I have dermatillomania. I have been searching the internet for a few years seeking a support group - and am glad I finally have....

I have thought a lot about why I do this, and I have come up with a few things that I believe are related to this behaviour.

When I was very small, my father would allow me to "play with him" by brushing his hair, or, by removing any pimples on his face or shoulders. I know this may seem a little strange, but, I have seen primates engaged in very similar rituals that seem to bond them-and I have often heard from friends that they too, ritually "pick at" their boyfriends pimples/blackheads.

I know that to some extent, pretty much everyone who gets pimples and blemishes picks at the odd one.

When I was 12, my very devoted mother, in a move that stunned everyone, walked out on us and into the home of one of our neighbors. (They're still married, all these years later).

Interestingly, both my mother and father promptly went bonkers. My father was abusive, neglected us, was extremely immature about the whole thing, became paranoid, a germaphobe, and overall - just extremely bizarre.

My mom became suicidal. I witnessed long, violent tirade of behaviour, and she had long stays in the hospital.

I could also mention at this point that ever prior to this, being a smart but shy child, I was severely bullied by my older sister and I was severely bullied in school, and had few friends.

After the divorce, I was subjected to ongoing, severe psychological and emotional (sometimes physical) abuse from not one - but all three of my parents. My new stepfather delighted in degrading my in any conceivable manner, from calling me fat, ugly, pimpleface to inviting me into the violent fights he would have with my mother, forcing me to "mediate".

When I was 14, my parents told me I would be "better off" with my 17 year old sister. A perfect student who had never been in trouble, I left as requested.

My obsessive skin picking began when I started to get pimples around the age of 12. To this day, over 20 years later, I continue to pick at every fragment of skin, pimple, possible pimple, and blemish - to the point where I will employe a pin if necessary. I have to wear heavy makeup due to the scarring and constant presence of flaky scabs.

I cannot even stop myself from doing it in my office - when I am lost deep in thought at my desk, I'll unconciously seek a scab with my fingernail, and start to pick. My goal is to pick it off and make it disappear. It takes months, sometimes, because I won't leave it alone.

I have some sense of why I do it - the calm daze that comes over me, the weird gratification I get from popping a pimple, the urge to smooth out every surface of skin...I just feel that this behaviour is so ingrained, that I cannot stop it. It's as habitual as breathing.

FYI - I am an attractive, intelligent women in my mid thirties. I do suffer bouts of depression sometimes, and in particular, I am extremely sensitive to stress. I have also had a few bouts with bulimia.

I hope someone reading this recognizes some of themselves, and is not shy about saying hello. I am ready to at least try to understand this behaviour that is really interfering with my life.


zestygirl zestygirl
14 Responses Mar 4, 2008

Thank you for sharing your story, it is so similar to mine in many ways! It is great to finally share this even if only online as I have never ever discussed it with anyone before. I am 33 years old and have been picking the skin on my face for as long as I can remember. It is primarily my chin and nose and the area around my nose that I pick. I think this is because this is the most oily area of the face and where I am or was prone to blackheads, whiteheads and pimples. I can remember where this started as well. When I was around 12/13 I had a pimple on my chin. I can remember my mum telling me to take a tissue and squeeze it which I did. The satisfaction from popping that wee pimple I remember now and started a life long obsession. At worst I would spend ages in the bathroom squeezing every single pore, spots were obsessed over, squeezed, then scabs picked etc then my red sore skin would be covered over with sudocrem at home so no one noticed how red my face was. To this day I don't understand why my loving mother didn't ask me about this or try to get me help. In order to leave the house I would spend an hour applying thick make up to hide my skin. Now I have been left with the skin surrounding my nose having many deep pits or acne scars. Even now I have to wear foundation at all times to hide the mess of my skin. I'm a lot better now and don't pick everyday any more but from time to time will have a 'session'. It is probably stress related or time of the month. I have spent a fortune on skin cremes and treatments to try and improve the condition of my skin and still hate people looking at me, especially in daylight. This horrible condition/obsession has ruined my life and I hate it. I'd give anything to go back in time and tell myself to stop and get help before I did this to my face. I think I'm still an attractive women and its mostly in my head I guess but my confidence has totally been shaken by it.
I can't say how nice it is to hear I'm not alone with this. I'd never even heard of anyone else having it let alone the term 'dermatillomania'. The closest I ever came when when hearing people speak about body dismorphia and this didn't totally fit either!

