Tips On Stopping The Picking
Now I know everyone is different and we all have our own methodologies and routines. I happen to pick at my face excessively, my back less often (because I can't see my back) and very mildly my chest area. My back and my chest I am not too worried about because it appears that I don't obsess with those parts (mostly because I don't see those parts blatantly staring back at me in the mirror). I have been trying to seriously get clean for the past 6 months (because it was only about a year ago that I realized what I had was a condition, not just a bad habit). I have had some recent progress and I think it's worth noting; I am able to control my urges/go pick free for a few days here and there. I'm working on lengthening those days to weeks and maybe to months. Hopefully, I will be able to control this habit in the very near future.
My longest stretch of time going pick free recently has been 1 week. Previously, before the onset of dermatillomania was so strong and controlling, I remember picking at my face for several months during my senior year of high school then quitting for the whole summer (that's 3 months) before picking it back up in college what with all the stress, etc. For some reason, over the summer I was able to control myself and listen to my brain when it said "don't do this, it's not good for you." Now, I resort to other tactics.
I am a visual person. I mostly pick at what I can see in the mirror, sometimes I'll run my hands over my face and feel something that needs to be scratched, but that technique is not nearly as compulsive or damaging as picking in front of a mirror. These have worked for me in preventing my skin picking and I urge you to at least try them. I hope some of them will work for you:
- Have a bedside mirror/portable mirror in your room? Get rid of it. Put it in the drawer, closet, or wherever and don't bring it back up.
- If you have a large mirror in your bedroom, try to position it (if you can) in a position that you will not be able to see yourself wherever you are in your room. My mirror stands on a desk in the corner of the room, so I actively have to move to that corner to see myself.
- Try to actively stay away from mirrors. This is hard but very possible. When you pass a mirror and catch a glimpse of yourself in your peripheral, just keep going.
-Another way to stay away from mirrors: Buy facial cleansing cloths. These guys come in packs of 30-50, you can buy them at any local drug or beauty store and cost anywhere between $5-10 dollars. Some of them also have dual action in which they cleanse & remove all makeup, or cleanse&exfoliate or cleanse& moisturize. The reason I suggest this is that you can get into bed and gently wipe your skin clean without using a mirror. It is also convenient for when you are too tired to get up and wash your face.
- When you go to the bathroom, turn on the dimmer set of lights (the ones where you can't see your face very well). If you don't have that option, then turn OFF the bathroom lights and turn ON the light in the hallway/room near the bathroom; this will give you enough light to see what you are doing without actually seeing your face/chest/back very clearly.
-Limit your time in the bathroom/bedroom. Where you do pick most often? Try to avoid those areas because you know it's a pitfall.
- Put alarm reminders on your phone. These are nice because they can be titled. When do you pick most often? I pick early in the morning when I get up before work, in the afternoon when I get back from work, and mostly, at night. So I have 3 recurring alarms on my phone:
one at 8am, one at 5pm, and one at 930pm. They are titled something like "NO PICKING- You're Worth More Than That" or "STOP PICKING- YOU ALWAYS REGRET IT". These have really helped me, guys.
- Put up little post-its that are inspirational around the areas where you pick, like "STOP!" or "You can do it!" or "Go Find Something Better To Do".
- Read these blogs. Read everyone's stories on here. Reading a few of your stories every night reminds me why I'm here, why I'm doing this and why not picking at my face IS as big a deal as I think it is. Whenever I start forgetting and falling into that destructive path of "it's not that bad", these stories always remind me what's waiting for me. This support group has helped me immensely and I would not have gotten past 1 day pick-free without you guys. Thank you.
- FIGHT THE URGE. This seems so obvious, right? So simple. And you're probably thinking "wow, thanks for the obvious". You don't KNOW how often we fail to do this. We tell ourselves, once we're in front of that mirror, in prime pick-mode, that it's over-- it's gonna happen and there's nothing we can do to stop it. DON'T DO THAT. Tell yourself "No, i'm NOT going to let myself do this again, I can control this urge and I don't NEED to do this". Remember why.
- Let the people you love know what you're going through, and think of them whenever you are tempted to pick. Think of what they would do, what they would tell you if they could see you right there.
- LOVE YOURSELF. Tell yourself that you are BEAUTIFUL, inside and out. Highlight your best assets. Dress up! Wear makeup, or if you are a boy, wear your good clothes. Don't save them for a special occasion. You have a right to look good, and when you look good you feel good. People who feel good are less likely to pick. Tell yourself that a few pimples/blackheads do not hinder your image and that EVERYONE gets them, even those celebs who have seemingly flawless skin. Learn to LOVE your imperfections and let them be because they are part of you.
