A Bad Dermatillomania Problem For Over Thirty Years

I never even knew it had a name until today. Dermatillomania. And all this time, I just thought something was wrong with me that I couldn't just stop.

I have picked my arms, legs, breasts, and even in my pubic area and butt for years. At first, it was my arms and legs from itchy mosquito bites. I do have senstive skin. But it developed into full blown picking to make myself feel better. I was very anxious and paranoid as a child, and had a mother that thought she could fix me and make me normal. The only thing she did was make my bad habit worse. She tried putting oven mitts on my hands, wrapping my legs in plastic wrap, and even berating me about my picking. Her "help" turned my habit into a way to get the bad out of myself and make myself pure and clean again. It was self punishment to keep me in line. It kept me from having relationships with guys, but that was okay with me when I picked. I didn't even have many friends in elementary school and high school, and was often the outcast because of my scabs and scars. It continued through college, and at one point my parents paid for me to get some help with a good therapist. It seem to help me a lot for awhile. I even opened up to my family about always being the butt of jokes and having my mother's love come with a "but". I even wrote my mother a long letter, really telling her how I felt. Things seemed to improve for awhile. I got my Master's in English and had a job teaching at a big community college in New Orleans in the Fall of 2005.

Then Hurricane Katrina hit, and rocked my entire world. I lost my jobs, my confidence, and wondered what was going to happen with my life. I ended up moving out of state to the house of who I thought was a friend at the time, but really wasn't. I struggled to survive 15 driving hours from home, and felt like I was failing even more. I couldn't keep jobs for long, my finances went down the toilet, and I couldn't manage to find a teaching job for awhile. And my picking did not get any better, but worse. I have had big sores, actually dug out zits or ingrown hairs, pulled out toenails and made my toes bleed, and I even sometimes make my nose bleed because I pick it too much sometimes. I have scars all over my body, and I don't like looking at myself in the mirror because I know how abnormal I look. Some of that has continued to the present time, unfortunately.

Picking back up with my life story, I then met my future husband, got rid of the toxic roommate by moving in with him, got my finances in a better position, and several adjunct teaching jobs. Things were looking up. I tried to curb my picking and did pretty well at it. We got married in the Fall of 2008, a few months after I got a state government job, and at that time I was trying get myself as better looking as possible for my wedding night. Things went well with my and my husband, but not at my state government job. I had the worst boss ever who made my life miserable at work. She buddied up to a coworker and I got into trouble all of the time. I was stressed again and the picking started again. I got fired in the Fall of 2009, but did have a successful appeal to get unemployment benefits from the agency that unjustly fired me. I then got a new, way better government job I still have to this day. I also had to deal with being a stepmother for the first time, and that was a big stressor for me too. It took me a few years to finally figure out how to do it and not stress myself out so much. I even bought some books to help me with it. It was a stressor that made me pick, though. I also had a car accident in 2008 and not long after in the same year, my little mini dachshund had to have back surgery and my mother refused to help me it. Those two were also huge stressors on me that year, and triggered my picking.

The stressors in my life gradually went down since 2009, though I had a big move to a new house in 2010, and since I live so far from my family, I only get to see them once or twice a year and that becomes stressful as well to get my husband to agree to go and also please my mother when we go and when she visits us so we have a good time. Thankfully, my mother has mellowed and we get along a lot better now. I did, for years after I moved to Oklahoma, freak out when she was coming to visit and tried to get my house cleaned and myself to look as good as possible for her, which was a big stressor for me. She still tries to fix me, and I have finally realized after her visit this year that there is always something she is going to find about me or my life that she doesn't like and wants to fix. Weirdly, that helped to destress me. I still have some financial problems, but I do have that under control. It's more like I hate not having enough to do many things I'd like to do, but at least I pay my bills and help with groceries and clothing for me and my family every month. I am glad that I am paying things down and that someday I will be debt free, but it's frustrating, and another trigger of my picking.

I have tried to stop picking. I have recognized triggers such as my mother, finances, anyone putting me down or accusing me of something I didn't do, and tried to help myself not let those triggers be triggers anymore. I realized I had taken my mother with me with Oklahoma, and the picking became a way for her to continue punishing me even when she wasn't there. I've tried to do new routines to help stop picking and not let myself get as stressed out about things as I used to. But still, the picking lingers. I can't seem to stop doing it for good. And now I'm wanting to have a baby, and my husband and I haven't had sex for awhile because of the picking. He even sent me a website to try and help me today. I'm just so ashamed, and so tired of this habit still ruling my life and ruining my sex life. I ask myself, how can I be a mom when I can't even manage to take good care of myself?

Bottom line, I want to stop picking for good and will take any help I can get. I don't know if I can afford therapy at this time, and it tends to be expensive. But maybe that's something I should look into. I've heard of Habit Reversal Training and it sounds like something I might want to try.  This is the first time I've been so completely open about my picking problem. I just feel like I need to reach out and see what help I can get. Thank you for taking the time to read my story.
doc76 doc76
1 Response May 17, 2012

Therapy may be expensive, but don't you think it is worth it? Especially since it has been helpful for you in the past. <br />
Also, just because you have this condition doesn't mean that you can't or shouldn't have a baby! I have a 2 year old, she is my favorite person in the world, and I have dermatillomania. So what? My love for her gives me strength to control my picking, and I'm sure having a baby could do the same for you.<br />
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I guess by this response I mean to say that having dermatillomania does not invalidate you as a person, or make you unworthy of the joys of life. It just makes you a person with a medical condition. You are beautiful!! You have a good job and a supportive husband! You have your finances under control! Screw your mom, she doesn't know what she's missing. You're a good person who deserves to be happy! <br />
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The picking will probably never be gone, but you can get it under control, I'm sure of it. Make getting it under control a part of your life. You can do it!!<br />
Good luck! (even though I know you don't need luck, because you control your own fate!!)