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Unread 10-11-2011, 02:44 PM   #1
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Thumbs down Picking At My Face - Help!

Hi everyone,

I struggle with picking at the acne on my face. They end up becoming scabs that I just keep picking, they'll start to heal as a scab again, and then I'll continue the cycle of picking/healing/picking.

It really bothers me because I know my face would look better without the scabs. I don't even get acne often, it's just the fact that I keep picking that creates long-lasting scabs.

I also struggle with biting/eating my nails and picking/eating (gross, I know) the skin around my nails. I've struggled with this for about 15 years, and started the face picking about 5 years ago.

Does anybody have any tips on how to overcome this? Any advice would be greatly appreciated, thank you!
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Unread 10-13-2011, 09:35 AM   #2
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Default Re: Picking At My Face - Help!

This is related to your OCD ((melissa.recovering)) and you should tell your doctor and therapist. One thing you can do is become mindful of what you're doing. Make a deal with yourself.....not to touch your face unless its to put cream etc. As soon as you get the urge, stop yourself. You might find it helpful to find some other postive way to fidget with your hands like those exercise balls and other hand gadgets. When I was a teenager I got this hooking rug a gift - its carpet you loop the yarn through on a pattern back. Its repetitive but easy and relaxing.
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Unread 10-13-2011, 12:37 PM   #3
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Default Re: Picking At My Face - Help!

I also have acne. 2 years ago I switch to an acne wash and gel that I apply after I wash. If I don't use it twice a day I break out. When I break out I pick. If I don't break out I don't pick. So using a medicated acne wash and gel has helped me not to break out and hence not pick... hope this helps!
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Unread 10-22-2011, 08:05 AM   #4
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Default Re: Picking At My Face - Help!

Melissa, I have dermatillomania, picking at my skin, I have done it nearly my whole life. But I was able to stop and have not picked in nearly 2 years. Mostly through being mindful, and figuring out what I was feeling when I wanted to pick. And then deal and feeling those feelings. I also used distraction. Or would not allow myself in the bathroom or near a mirror when I felt the urge and got my hands busy with something else. I never thought I'd be able to stop but it worked. Good luck to you with this.
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Unread 10-22-2011, 08:44 PM   #5
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Default Re: Picking At My Face - Help!

I never even realized this was an "issue" I just figured it was something some people do. I can't bite my finger nails or fingers, it makes me cringe the feeling of finger nails in my mouth. But I pick the heck out of my nails, my face, my fingernails and all scabs. It's a feeling... I don't feel right until my skin is smoothe. Same with my fingernails. I pick and pick until they are smooth which means, until they are all but gone. My cuticles and the skin around my fingers have a permanant disfiguration to them with my constant picking and my face, I'll have pimples for months because I can't leave them alone. It happens in phases. Distractions are my technique. When I notice it's getting carried away I start to try and distract myself, give my hands something else to do. But often I'll be sitting in front of the mirror telling myself "don't pick it's just going to make more scars..." but that thought is quickly followed by "just one more time to smooth it out"... Never ending cycle sometimes....
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Unread 10-27-2011, 06:32 AM   #6
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Default Re: Picking At My Face - Help!

wow seeing this thread was such a shock, this is something ive always done too, I just thought I was odd, its kinda reassuring to know others do it too, I pick at my face, chest, legs its awful, im ashamed but I cant stop, well I can, but I dont know how, think ill keep checking back on this thread to see peoples answers!. thank you so much for posting this my doctor always tells me off, tells me (more about my chest and legs) that one day im going to get an infection that I wont treat on time and ill lose that limb (think shes trying to scare me much??) but still...I do it out of boredom and when im stressed.
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Unread 10-27-2011, 06:51 PM   #7
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Default Re: Picking At My Face - Help!

Hands are yours and they do what you decide they'll do.
You can stop what your hands are doing.
Find something else for your hands to do.
Sit on your hands when you notice them picking.
Hope your overcome this.
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Unread 12-29-2011, 09:23 AM   #8
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Confused Re: Picking At My Face - Help!

Thanks for raising this issue. I have great difficulty with this....have made a big mess of many areas of skin...and the urge is so powerful I sometimes cannot resist. Years of physical and emotional abuse as a child and domineering parents (I still feel dominated even though they are quite old) are the reason for this. It is very hard for me to express anger and I am internalizing all these feelings.
I read somewhere that could not imagine hurting anyone else like this, or standing by and watch someone do this to themselves without being horrified. Yet the behaviour persists....I have also read that dopamine is somehow involved...can anyone shed light on this problem?
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Unread 12-29-2011, 12:32 PM   #9
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Default Re: Picking At My Face - Help!

My fingernail biting and other, similar issues got better with a lot of therapy for my anxiety. The problem lessened and then more-or-less went away with other bothersome symptoms.

I still bite or tear my fingernails when they get too long or split/break, etc. but I am much happier that they are in better shape most of the time. One thing I figured out for myself is that I bite them (and engage in other "automatic" behaviors) at particular times; if I have been drinking and/or doing reading for multiple hours, it can be bye-bye fingernails. The lessening of my consciousness and/or my engagement in other "worlds" that can be triggering or scary to me without my thinking about or realizing it, gets the unconscious riled up? Thinking about that now, I could put gloves on or something when I am doing those behaviors or otherwise make it so I am paying attention to my poor hands.

I assume you pick when you are alone, maybe studying or reading or watching TV, working on the computer, etc.? I would decide to give myself an acne treatment of some kind then; even just put cold cream or something else "messy" on my face so when I unconsciously started picking I'd feel the goo and that would give me pause?
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Unread 12-29-2011, 05:59 PM   #10
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Default Re: Picking At My Face - Help!

I've been dealing with this for over 20 years...I've tried (and failed) many times to stop on my own. I finally got up the courage to ask my first therapist for help...she couldn't. I asked my second therapist for luck there either. FINALLY, I got up the courage to try one more time, and asked my current therapist for help. I'm making's slow, but it's progress. The biggest factors in my success so far have been mindfulness, learning how to handle anxiety, learning what my triggers are, learning what works to keep myself from picking, and talking about it with my T. My T has incorporated some small aspects of DBT in to my treatment as well. She has me fill out a diary card just one day a week, detailing what my emotional triggers were, how strong of an urge it produced and what action I took. I've found that helpful in finding my triggers and in finding ways to deal with those triggers.

For me, skin picking is a complex behavior, because it's not strictly a compulsive behavior. Sometimes, it's a direct result of anxiety or some other strong emotion, and it's a way to ground myself. Sometimes, it's a way to punish myself. And, sometimes, it's a compulsive behavior, where, like you, I feel like I need to smooth out my skin, make it "perfect" remove any "flaws." Yes, when I look at it logically, I can see the flaw in my thinking...picking makes my skin worse, not better, but compulsive behaviors usually aren't logical.

Some immediate things that have worked for me, and that you might try are - wearing jewelry that I can play with instead of picking (I always wear a ring that I can take off and play with when I need to do something with my hands). Playing with silly putty when I'm sitting around, reading or watching TV (again, so that my hands are busy). Mindfulness exercises before getting ready in the morning and at night (my most likely time to pick, as I'm washing my face or showering or whatever). Writing in my journal when my emotions are extremely high and I have a high urge to pick. The biggest thing, though, has been talking with my T about it, and having her accept the behavior for what it is and working at my pace to try and change it.

I can tell it's working, because I can actually write this post. Even a month ago, I still felt too much shame around the behavior to even be willing to talk about it here.
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