riddled with bouts of irrational anxiety. I think starting High School was the real catalyst; becoming a teenager and thus becoming painfully self aware. Suddenly appearance was everything, what other people thought of me, if they liked my hair, if they thought I was spotty, if I was walking weird. It seems everyone suffers this kind of social awkwardness to at least some extent, but it is how it manifests that defines your condition. I knew I was experiencing more than just normal social anxiety when I started to have panic attacks in my 20s.

I had some dark times as a teenager, and between the ages of 14 and somewhere around the age of 20 I self harmed. This condition, unlike the social anxiety, I was diagnosed with and I have visited multiple doctors and psychiatrists with no success. It was a condition that eventually went away. I remember that almost over night, I lost the urge to self harm. Something that had overcome me for so many years just didn't seem quite so calming or appealing.

I am not proud of this time in my life, but I am not ashamed of it either. For a while I was relatively happy. I was no longer self harming, my scars were healing and I had clear skin (something I didn't even take notice of at the time, but now seems like all I think about.)

It has come to light more recently that I am a compulsive skin picker. It took a particularly bad session of scrutinising my face and picking at every pore, 2 inches away from the mirror, for me to realise I even had a problem.

I live with my boyfriend and he pops his spots. But kind of like, a normal person, you know? Like if he has a spot with a head he will pop it and go on with his day/night/whatever. If I have a spot with a head I will pop it, then I will scan the rest of my face for any clogged pore/dry skin/pimple/ANYTHING that I can extract. I go into a trance and out come the tools and the disinfectant and before I know it I am sore, bloody and so disappointed in myself.

I've been thinking about the sensation that accompanies skin picking for me, specifically this trance-like-state. I feel calm and I feel logical, which is a surreal thing, because inflicting harm on yourself it is the least calm and logical activity in the world, since what will follow is probably crying or depression, sometimes a panic attack, social anxiety (because god forbid anyone sees the scabs and scars from the picking.)

But for me, this calm and logical sensation is exactly what I experienced when I was self harming. It is a deep rooted desire to see the physical manifestation of your inner pain, which is accompanied by this sense that you deserve what comes next. You deserve not to go out and see your friends, for fear of them commenting on your skin, you deserve to have bad skin.

But the fact is: THIS IS NOT TRUE. YOU DO NOT DESERVE TO HAVE BAD SKIN. YOU DO NOT DESERVE TO BE IN PAIN.

Acne is a disease, and it is serious. My time with acne has affected me deeply but I have begin to come to some sort of acceptance. I will never quit my battle against acne, but I do not want acne to rule my life.

Skin picking creates nothing but negativity, both physically and mentally. It spread bacteria, creates wounds on my face and damages my skin, it also reminds me of the all-too-farmiliar sensation of self harming, which is a memory I could do without. As a result of this I have decided to start taking the steps towards quitting my skin picking addiction.

The steps I have taken so far are as follows:

* I have removed the mirror from my bathroom. Too many times I have stood in front of this mirror and picked my face to shreds. I am already finding that I have less anxiety when I go into the bathroom because I know there's nothing for me to look at.

* I have ordered a "fiddle toy" from eBay. This is to play with while I am watching television in the evenings, with the intention of stopping my hands wandering and searching for bumps on my face.

* I have purchased cotton gloves to wear to bed. This is to stop me from scratching in my sleep.

So this post is essentially a shout out to anybody who is experiencing anything similar, whether it is self harm as we know it, or in the form of skin picking, to say you are not alone, and there is always hope. There is always something you can do to take the first step towards improvement.

Thanks for reading,

J

Link to post
Share on other sites

I can relate to this. I've got a scar I created after I left my husband. I did it as a punishment for what I'd done. My scar is gradually healing and I'm working on forgiving myself.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Thank you for this post. I can relate to you in so many ways, it seems I could have written this myself. I realized that skin picking for me was definitely a form of control and a way to de-stress at the end of the day. Even though afterwards (like you I would almost not remember doing it) I would feel like crap. Just the realization of WHY I would start to pick really helped me redirect myself and eventually stop. 

