I have been picking at my scalp for years. And more recently my chin and my fingers. Right now, my chin is a mess. I heal, then I pick at it, and so the cycle goes.
Someone else described being in a trance-like state when one is picking and that's true for me also. I don't realize I'm like that until I stop a picking session and the world around me becomes "more real" again, if that makes sense.
I know that anxiety and stress trigger the picking. In some ways, I'd rather pick than face my feelings. Yesterday and today, I have had a couple of times when I didn't pick, but cried like hell instead. I guess we know what that is. I've been struggling with depression for about 9 months now (this time) while the dr. tries to get my meds straight. I've been hospitalized twice since October for depression, but have been out for about 4 months now.
I know this site is about skin picking and not depression, but I'm sure that depression is an underlying cause/issue for some of us that triggers our picking. It's easier to focus on the sores, bloody spots than it is to face my feelings.
Very strange situation we're in because we're both the victim and the victimizer at the same time. I know we all suffer greatly because of this picking. I have to leave the house daily so hiding isn't an option for me (I work full-time.) I've just decided to the hell with what other people think, it's an outlet for me.
My therapist is trying to help me find other outlets for the pain than the picking. She suggested meditative practice--observing myself having a feeling and how I react to a situation on an intellectual level and having an internal dialogue with myself about it without judging the feeling. And she also suggested holding a cold ice cube in the hand that picks instead of picking. It supposedly triggers the endorphins that picking does without hurting you (other than making your hand really cold!). My problem is that I pick in situations when I'm NOT near ice cubes--in the car on the way to/from work, in the bathroom, while reading (if I'm at home, sure I could hold the ice cube), but in public I can't really do that. I have been known to pick in public. Sometimes, the compulsion is that strong that I don't care if people see me doing it or not.
I'm sure people are grossed out by it when I do that, but mostly I think people would just think I'm weird and go on about their business. I've found that people are very self-absorbed most of the time and not paying attention to others around them.
Let us all have courage to share and open up about this. I'm so happy I've found this board of like-minded sufferers.