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Lore91

Acne Dysmorphia

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I have acne dysmorphia, and it's ruining my life. 

 

This may be a long post and I apologise, but I could use some support.

 

A little background on me ... I've suffered with moderate acne all of my life, mostly on my face and back. On top of this I have seb derm on the face which flares up, and my cheeks are constantly red.

 

It never bothered me. I never looked at myself or worried how I looked (apart from my hair, had to be on fleek, haha!). I was happy with how I looked and it never bothered me .. Until this time last year where something just .. Clicked. I was 24 and I realized how horrible my skin was compared to others, and it was getting worse. The biggest breakout of my life happened and I hated myself. I had acne covering my face, back, chest, shoulders and arms. 

 

The next five months I didn't leave the house as my acne continously got worse and worse. I sacrificed my friends, my family and my career because of how I looked. I cried without fail every single day, and even began to write my suicide note one evening. I only stopped because I was so tired from crying that I fell asleep.

 

What saved my life? Accutane. I won't deny it - miracle. It completely cleared me within six months and for the first time I was happy, ending my course around August. I was going out. I got myself my first ever boyfriend. I was working. I accepted my dream job in japan starting this coming February and everything was going smoothly.

 

Unfortunately the miracle didn't last. My acne started to come back. It started as one spot a week, then progressed to around one a day. I've gone back to the derm and she's put me on a low 20mg short course of accutane again for the next two months before I fly out to japan, in the hopes that it will just get it back under control and to just kick the remaining acne in the butt.

 

Now, my acne is mild. I understand that. It's nowhere near the severity it once was .. But i'm so scared that it's all coming back. 

 

Despite knowing it's mild, however, I have a severe dysmorphia about it. To me, my skin looks horrendous and I have the ugliest skin in the world. Every spot I get is huge, and every time I see one my anxiety sparks immensely. I obsess over every piece of discoloration and every bump - I even almost had a heartattack over a bunch of marks ... Before I realized it was just a bruise. I have panic attacks over it, i'm cancelling plans once again. I check the mirror, no lie, over 100 times a day to check for new developments - and each time isn't just a single glance.. No I stare at my skin. Sometimes I've stared at my skin for a good 30 minutes. This, obviously, awakens me to every flaw I have, and my anxiety hits the roof. I use a handheld mirror to look at myself from every angle and at my neck/back, and adjust the lighting so I get a 'clear' view of my skin in every way. I wake up every morning with such searing anxiety because I'm scared to look in the mirror.

 

I stop everything I used to do in order to 'care' for my skin. I don't go to the gym because I'll sweat which will make me red and spark more acne and irritation. I don't wear clothes I want because collars, scarves and necklines will give me irritation.  I don't eat any dairy, I don't drink coffee, I don't drink alcohol. I don't like going out in the cold because I'd have to wear a coat which could irritate my neck and the coldness will bring out my redness. I sleep solely on my back even though it's uncomfortable and unnatural for me so my face doesn't touch the pillow. I sit on the side of the shower for about 20 minutes every day after my shower so I don't see my face all red and flustered when I go to get ready, meaning it takes ages for me to get ready in the morning.

 

Everytime I look in the mirror I see a monster. 

 

Here I am sitting here on christmas, trying to calm myself as my heart beats 10x it's usual pace because of a couple of spots. 

 

It's controlling and ruining my life and I don't want to spiral into depression again, especially with me moving country in two months. I'm posting this accepting that I have a mental problem here, and would love to know if anyone else is so ocd about acne like me, and how they've coped or any mechanisms they use to cope with acne/bad skin.

 

tl;dr : although I have bad skin, my mind conceives it as horrific and it's ruining my life.

Edited by Lore91
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I have before, but personally I didn't find her very good. I wasn't offered any kind of techniques or instructions, it was more just plain talking and her not really understanding. I had to stop as my insurance doesn't cover mental illness/therapy, and it's now too late to try on the nhs as I move country in two months

Edited by Lore91
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3 hours ago, Lore91 said:

I have acne dysmorphia, and it's ruining my life. 