Link to post
Share on other sites

Thank you for starting this discussion. I just realized today that my skin picking sessions are a form of self harm. I used to think it was just a bad habit, but today, after a session fueled by extreme anxiety in both my personal and professional life, I realized that I do it the most when I am under heavy stress. It is a relief to come here and see that someone has articulated my problem. Your descriptions of the "trance-like state" and "releasing the inner pain" match my own experiences. I hope we can all overcome this. We deserve better. Good luck to you all. 

Link to post
Share on other sites
On June 16, 2015 at 9:38:38 AM, JLopez said:

I've been thinking about the sensation that accompanies skin picking for me, specifically this trance-like-state. 

I know too well of this. It's the calm before the storm. I only recently noticed I pick mostly when I'm doing through a period of stress/anxiety. 
I can't stand walking out of the bathroom after a pick session, then having my boyfriend see what I've done to my face after being in the bathroom 15 minutes. That one spot I saw turns into seeing every spot, only to feel bummed out. I'm kicking this habit for good...
Link to post
Share on other sites
On 1/6/2016, 2:15:00, TomatoFace said:
I know too well of this. It's the calm before the storm. I only recently noticed I pick mostly when I'm doing through a period of stress/anxiety. 
I can't stand walking out of the bathroom after a pick session, then having my boyfriend see what I've done to my face after being in the bathroom 15 minutes. That one spot I saw turns into seeing every spot, only to feel bummed out. I'm kicking this habit for good...

Hey TomatoFace,

I feel your pain! I am am so ashamed when I have had a picking session and my face is all red and blotchy. It always serves to make me look much worse than I did before. Although, I have found that it is helpful for me to tell my boyfriend, and even talk to him about it. It can be quite beneficial to share the burden. 
For me I find that anxiety and boredom are the worst culprits. If I am feeling unsure or nervous about upcoming plans I tend to self-sabotage by picking my face.
If it's any help to you at all, I have found that removing my bathroom mirror and covering the mirror in my bedroom has made a huge difference to my picking habits. I also wear gloves around the house now, and a few times a week I leave an organic, raw honey mask on my face while I am working on the computer, because it creates a soothing barrier between my wandering fingers and my skin.

Best of luck with your skin!
On 10/15/2015, 10:09:54, Minnie11 said:

I can relate to this. I've got a scar I created after I left my husband. I did it as a punishment for what I'd done. My scar is gradually healing and I'm working on forgiving myself.

Hi Minnie,

I completely understand, and I am glad that you are working on forgiving yourself, that is a difficult step but so important.
Stay strong!
 
On 12/24/2015, 7:46:09, Luna878 said:

Thank you for this post. I can relate to you in so many ways, it seems I could have written this myself. I realized that skin picking for me was definitely a form of control and a way to de-stress at the end of the day. Even though afterwards (like you I would almost not remember doing it) I would feel like crap. Just the realization of WHY I would start to pick really helped me redirect myself and eventually stop. 

Hey Luna,

No problem. Yeah control is definately a factor. I think acne really brings out the control-freak in me. I tend to become obsessive over things like the skin picking, or controlling my diet or exercise routine. I'm slowly starting to realise that the psychological effects of acne take as long, if not longer, to recover from than the physical effects. Have you managed to successfully stop picking? Would you mind my asking if you have any techniques that you use?

J
On 1/4/2016, 8:15:44, RMT said:

Thank you for starting this discussion. I just realized today that my skin picking sessions are a form of self harm. I used to think it was just a bad habit, but today, after a session fueled by extreme anxiety in both my personal and professional life, I realized that I do it the most when I am under heavy stress. It is a relief to come here and see that someone has articulated my problem. Your descriptions of the "trance-like state" and "releasing the inner pain" match my own experiences. I hope we can all overcome this. We deserve better. Good luck to you all. 

Hey RMT,

Thanks for the reply. I'm glad the post was of some comfort to you. The community on acne.org has helped me through some really tough times! It's so helpful to know that you aren't alone with these feelings. Good luck and hope you are well.

J
Link to post
Share on other sites

I definitely agree with your tips! I can't say for sure that I'm completely cured of skin picking forever ..maybe 99%. When I'm super stressed I notice the urge to pick but I can usually catch it early now and stop. Of course clearing up my acne also helped becuase a lot of my skin picking issues were tied to my frustration with acne.

