Many people pick at their skin from time to time but when picking becomes uncontrollable, it sometimes crosses the line into becoming a skin-picking disorder (Dermatillomania or Excoriation Disorder).
As Mental Health Awareness Week draws to a close, I grow more and more concerned about the psychological weight COVID-19 carries and the eventual fall-out further impacting our already severed mental health system. For people with Dermatillomania, it has meant many are experiencing additional stress, making it harder than ever to cope with this debilitating disorder.
As an experienced and long-suffering skin-picker myself, I know all too well the emotional toll this body-focused repetitive behaviour can have on our mental health. During the pandemic, I have discovered some new ways to help myself, and my skin heal.
Be mindful of mirrors
Since the lockdown, I, like most of you, have spent a copious amount of time indoors. I have around 5 mirrors in my home and so it’s not uncommon for me to bump into them every so often. For me, my reflection serves as a stark reminder of just how bad my skin has become during this time. Sometimes, I’m completely shocked at how much I have managed to obliterate the skin on my face.
Whilst a mirror can help me recognise how bad my picking has become, it can also really stop me in my tracks. It has the power to remind me of how awful having this disorder really is and can trigger my anxiety.
If it’s not possible to remove some of your mirrors, I’ve found it helpful to place a kind reminder on a sticky note.
Try to remind yourself that increased picking doesn’t mean you have taken steps back in your recovery. Use sticky notes to reassure yourself that increased stress is a normal response to a global pandemic. Be kind to yourself.
Download the ‘SkinPick’ App
One of the best apps I have ever downloaded has to be the app ‘Skinpick’. The app, created by skinpick.com, has become an encouraging resource for me to track my skin picking behaviours.
The app offers the opportunity for you to log every skin-picking occurrence. It asks you detailed questions around this moment to help you log certain things. You can log the time you picked, the area you picked and what you were doing at the time you picked. This is a great way to help you uncover patterns and insights that you may not have otherwise been aware of.
Since using the app at the end of last year, I have been able to see a spike in new picking behaviours. Thanks to the date and time system, I can attribute the increase of picking to the start of the pandemic. I’m also now aware that most of my picking takes place whilst I’m watching a film.
The app is a really helpful way to help alleviate stress, bring you into the awareness of your unconscious triggers and regain some control.
Explore new skin healing products but don’t let the quest for a “cure” consume you
I don’t know about you but for me, my skin picking can flip from absolute self-care guru to absolutely nose-diving into avoidance and skincare neglect. There really doesn’t appear to be a delightful middle ground here. I love exploring new products. Most recently I’ve been using an amazing CBD oil from The Healing Cauldron and have been pleasantly surprised by how well it manages to heal my skin overnight. I use the 500mg Hybrid Cannabis Extract – a full-spectrum cannabis extract containing many cannabinoids.
Whilst the world of skincare can be full of exciting ways to explore skin healing possibilities (I wrote about my faves here), it can also be a costly and disappointing venture. Skin types vary greatly, and what works for me may not work for you. Perhaps work out a way to trial a different product each month, or every few months even. Through a lot of personal inner work, I’ve accepted that no product will ever “cure” my picked skin, so long as I keep picking it. A painful reality of course, but weirdly anxiety relieving. By recognising skincare products can play a vital role in my self-care and skin healing recovery, the consumption of products cannot offer a “cure”. And that’s OK. My acceptance of this has alleviated the pressure I put on myself to heal and has forced me to consider working on what triggers me, in therapy.
For the longest time, I’ve searched for the perfect product to heal my skin picking wounds and felt increasingly stressed when they didn’t solve my skin picking problems. Whilst investing in the latest skincare products offers me temporary relief and downloading apps helps alleviate some of my stress, I still pick my skin and struggle with the process of healing the wounds. Either way, I’m always left wondering one thing – what if it was the work we committed to in our internal world that offered us the real glow-up?
For further information about skin picking, be sure to check out PickingMe.org and The TLC Foundation for BFRD. To download the SkinPick app, click here. For secure, confidential online counselling, check out House of Self and quote the code SKINPICK and get 10% off your first session!