- Try to track down, either on paper or on the computer or mentally, when you pick and what you were feeling at the time, i.e. what was the trigger. Identifying the source of your compulsion (e.g. stressed before work, anxious, bored at night, angry after talking with mom on phone) will REALLY help you understand what makes you tick and how to control it/remove yourself from these situations better.
- Mandate a bedtime. Go to bed EARLY. Don't stay up, creating unneccesary fears and troubles in your head. Make yourself wash up and go to bed as early as you can after your work/etc. is done.
- If you are a girl, try getting ACRYLIC NAILS! I know you might not like them (some of you), but you have no idea HOW HARD it is to pick with fake nails! A psychologist I met with once recommended that. And wow, it really helped. I personally don't like them but if you can swallow your pride and try getting them for a few weeks, that might just be the push you need to get yourself out of the picking funk!
- Try to exercise. It takes your mind off things, gets your endorphins up, and makes you feel better about your body. The better you feel about your body, the less temped you feel to pick at your skin (because you feel more confident and beautiful). Exercise also reduces stress and helps improve your blood circulation and complexion. It really helps me relax.
- Be ambitious. Create a list of things you want to do and places you want to go. Remind yourself that combatting dermatillomania IS ONE OF THEM. Have faith that YOU WILL STOP. And know that controlling this compulsion will make achieving your other goals easier and less cumbersome.
- DON'T MAKE CLEAR SKIN A GOAL. Did you guys hear me? If not, I'll repeat it. DON'T MAKE CLEAR SKIN A GOAL. Do I have your attention? Ok good. Look-- many of us skin-pickers are perfectionists. I am. And obsessing with my skin's appearance has been my greatest downfall. Many people want to quit skin-picking for the wrong reasons: i.e. if I stop picking my skin will clear up. Chances are, if you started picking, then you had acne prone skin. And acne prone skin is something that doesn't go away. So if I stop picking, find my skin clearing up, and then break out for whatever reason, then I will get really frustrated and start picking again because I want the acne to go away. So please, don't make clear skin a goal. It is a luxury, and having it occasionally is fine. Contrary to popular TV ads, you do NOT NEED TO BE CLEAR ALL THE TIME. You don't maintain the same weight throughout your adult life, do you? And your hair isn't perfect-looking every day, is it? WHY DO YOU HAVE SUCH HIGH STANDARDS FOR YOUR SKIN?? They are UNREALISTIC. Love your skin, on its good days and its bad. Make controlling the compulsion a goal, and you will find that you are not only generally happier, but actually care less about having a break out because you are not obsessing with your skin constantly. And oh, what a liberating feeling that is.
- Ladies, Wear Foundation. Heck, even boys, go for it. The main reason I suggest this is because you can't clearly see your pimples/blackheads or scars through foundation (especially liquid/cream coverage), and if you try to pick with foundation on you'll make a big smudgy mess. So you're more likely to not pick for most of the day while your foundation is on. Plus, it makes you feel better about your skin and face the world a little more confidently.
- This is a tip for both sexes: Vitamin E Oil. This stuff is really incredible at helping reduce hyperpigmentation (red marks) due to picking, and also helps heal sores and wounds. You can find this at most drug stores (CVS, Rite Aid). The higher the concentration, the better the oil is, I think they go all the way up to 56,000 IU (that's what I have). It's a bit pricey, mine was $10 but you can get the lower concentrations for cheaper. Anyway, I'm not recommending this solely for it's healing properties; while those are great, it has a much more helpful property: It's incredibly sticky and gooey. Ew? Yes. Works? Yes. I used to put this on my face when I got home from school and leave it on for as long as I could stand (usually until night time, when it was time to go to bed). It's so sticky and greasy that you will find it impossible to pick at your face while this stuff is on; it is slippery and hard to maneuver. I liked putting it on because I felt that not only was it helping to fade scars and heal current sores, but it was also preventing me from touching/damaging my face (can't do it now because I don't have time in the afternoon). But if you have the time, this is a great investment. If you don't want to go out and buy anything, look around your house for neosporin (it has some vit E in it). While you can't slather this on your face, you can dot it all over your pimples and it too will make it harder to pick at your face. Another alternative is honey-- a lot of people talk about making honey masks because of its soothing, antibacterial properties. You can look up some recipes for a honey mask and leave it on, or simply slather it on and rinse it off after you can't stand it. I haven't tried it but it's supposed to make your skin very soft.
Ok, that's all I can think of right now. I need to go to bed because I'm tired. I'm thinking of you guys. Let me know if you've tried some of these before, and what was succesful/unsuccessful for you. And please let me know if you do try some of my suggestions, how they are working for you.
Much love and luck,