 

This may be a long post and I apologise, but I could use some support.

 

A little background on me ... I've suffered with moderate acne all of my life, mostly on my face and back. On top of this I have seb derm on the face which flares up, and my cheeks are constantly red.

 

It never bothered me. I never looked at myself or worried how I looked (apart from my hair, had to be on fleek, haha!). I was happy with how I looked and it never bothered me .. Until this time last year where something just .. Clicked. I was 24 and I realized how horrible my skin was compared to others, and it was getting worse. The biggest breakout of my life happened and I hated myself. I had acne covering my face, back, chest, shoulders and arms. 

 

The next five months I didn't leave the house as my acne continously got worse and worse. I sacrificed my friends, my family and my career because of how I looked. I cried without fail every single day, and even began to write my suicide note one evening. I only stopped because I was so tired from crying that I fell asleep.

 

What saved my life? Accutane. I won't deny it - miracle. It completely cleared me within six months and for the first time I was happy, ending my course around August. I was going out. I got myself my first ever boyfriend. I was working. I accepted my dream job in japan starting this coming February and everything was going smoothly.

 

Unfortunately the miracle didn't last. My acne started to come back. It started as one spot a week, then progressed to around one a day. I've gone back to the derm and she's put me on a low 20mg short course of accutane again for the next two months before I fly out to japan, in the hopes that it will just get it back under control and to just kick the remaining acne in the butt.

 

Now, my acne is mild. I understand that. It's nowhere near the severity it once was .. But i'm so scared that it's all coming back. 

 

Despite knowing it's mild, however, I have a severe dysmorphia about it. To me, my skin looks horrendous and I have the ugliest skin in the world. Every spot I get is huge, and every time I see one my anxiety sparks immensely. I obsess over every piece of discoloration and every bump - I even almost had a heartattack over a bunch of marks ... Before I realized it was just a bruise. I have panic attacks over it, i'm cancelling plans once again. I check the mirror, no lie, over 100 times a day to check for new developments - and each time isn't just a single glance.. No I stare at my skin. Sometimes I've stared at my skin for a good 30 minutes. This, obviously, awakens me to every flaw I have, and my anxiety hits the roof. I use a handheld mirror to look at myself from every angle and at my neck/back, and adjust the lighting so I get a 'clear' view of my skin in every way. I wake up every morning with such searing anxiety because I'm scared to look in the mirror.

 

I stop everything I used to do in order to 'care' for my skin. I don't go to the gym because I'll sweat which will make me red and spark more acne and irritation. I don't wear clothes I want because collars, scarves and necklines will give me irritation.  I don't eat any dairy, I don't drink coffee, I don't drink alcohol. I don't like going out in the cold because I'd have to wear a coat which could irritate my neck and the coldness will bring out my redness. I sleep solely on my back even though it's uncomfortable and unnatural for me so my face doesn't touch the pillow. I sit on the side of the shower for about 20 minutes every day after my shower so I don't see my face all red and flustered when I go to get ready, meaning it takes ages for me to get ready in the morning.

 

Everytime I look in the mirror I see a monster. 

 

Here I am sitting here on christmas, trying to calm myself as my heart beats 10x it's usual pace because of a couple of spots. 

 

It's controlling and ruining my life and I don't want to spiral into depression again, especially with me moving country in two months. I'm posting this accepting that I have a mental problem here, and would love to know if anyone else is so ocd about acne like me, and how they've coped or any mechanisms they use to cope with acne/bad skin.

 

tl;dr : although I have bad skin, my mind conceives it as horrific and it's ruining my life.

I feel very much the same way. I suffer alot of anxiety about my skin and my whole life has been consumed by it. The severity varies. If i'm having a breakout i get really depressed and dont want to leave my home. If i'm having what i call a "good" skin day my mood is much better but i'm still anxious because i know it wont last. 