I wrote about my best tips here: 
http://www.acne.org/messageboard/topic/354400-successful-strategies-to-stop-picking/?do=findComment&comment=3508013   (you mentioned a few similar strategies so I'm glad to know these things have worked for others!)

Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks for the tips. I bought a tangle toy for myself too and yesterday didn't pick on my skin because I had the toy to hold on to :)
My skin picking is much about "cleansing" myself. I want to be perfect - and I won't be perfect with clugged pores... I understand, that my idea of perfection is much about wanting to be loved and accepted... by others and by myself....

Link to post
Share on other sites
On January 14, 2016 at 11:37 AM, JLopez said:
Hey TomatoFace,

I feel your pain! I am am so ashamed when I have had a picking session and my face is all red and blotchy. It always serves to make me look much worse than I did before. Although, I have found that it is helpful for me to tell my boyfriend, and even talk to him about it. It can be quite beneficial to share the burden. 
For me I find that anxiety and boredom are the worst culprits. If I am feeling unsure or nervous about upcoming plans I tend to self-sabotage by picking my face.
If it's any help to you at all, I have found that removing my bathroom mirror and covering the mirror in my bedroom has made a huge difference to my picking habits. I also wear gloves around the house now, and a few times a week I leave an organic, raw honey mask on my face while I am working on the computer, because it creates a soothing barrier between my wandering fingers and my skin.
Hello JLopez,
Thank you for your thoughtful advice!  Every once and a while I make my boyfriend listen to all my acne woes. I agree it does help talking about it!  My boyfriend is caring when I share my skin burdens, but he doesn't always quite understand, or maybe it just bores him. It's all good though, I started going to an aesthetician who is very helpful with these issues, and she actually enjoys the discussion much more. Then she gives me great advice, honestly better than my derm. This has drastically reduced picking, yay!  
It looks like your face mask helps you in the same way as my aesthetician helps me, pampering vs. injuring, I love it! 
Stay good to your face, and it will stay good to you :)
Link to post
Share on other sites
On 1/27/2016 at 2:11 PM, TomatoFace said:
Hello JLopez,
Thank you for your thoughtful advice!  Every once and a while I make my boyfriend listen to all my acne woes. I agree it does help talking about it!  My boyfriend is caring when I share my skin burdens, but he doesn't always quite understand, or maybe it just bores him. It's all good though, I started going to an aesthetician who is very helpful with these issues, and she actually enjoys the discussion much more. Then she gives me great advice, honestly better than my derm. This has drastically reduced picking, yay!  
It looks like your face mask helps you in the same way as my aesthetician helps me, pampering vs. injuring, I love it! 
Stay good to your face, and it will stay good to you :)
Hey Tomato Face,

Yes I find it so difficult not to talk about acne/skin picking when it seems to take up so much of my brain! Thankfully I have found the acne.org forums provide some relief. It's amazing the depth of knowledge one can develop about their skin from just browsing this website. Probably not the best topic to bring up at parties though haha.
Wow how brilliant that you have found a good aesthetician; can I ask do you specifically discuss skin picking with her? Or acne in general?
Link to post
Share on other sites
8 hours ago, JLopez said:
Hey Tomato Face,

Yes I find it so difficult not to talk about acne/skin picking when it seems to take up so much of my brain! Thankfully I have found the acne.org forums provide some relief. It's amazing the depth of knowledge one can develop about their skin from just browsing this website. Probably not the best topic to bring up at parties though haha.
Wow how brilliant that you have found a good aesthetician; can I ask do you specifically discuss skin picking with her? Or acne in general?
JLopez,

I know what you mean, acne can be a heavy burden, sometimes you just gotta have a acne rant. 
My aesthetician and I talk about all sorts of acne issues, including picking! It's funny, she told me she is picker at times. It turns out we both can go too crazy with the same small circle comedone extractor. She hooked me up with free samples of product to help with my specific needs (I'm allergic to fragrance, with dry and acne prone skin).
I am so pleased with the service, plus it was nearly like a therapy session, haha. I still have to use my products more before I can give a verdict on if these products actually help. I hope these products help my skin, I really love the pampering.
Link to post
Share on other sites

I can so relate to this forum. For years I simply considered my skin picking normal.  When I was young, my mother picked my face and back, then cleaned with alcohol afterwards.Later I did it myself from late Junior High on. She would pick my face every time just before we visited people too. As a kid, I never even thought about it and I complied. Around High School, she was still wanting to do it and that felt weird, so I told her to stop, which she did. However, the habit had merely transferred to me instead.

