Thursday, March 18, 2010

Take the Compulsive Skin Picking Test

I was looking up some information on skin picking, when I found this online test to see if you might have compulsive skin picking. It's from The OCD Center of Los Angeles and looks to be very useful.

I didn't bother to take the test, but this is great for anyone that thinks they might have a problem. The realization that I had a problem took many years, and I didn't know anything about dermatillomania when I was growing up. I just thought I had a bad habit and loved to pick my skin and scars.

Please let me know if you think it helped.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

American Picker

When I first heard about this new TV show called "American Pickers", I was fascinated. My first impression was that it was about people that have chronic skin picking. However, it's really about antique dealers and how they go around "picking" things that other people throw away.

I guess I am an America Picker, though. There are many of us, all over the world in fact.

The show that really opened my eyes was "Obsessed" on A&E which was a reality show that followed people who had problems like hoarding, skin picking and hair pulling.

I watched a few episodes before finding one about a skin picker--episode 9, with a woman called Vanessa. It was a young woman who picked her face all the time. She didn't leave the house much and couldn't stop picking. As we followed her through therapy, and going through her life, I was fascinated. I had never seen anyone suffering with skin picking on TV.

As I watched it with my wife, I would joke how crazy these people were. How sad their lives were. All the while, hiding my own skin picking. Even while I was watching the show, I was secretly picking my favorite scabs.

I was secretly very uneasy while watching the show. I didn't want to let on to my wife that I was a picker. And didn't want to tip to her how interested I was in this particular episode.

In fact, I watched this show during the day without my wife, rather than wait to watch it later with her.

Although the woman on the show picked her face, I don't do that. I pick other areas of my body, specifically my scalp and legs. In other words, areas that I don't have to show to the public so I can keep it hidden.

My knowledge about skin picking was just beginning when I watched that episode. I had already done a bunch of research, and was calling around to find a local therapist to help me with my skin picking. Still, it was great to see skin picking on TV.

After watching that episode of "Obsessed", and maybe one more, I haven't watched another one. I think it just hits too close to home.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Skin Picking Log

Three weeks ago, my therapist suggested that I start a skin picking log in order to track when I pick and how often. This skin picking log can be important to understand how and why you're picking. And why you stop.

Part of the log is writing down the date, time and place where the incident occurred. Also, how long it lasted and the intensity of the urge. Finally, you should write down what you were doing and what you were feeling at the time of the picking session. Plus write down why you stopped picking.

Apparently, just keeping the log manages to decrease picking in many people by at least 50%.

In my case, I found this to be true as well. Rather than stopping what I was doing to write down a new episode, I would simply refuse to pick at all.

All of the information is important and serves to really remind you why you pick. During my therapy session last week, after trying to keep the log for two weeks, me an my therapist went over my log.

Overall, I started out great. The first day, I only picked a few times. My first time was about 6 hours after my therapy sessions, which I guess proves that therapy can be a good way to avoid picking for a certain number of hours.

I kept up the log for another week or so, but gradually I fell off track. I started doing the short form diary--merely tracking episodes as tallies, not full write-ups--after the second week.

I got most of the benefits from the data from the first few days however.

I learned that most of the time I pick when I'm not really thinking about anything, or stressing about work or family. It wasn't often that I gave myself permission to pick.

Anyway, that's it for now. I'm now trying the skin picking log again for the next two weeks.

So far, so good. I've kept picking to a minimum--about 2-3 times a day. Although I have had some more picking episodes in the last day or so. But it has definitely gone down.

Can't wait to see what happens next. My picking is decreasing and I am using alternate methods, like Bucky Balls to keep my hands occupied.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

BuckyBalls Are Saving My Life

As a skin picker, one of the best tools you can use are fidget toys. In therapy, I learned that my hands need an immediate response to replace picking. Keeping my hands busy is important to avoiding picking.

So, I tried a number of different fidget toys. But my favorite by far are Bucky Balls. They are tiny little magnetic balls, that you can do anything with.

You can make them into a big string, a square, or just squish them together. It sort of feels like putty, except they are tiny balls.

You just can't put them down. I hold on to them at night, when watching TV.

If you're a skin picker and need a good fidget toy, I can't recommend Bucky Balls enough.

Buy them at local stores, for about $29, or at their website,

Here's a video of some fancy Bucky Ball handiwork:

Thursday, February 18, 2010

TV Interview on Chronic Skin Picking

I just found this TV news piece concerning dermatillomania and wanted to post it here. It's the story of a woman who speaks publicly about her chronic skin picking and even has the courage to show off the scars on her legs.

I remember when I was younger, I used to pick my legs all the time. I would spend many days indoors and not wearing shorts, even in summer, to hide my scars and scabs.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Overcoming Worry and Anxiety

In my behavioral/cognitive therapy, I'm learning that anxiety and worry is behind a lot of my skin picking. My mom is a big worrier. My wife is a worrier. And I'm a worrier, although I don't always show it publicly.

I guess that's why I'm a compulsive skin picker.

I use skin picking as a way to alleviate my worry. And I keep it hidden so no one knows about my external worry.

My anxiety and worry is something I'm learning to control. I'm learning relaxation, and meditation techniques. I've downloaded meditation tracks on iTunes and bought the "Meditation for Dummies" book last year.

But I'm finding I still worry.

The antidote to worry, I find, is being in the present. Being mindful about what's going on in your life now, instead of the future. Because worry and anxiety is all about the unknown, and the future--the possibility of something happening in the future.

Like worrying about bills, or work. It's ok to think about them, but when it turns to worry, then I find that skin picking happens.

I use skin picking as a way to deal with my anxiety. I use it as a way to relax--it must be some sort of comfort.

So I'm being more mindful and in the present.

Bonus: Here's a good article on ways to help with overcoming worry.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Being Mindful

It's important to be aware, and be mindful of what you're doing.

As a skin picker, I've analyzed my weak moments and other vulnerabilities. (With the help of my therapist, of course.) For one thing, I realize that I have to actual think about not picking. Which is OK, but since it's a constant part of my mind, it happens all the time.

It means I have to be as mindful about stopping picking, as I am subconsciously picking.

My therapist said that I can't necessarily stop the urges to pick, but I can change the behavior. I can change my response to the urges. So I've been working on being more mindful of what I'm doing. That means stopping myself before I start picking or scratching. It means reacting to my thoughts on an on-going basis and trying to prevent myself from skin picking.

It's not easy. For days or even weeks, I can go without even thinking or trying to stop. It's a lot of work to stop.

But I'd rather stop than continue skin picking.