I also check my skin and make up constantly in the mirror. But only in rooms with dark lighting. I cant look at myself under bright lights because i see how truly disgusting my skin is and have an emotional freak out. 

I dont think i have much good advice for you because i'm struggling with the same issues. I try to do some yoga/meditation  (at home with dvds) to take my mind off my skin and ease my anxiety - well at least temporarily. And i try to remind myself that stress will most likely only worsen the acne.

I'm also thinking of seeing a psychologist but who knows if it will help or not.

The fact that you recognise your acne isnt as bad as you perceive it is a good thing. I went to this anxiety group once and they told us about this technique called "cognitive behavioural therapy" which involves challenging your thoughts. So for example if you started worrying about missing the bus and being late you first think about how likely in reality that is to happen. Then even if it did happen you can start to think about how it really wouldnt be so terrible - eg you might have to apologise for being late but no one really care. I'm probably not explaining it terribly well but you could read about it. Its not particularly useful in alot of siuations but i suppose it helps to question and challenge your thoughts a bit rather then letting them start controlling you.

Take care.

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I know very well what you're talking about. I suffer from the EXACT same issues as you.

Everytime I get a bad breakout I get extreme panick attacks like if Im about to die.I almost fainted one time. 

I think about my skin 24h/24h. I even dream about it. 

If I have "clear skin" I feel happy and more positive. But when I get breakouts I'm literally thinking about suicide (tried one time but failed).

Lost my friends, my job.  I Got a new skin desease (chronic urticaria). My grand-mother died this year. My only familly remaining here where I live is my dad and uncle all the rest is living in Portugal wich I cant visit them bcz of my skin.  I only leave my house 2x a week to go to the grocery and thats all... Yeah I feel pretty depressive and alone.

Im so sad to know that you're living the same problems cuz I know how hard it is! I can't really give you advice since I'm lost too. But you should try to see a therapist and a good one of course. Its really important I know it helps me sometimes.

 

I give you all my support and I hope your acne gets better!

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Thanks for the replies! In a sense it's good to know I'm not alone. I'm the same wherein when I have a 'good skin' day my mood is stellar. I'm happy, outgoing, willing to make plans, want to do stuff, but when I have a breakout I just want to hide. It makes me angry.. I take it out on my family and it's definately effected my relationship with them. :( I hate myself

 

like you said above, it also gives me panic attacks! My heart races and races when I see or feel a new bump. I constantly check the mirror for reassurance about how I look, or to confirm my worst nightmares. And yes! I've dreamt about it too! It's actually crazy.. 

 

My therapist before was a CBT therapist, but offered no real mechanisms. If anyone else has been offered ways to cope with this from therapists, i'd love to hear from you!

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I know what you mean. When my skin is bad and i look at it in the mirror up close, I'm horrified and my stomach twists in a knot and all i wanna do is crawl in bed and sleep. What has helped me is literally not looking in the mirror.. I go to the bathroom with the light off (theres a night light in my bathroom) And if im putting on makeup i do it in my room far away from the mirror. I avoid looking at my reflection or any type of mirror to avoid that sinking feeling. On christmas morning i got a sephora gift card and it came with a pocket mirror and i took the gift card but threw away the mirror lol.  Even if my skin is good i just don't look in the mirror under bright lighting.

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I'm in a similar situation too!

At the moment I get a couple of spots a week, but I feel as though my skin is horrendous. It's been about 10 times worse in the past, but that's little comfort to me in the present.

The problem is that I've got 100% clear before in the past for long stretches of times, so when my skin does go into a mild decline I find it very difficult to accept. I'm sure you'll all agree that once you've tasted clear skin you feel amazing!

And when your skin isn't going the way you want it to, that's when the anxiety creeps into your life. I've had to cancel a few social things in the last few weeks and I've missed the gym several times too. It feels easier to hide away, but I find that it's probably a bad idea as you're just stuck with your negative thoughts then.