A lot of what you all are saying resonates with me.<br />
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I started the picking around my teens and I am now 41. It started when I would pick at the ingrown hairs on my legs after waxing. I think it felt pleasurable to get the imperfections out. That calming feeling you talked about is definitely what I feel. So much so that when I am lying in bed at night trying to sleep but can't because I have too much on my mind, I imagine picking pimples and the sensation of stuff coming out. A calm feeling comes over me.<br />
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I pick my face every day. It is definitely a ritual and something I feel I have to do. I need to do it. <br />
I also felt that growing up I wasn't good enough, and my parents were, and still are, extremely critical of me. My mother obsesses about aesthetics and looks. I feel I was ob<x>jectified as a child. <br />
I am a perfectionist and I suppose any imperfection on my skin, that most can not see, has to come out.<br />
I am on Paxil, have been doing talk therapy on and off for years, have depression and anxiety. I was on Lexapro for 8 yrs and that stopped working for my anxiety so My psych changed me to Paxil which has helped a lot but now with the picking. Nothing has helped that. My psychiatrist advised that I take 500mg of the amino acid NAC 2/day. I will be starting that today.<br />
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The shame and embarrassment that comes form the picking can be debilitating. Sometimes I pick so much and at times use a pin until it bleeds. I have scars and am using Mederma to treat the scars. I know i am responsible for all of this because I never had acne or pimples. The more I do it, the more I get. <br />
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My mom gets and me and tell me to "just stop". She doesn't understand that I would if I could. Mentally of course I know I CAN, but I obviously don't want to because it provides me with some sort of psychological comfort. Calm, release, take what is dirty out of me. <br />
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I used to cut and scratch myself too. I no longer cut myself but when I get really upset I do scratch the back of my neck.<br />
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It feels good knowing that I am not alone so thank you for sharing. It means so much.<br />
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And I will be calling in to the support group on Sunday. We need to beat this sh**!!!

I definitely feel your pain! I feel like from the outside I am this cute, funny, bubbly person and to be honest I feel that way inside most of the time- and yet I can't stop mutilating myself. I think a huge part of me is afraid that if I ever want to be able to stop picking, I'll have to dig up something I've buried in my mind. What if that's worse than the picking?

I am happy to have found these post, most of these describe myself , in my mid thirties now and have been picking at my arms and chest for quite sometime.<br />
Also very familiar with the daze, going into deep thought and embarrassing and disappointing feeling when i snap out of it. Sometimes staying up all night doing so. <br />
The trying to get them out, have it completely clear may come from what I see now as OCD, I must look into it further, I am sort of a perfectionist, have been abused as a child, made fun of most of my childhood life, and although most would say I was a beautiful and smart woman now , I'm not sure if its a need for perfection or too keep up what people think or see of me. had worked many years where looks were quiet important, and this probably didn't help.<br />
I am now single now after a long relation which ended and finding out that my ex was gay , again made the picking worse I think, I did pick before and as many would say , my partner would put it off as a habit but would ask me to stop, then the embarrassment...and so on<br />
also the feeling of not being adequate, too thin, too big even if i was neither, since he was surrounded with the sort of career, it became an influence.<br />
Ive been to dermatologist and take antibiotics for the skin when i pick too bad and think it will clear up my problem, sometimes it does , but of course i keep doing.<br />
being single makes it difficult to date, and when I do all those anxieties come back, also embarrassed to show myself so intimacy becomes a problem, especially with the lights on ;) , so Ive noticed i stay secluded from the world, especially when I can not join at the pool, vacation or other, too embarrassed of what I have done to myself. <br />
Blamed somewhat on hormonal acne, as it does become worse around that time, but then so does my picking, and I would figure "if I don't get pimples I just wont pick at them" but sometimes find myself picking at the smallest bump, , again with that dazed , get it out, smooth, clean thought , as well as everything else my mind gets into until i snap out.<br />
I do hope there is something that will work,<br />
i do not want to find myself on pills prescribed by a psychologist as i know the impact this can have on someones life, and can be hard if ever to wean off, not to count if permanent damage, as it is hard to dose.<br />
so I am hoping for alternative treatments or something that may have helped someone.<br />
at this point i'm glad i was able to share, i believe it is the first step in the right direction, even if very few people around me ( if any) know of this problem of mine, I'm glad I could share it here with others that have a similar situation.<br />
if anyone has done something which worked ,please share :)<br />
I will continue my quest to stop and study why and how to conquer this behavior and problem.

I felt like I was reading my own story here! I too am in my mid-30s, suffer from depression occasionally and have had bouts of bulimia, and yes, my face-picking starts with popping a tiny whitehead or some such minor thing. Actually, the way you described your picking- the soothing feeling you get from it, how you can't even refrain from doing it at work-- really hit home. I didn't know anyone else was going through exactly what I am going through (in terms of the picking); everyone who looks at my face thinks I'm some kind of freak, so, even though I wish you did not suffer with this compulsion too, I am also glad that I am not alone. The question is, how on earth do we stop this?!? I've tried therapy, SSRI's, antiobiotic pills and creams...but so far without success. Any ideas>?!?