I remember my Mom saying it's important to get all of the dead skin so you needed to be sure there was blood at the end. Makes sense. It's important to get all the stuff out, if one is to pick it, if that is even necessary, which most of the time, realistically, it is not. That thought helped fuel the obsession. I began picking any little zit on my arms, face, and chest in that way. My mother never had picked my arms, so clearly, I had expanded the habit.  By that time I was self conscious about it and never wore short sleeve shirts. Of course, in gym, that wasn't always possible and worried what people would think.

If I asked my Mom today why she picked the zits on my face, she would say some seemingly practical. In my opinion today, looking back, the picking clearly was a symptom of other problems. I don’t see very many comments about what the posters’  picking was a manifestation of, but perhaps that would get off the subject yet I believe it’s a very important one which has taken years for me, personally, to unravel.

The red marks and scabs on my arms were so numerous during high school that people thought I was taking insulin. I was surprised, but I didn't stop. Something bothered me about picking, and I wanted clear skin but kept picking. It had become a full compulsion. Today I can say it was obsessive but back then, I was in an emotional box I didn’t totally understand and still accepted as normal.

As a kid, when I'd visit my Grandmother, she would lovingly help me use the new Ten-O-Six cleaner and we would go out shopping with me wearing a new dress. It was comforting and fun. When I went home I'd use up the bottle and start picking again. Oddly, although I liked the dresses very much, to this day, I don’t remember wearing them out. I digress.

I already had inherited my Dad's acne skin so there was always at least one zit to get me started. To this day, I bear multitudes of scars on my upper arms, face, and some on my chest, that over many years, have slowly dissipated. A few zits have always been in the same place and might be from my actual acne. I still scratch those individual ones but I don’t continue on.

Looking back, I remember the pain I was inflicting yet, it was good to get the dead skin out….right? This forum title really hit home that it IS self-harm.

The first step to stopping my picking was to distance myself from my Mother physically. Write extensively in my journal, and read it after I no longer had it fresh in my memory so things would stand out.  Find a therapist that asks you mindful questions leading you to self-wisdom. Rode my bike a lot. Try new things without considering what my Mom’s tastes were. Buy things based on my taste. Go on an independence streak (obviously don’t be unsafe etc.). Learn hypnosis or meditation. Get into nature. Find music that is designed to lift you. Devise visualizations to use when in company with individuals you deem destructive.  Learn social verbal self-defense so people don’t zoom in on your subconscious projected victimness. Diet. I DON’T agree with eliminating dairy at all. It has so much to offer in nutrition. Organic is important to me with meat and dairy although I can’t always afford it. Eggs are a versatile complete food. A runny yolk(The vitamins aren’t killed including vitamin E which is an anti-cholesterol and the cholesterol isn’t oxidized) with a cooked white(makes the biotin bioavailable) i.e. sunny side up. Now I can add acne.org to the list.



 

Edited by HolyCow!
Wanted to check box to receive replies
Link to post
Share on other sites

I can really relate to the self sabotage thing. Sometime I've gone to the bathroom, all the while saying in my head "DO NOT PICK" but I my hands are twitching and eager to pop a zit. Then I do it, and I say to myself "ok, that's one, not so bad..." BUT THEN I KEEP DOING IT. It's actually the behaviour of an insane person. As I keep doing it, I hear this nasty side of me saying things like "well you're just a sucker for punishment aren't you.. why not just pick at these ones since you already fucked up..."

I'm so angry when I leave sessions like these. I feel like I'm spiralling into insanity each time. I've resolved to cover my mirrors with fabric, and signs behind them warning me not to pick. I plan on tallying the days I don't pick on the sign, so that I can have a representation of my progress. Unfortunately I picked this morning, so I won't be able to put a "day one" tick on there until tomorrow evening, provided I behave myself.