So, how do we proceed? God knows! I did attend some mental health taster session thing in the summer for combatting anxiety and depression, but it was all group stuff. And acne makes me very anti-social, so I didn't proceed with it! Plus, how can I look in the mirror at big red spots (and I'm not imagining how ugly they look) and look past them (which is the aim of cognitive behaviour therapy)?!

Edited by ben100604
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I have had around eight cognitive behavioral therapy sessions for the exact same reasons you are describing, inside I want to be this outgoing bubbly social butterfly but living with horrible skin and being constantly OCD about it has held me back in all aspects of my life.

I believe I have found the cause of my issues which is dairy but now I am left with large pores red marks and horrible texture and I too obsess in the mirror, get dressed in the dark lighting, constantly over analyze my skin and wasting hours and hours of my time.

 

I've got to the point where im mentally exhausted by it all, I too felt CBT wasn't as effective as i would have hoped but I have read a self help book called 'The Chimp paradox' which has helped me control my anxiety issues. It has helped me manage the frequency of attacks and I am able to recover from them much quicker, even sometimes preventing them.

Trying to change my mentality is the key to not letting my skin ruining or waste any more of my life. It is the hardest thing I have ever faced and I hope you get past it and enjoy Japan!

 

Take care xx

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I agree with the suggestion of therapy.  I have been suffering myself for over 16 years and i am finally getting the help i need.  i have been to many therapist but my current one is the best!  She gives me techniques and holds me accountable for using them.  Don't give up on therapy because of a bad experience.  If you let your acne dictate your life, then you will NEVER be happy as you can't be 100% clear 100% of the time.  I still struggle but i am making gains, getting my mind to love and accept me.....you can do the same

 

Hugs from NJ

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I wish I could help, but all I can do is tell you I know EXACTLY how you feel. The rapid heartbeat, the mirror checking, thinking about skin all day and even dreaming about it, having a decent skin day but still stressed about scars and pig pores and worrying that tomorrow my skin will look worse and be broken out again. I also avoid things because of my skin. I avoid as much as possible going into the walk in freezer at my job and feel like it is drying out and chapping my skin which will make it look worse, it rains and I am afraid to walk in it because it might mess up any makeup I have on (though I recently gave up makeup...), I go to use the restroom at work and won't look up into the mirror when I wash my hands for fear that catching a glimpse of myself will ruin my work day and make me want to hide. My awful skin literally rules my life some days. If my skin is especially bad, it guarantees that my whole day is ruined because I cannot get my mind off of it. If I manage to forget my skin for a couple hours, as soon as I remember it and how bad it is, my heart rate goes up once again and I panic. I am afraid to look at myself sometimes because I am scared my skin has gotten worse since the last check. It has been like this for me for the last year. I have ups and downs but I always have some level of anxiety over my skin, and it is exhausting.

 

I haven't tried therapy or counseling. I know in my heart the only thing that will fix me is to have nice skin again. That, or a big, daily dose of Xanax.

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Going throught the exact same things !

It's kind of funny, we did accutane at the same time then we both relapse a little now. You even relocate in February like me ! And I started taking accutane again also.

Please don't let acne dictate your dreams, I know it's hard.

There are few things that usually help me when I feel bad :

  • people don't give a fuck about bad skin unless it's really really horrific. They are in the same state you were before, when you didn't notice skin flaws
  • even if they notice, it's a "oh bad skin" not "I'm going to disrespect this gut so hard because of his pimples"
  • even if it gets out of control, makeup can mask most of it
  •  

Also I think acne is more common is Asia, but I could be wrong

Edited by Jaures
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Wow guys! Thanks so much for the responses.. It's crazy how this all effects us .. I think it's suffering from such bad skin in the past and having it effect us, that makes us feel that any spot is wrong.

 

I try to avoid mirrors but I just physically can't! I don't know why, but if I don't look to reassure myself, i'll be uneasy and won't be able to rest! However, for new years I went to Venice with my boyfriend and had limited access/time to a mirror, and I must say my anxiety reduced tremendously.