Thank you for this story. I see a lot of myself in this story as well. The daze part of it is the one that really nails it for me. I end up doing it in front of people now because of that trance- someone will yell at me to stop, or my husband will playfully smack at my hands and then it intensifies the picking because I feel ashamed. It's such a frustrating cycle.

I agree with little red. that makes alot of sense.. o.o;

I look @ my arms & chest in horror. I definatley realize the damage im causing, im just unable to stop. In my umprofessional opinion, my picking is directly related to how im treated by people in my life who are supposed to love me.

The support group for OCD/skin pickers is still meeting every sunday at 7PM EST. Call in #: 1-270-696-2525 / Access Code: 12128. There are people in this group who used to pick their skin and now don't. I had never met a single human being who was recovering from skin picking until I started phoning in. I find so much hope on this call.

I understand the wanting to eliminate every imperfection on the face. I do the same thing almost in a transe. I am then upset with myself for the damaged I have caused. I have found that lately I do not want to leave the house so no one sees my skin. I have been picking for 31 years. I continually spend money on laser surgery and dermatologist bills to correct the damage. I don't know how to stop. I do think this is related to OCD. I have recently been researching how to stop this horrible problem. I don't have any answers yet!

Hi every1 Iam so glad I googled skin picking then found out I have this condition. I cant quite know when I started to pick I severley began to pick at my feet way be4 my teens . Iam now 39 . I find it quite unbearable to walk at times because of this compulsion. I have to carry quite a few band aids as I pick everywhere I can when I feel this impulsive urge to do so . I always remeber to pick at my feet cos no-one else could see and I try to wear socks most of the time but I even manage to go to someones house to use their toilet just to pick . I had an awful child hood being just awful and now I am so happy with my life with a fantastic husband that I just dont know why I still pick. My husband knows about this bad habit of mine and he thinks its just a bad habit but I know it stems from my child hood so I must taggle this problem with some professional help and this is the very first time I have actually put pen to paper and share my problems. Anyway thanks for reading this and I wish every1 well with this horrible problem

First, I'm sorry you had to deal with continuous pain for so many years of your young life. Children sometimes have to endure more pain than many adults can fathom. Anyway, you nailed my experience with this: "I too have the urge to smooth the skin, the calm daze feeling, then the gratification." Yes. Exactly.<br />
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When I snap out of it though, I'm pissed at myself (and stunned - how could I have done that to myself for so many minutes?). <br />
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I hope we can both kick this. Stay tough, sistergirl of zest - we can beat this thing.

Hi<br />
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Thanks for sharing your story.<br />
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You describe the picking really well, which helps me to understand what I am feeling and doing. <br />
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I too have the urge to smoothe the skin, the calm daze feeling, then the gratification.

I see a lot of myself in your story. I am 28, and have been picking since I was seventeen. I also had a lot of acne issues in adolesecense and began picking after my high-school ex-boyfriend exposed me to the idea of "popping pimples" He was pretty emotionally abusive, controlling, and manipulative, often told me I wasn't thin enough, pretty enough, good enough. Unfortunately, this was the same message I've always received from my negative parents, who I never felt praise from. These people have always metaphorically "picked on me" which is why I believe I pick on myself.<br />
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I also feel that urge to clear and release my skin through picking. I need to pick at it until it bleeds. Only then do I feel I've finished. My mother was a dental hygenist and would clean my teeth as a child (a form of abuse I think.) She would be so harsh on me since she wanted her child's teeth to be "sparkling", and my gums would bleed so much. I believe I had this message instilled that in order to be beautiful and clean, you needed to bleed.<br />
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My passion has always been theatre and acting, which has been such a double-edged sword. I strive for that approval from others, but am also embarassed to show my "full self" for fear that others won't like what they see. It's also a place where anything is allowed, free ex<x>pression, emotions are encouraged. <br />
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Currenltly, I'm obtaining my hours for licensure as a Marriage and Family Therapist right now, and got my master's in drama therapy. All this learning has definitely brought awareness to the harmful skin-picking, and realizing how harmful to my mental health it truly is.<br />
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I'm starting to get back in acting again, film acting specifically and the skin picking is at it's worst!!!! I mostly pick at my face and chest. I really want to finally prove to myself that I am a "good enough" actor and part of that vision for me is clean, nice, pick-free skin in which to be a blank canvas on the screen. It is my dream, but the skin-picking keeps getting in the way. Thanks for sharing your story.