I'm so fucking sick of this. I had a good skin day yesterday but I destroyed all that with last night's picking session. Now I'm stuck inside my house for a couple of days until this garbage face of mine heals up. 

I hate myself so much right now.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I've picked for almost as long as I can remember.  It started when I was probably 6 years old.  I picked my cuticles in first grade until they bled.  I haven't stopped since, so I've been picking for about 20 years at this point.  Anything I saw as "imperfect" on myself I wanted to "fix" and "clean."  Everything you all have said really hits home for me.  It's been so ingrained in me that I don't think I ever thought it was possible to stop picking and I always believed I had awful skin and awful acne.  People would compliment my skin and I was always shocked when this happened because I thought it was so bad.  I find myself particularly triggered at the end of a long day, when I'm distracted or bored, and also when I'm driving in the car - stoplights or traffic are bad because I can open the mirror use both hands.  I check constantly and completely unconsciously most of the time.  I think the trance-like feeling some of you have described is the most addictive part to me.  I also think that as I got older, I became more anxious about the positive attention I was getting from men for my appearance and picking became a way to cope or to try to make myself less seen in a sexual manner.  Some of it definitely comes from feeling a lack of control within my family and feeling like I had to keep my parents happy whatever the cost.

It was only within the past few years that I realized that I wasn't the only one who goes through this.  Even just that realization alone was a huge step for me.  I had started to see the longterm effects of picking and it really freaked me out and upset me.  I've also realized that maybe those people who complimented my skin were right - I really don't have acne, it's just from picking.  I pick at nothing until something comes up and the few times that I do have a bump under the skin gets blown completely out of proportion in my mind.  Just a few minutes ago, I put a mask on my face and covered my bathroom mirror and I'm determined to go 7 days without picking.  When I make it 7 days, I'll go 7 days more.  

I'm really grateful to have found this forum and to know that I'm not alone in this journey.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Thank you so much for this forum! I've struggled with this most of my life thinking I was alone. I started obsessively picking at my acne in my early teens, then in twenties I started self harming. When I stopped self harming, I started obsessively picking at my legs, digging at ingrown and infected hairs, making my legs and bikini area an infected, scarred and pigmented mess on top of the acne on my chest and shoulders. I also obsess about diet and exercise too. If I eat something 'bad' I binge eat everything in the house then go on picking spread, trapping myself in an endless cycle of paranoia and anxiety. I started taking medication for anxiety, it hasn't helped with the picking yet, but I know it takes time. What I need is something positive to replace it with, something that will focus  my attention without being cathartic. I tried  meditation but it didn't give me the same calm and focus that skin picking does. Any suggestions would be very helpfully. Thank you!

Link to post
Share on other sites
On 1 September 2016 at 10:18 AM, CausativePain said:

I tried  meditation but it didn't give me the same calm and focus that skin picking does. Any suggestions would be very helpfully. Thank you!

This is the oldest one in the book but recently I have been attempting to stick to relaxing routine's that leave less time for me to pick at my skin and bring down my anxiety levels. Unfortunately I struggle with meditating too, I find my mind wandering and I get bored quickly. One of the best things for me right now is to light some nice candles in my bathroom, run a bath and set a timer on my phone. I lay in the bath for about 15-20 minutes and to keep my hands busy I hold onto something, just a wash cloth or a sponge, and try to relax. I keep my mirrors covered in the bathroom so there is no temptation to pick after I get out of the water. I find that being consistent with this routine once or twice a week over the past couple of months has kept me much more relaxed in general, and when my anxiety is low, so is my desire to pick.

I think it's really easy in today's world to neglect self care and feel like we are too busy or not deserving of taking time out to relax, but I am always much more productive in my day-to-day when I allow myself time to chill out once in a while. Also, I do the same thing with the hairs on my legs, obsessing over every pore. I've found another good thing to do is just before you go to bed, preferably in dim light so you don't analyse too much, apply a nice body moisturiser and really time the time to massage it in. It sounds counter-intuitive to be touching the area that you want to pick, but it can satisfy that need to 'do something' whilst re-training your brain to treat your skin with care rather than abusing it.

Good luck!
Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.


  • Personalized Advice Quiz - All of Acne.org in just a few minutes


×