 

I'll definately look into that book, Nicola. I recently found some documentaries entitled 'Katie: My beautiful face' and 'Katie: my beautiful friends' which focuses on individuals with noticeable facial disfugurations (be it acid burns to swollen features) and how they cope with it is definately inspiring. Another one I've found to help is the MTV 'I have acne' real life thingy. They all have quite bad acne but deal with it and go about their lives.

 

Thanks Leelowe, I definately think I'll have to look into therapy when I'm back in the UK in 2017, but unfortunately i'm on my own for the next year it seems!

 

Darkheart, you sum it up perfectly! That's literally how I feel.. If I don't check, i panic, if I do check, I panic, when I remember my skin, I panic, when I casually touch somewhere and feel a new bump, I severely panic. It IS exhausting.. I've relied on xanax before and it really is a miracle drug.

 

Haha, Jaures, it's kind of weird! But I'm glad we've gone through this together! You're right.. People are in that 'pre-acne' mindset that I once was in, that just don't see acne or care. It's why people say 'oh it's only acne' because... To them it's not important in the slightest. I'm definately thankful for makeup, although when I wear it I feel bad because I feel like I'm 'hiding' my features rather than enhancing, but that, again, is just my pessimistic and stubborn personality! And I'm not sure how common acne is in asia.. Hopefully a bit more common than it is around my current location haha!

Edited by Lore91
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I feel so unhappy, I need to come on acne.org just to ressasure myself that i'm not the only one suffering like this. Need help.

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I'm the same, Hugh. I rely on this website and the community a lot, but try to stick away from the mega-negative threads (may be a bit hypocritical as this may be considered one) and focus more on the treatments and moving forward. Sometimes these forums can trigger the fire of anxiety and depression

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You tried vitamin D at 4000 iu with vitamin A 4000 iu. Might help, reduced oil on my  face by 2/3. 

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9 hours ago, Kong said:

You tried vitamin D at 4000 iu with vitamin A 4000 iu. Might help, reduced oil on my  face by 2/3. 

 

I actually don't have oily skin at all, just very dry/normal - but I have been looking into vitamin D actually, because my skin does tend to react very well to sunlight.

 

Lukas, I don't know. I'm talking about acne dysmorphia here - but i'm sure most people with acne, and who have suffered for a long time, have it. 

 

so the past few days I've been feeling really good. Like i said, I've been away with limited access to a mirror... And I've been feeling good.. Until two minutes ago when I STUPIDLY took a handheld mirror in with me to look in the bathroom mirror (so I could see the back of my neck) and noticed a cluster of red tiny bumps behind my right ear.. Now my heart rate is up, I feel like crying, and strangely my energy has gone. I feel tired and just want to get into bed and hide... Why can't I cope with this?! I just don't know why it effects me so much when I know others have much worse skin than me.. :( i need to stop looking in the mirror, I really do, but I can't help it.. And now that I've seen these new spots I know I'm going to check and check to see if they're going/getting worse..

Edited by Lore91
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Ever heard of Panic Miracle book. Check it out, will make life easier. Teaches u to cope with anxiety and the panic attacks that your getting and ultimately conquer them. Its gona be the best $60 bucks you ever spent. Was for me anyways. Good Luck 

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17 hours ago, Luke89 said:

What about people that don't have dysmorphia but legit have shitty skin beyond repair?

Give it a shot. I have suffered with acne for 13 years. Mostly just moderate acne, get like 2 cyst a week. Ever since i started using vitamin D (11 days ago) my skin feels less oily and more comfortable. Been reading the post, say its just as effective as accutane if not better.

 

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I haven't heard of that book, i'll look into it. 

 

Well i'm on accutane again right now so shouldn't be taking any vitamins, but after i'll probably end up giving vitamin d a try.. Like i said, summer always seems to be good for my skin.

 

got a nasty breakout on my right collarbone and on my left cheek (both places i am usually clear in) and my neck has a bunch of pinprick-sized red dots. Feeling very low.. I just physically can't cope with it, and I don't know why. Most people out there can mentally deal with acne, why does it destroy me so much?! Ughhh ...

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Ok.... So just to let you know and I'm not saying this to simply make you feel better....but I'm in the same position only difference is I've never known the feeling of being completely clear because I've never been consistent enough with any routine. I always get discouraged and just give up.  Mentally this "disease" has almost crippled me in the past and stopped me from doing anything.  It sucks.  My face was always clear with the exception of a few spots here and there...no cysts...but I've recently been diagnosed with Rosacea so it comes and goes.  My chest also slight breakout here and there...nothing to worry about.  Now my back is a different story....that's where all hell has broken loose since I was a teen.  I obsess over it and always constantly staring at my back in the mirror.  Now with Rosacea I'm constantly staring at my back and face through it the day.  Some days are better then others but it's always there.   This summer was the first summer since I was 13 and I'm 30 now that I went to the beach. Took my shirt off and everything.  17 years of isolation.  My wife literally had to beg me to but I didn't regret it.  I ended up having one of the best summers of my life.  Road trips every week...hiking beaches and lakes.    Was completely comfortable in my skin.  That feeling is gone now though because of the Rosacea kicking in so its and up and down struggle.  My wife never brings it up though and it's like she doesn't even notice anything.  It's ironic because she has suffered through Rosacea and it bothers her but her case has never bothered me.  At the end of the day....we as individuals are our worst enemies.   Im just rambling at this point but you're not alone...far from it.  There are millions suffering through what you're going through and some much worse.    We cope in different ways.  I shut down...others get angry....others cry.    It's normal...you just have to make sure that your life continues to move on after the tears past or the anger subsides.  Because once you completely give in that's when this "disease" wins.   It's a one day at a time situation.  I'm fortunate because I have a wife and two dogs that never ever see my faults.  Sounds silly and cheesy but it helps...Makes things a whole lot easier and realizing day by day that I'm not alone.....you aren't either. 

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Thanks Frustrated, and it's nice to hear how you had such a good day at the beach! When my skin is bad I just can't enjoy myself ... I forced myself out with friends last night but jusr felt so tired and had no energy... I left after two hours. I just want to enjoy myself! The funny thing is.. Some of my friends have acne around my level (obviously they cover it with makeup) but still, they can go out and enjoy themselves, why can't I?

i really wonder if there's an online CBT I could use? Or if anyone has any idea?
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Lore 91 and Frustrated 1985 It takes more than being positive. There's a book called Panic Miracle, helps conquer your phobias and deal with stress. Look it up online. Helped me with my social phobia. Before I read that book, I was stuck to my room 24/7. Didn't want to go outside, always feared people judging me and criticising me.
   When you have similar disorders like my phobia, your adrenals are always working. Which means sooner or later you become adrenal insuffient. That is was causing fatigue. Also accutane depletes vitamin D causing fatigue. Buy that book, good luck.

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Im right there with you. The hardest part of it all is feeling the relief from finally achieving clear skin after suffering for so long with debilitating acne, realizing how much happier you are and how much easier your life is, and then to have it all come back. It's the biggest let down in the world. I had zero acne for my whole adolescence, but I struggled with body dysmorphic disorder and thought i was a complete monster. When I suddenly got adult-onset acne, it gave my dysmorphic tendencies something to focus us. I have what others might consider mild acne, but I consider myself a monster. I started spironolactone and had the worst year of my life with breaking out worse than ever, and then had relatively clear skin for the past 4 months. But now it's going back to how it used to be and it's terrifying and demoralizing. I just canceled plans with friends because I had such a panic attack about a new cyst that popped up after dealing with a face full of new acne over the course of the week. I just couldn't handle it anymore. I hate feeling like I'm out of options, because Ive tried everything like we all have. But what helps me is trying to find something new to do to instill some new hope. So I've decided to get extremely strict with the food I'm eating and cross my fingers that diet will help cure this disease. Other than that, i don't know how I'll live my whole life like this. It's debilitating and we can't live a real life that we want for ourselves. 

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