Disclaimer: This post may not be interesting to many of you, and it may not be applicable to those of you that do not experience the urge to engage in BFRBs. You may also take this as your trigger warning. Feel free to move along as you wish!
Anxiety and depression are no joke.
I am actively trying to manage these disorders with a large number of coping strategies, but some symptoms seem to slip through the cracks.
One symptom of anxiety that I have carried for years now is something called Dermatillomania.
This sounds scary, but for me it is simply annoying or unfortunate.
In extreme cases, Body Focused Repetitive Behaviors (BFRBs) can be extremely distressing and cause incredible mental stress. I am very lucky that I do not fall into this category.
In case you are wondering, here is a highly medical explanation of Dermatillomania:
Dermatillomania itself is defined as “repetitive and compulsive picking of the skin which results in tissue damage.”
Curious to find out more details about this condition, and whether or not you may have it? Check out this helpful article.
One of my favorite youtube personalities has also posted a basic Q&A video about this compulsion. She has posted a handful of other videos pertaining to BFRBs, and as an LMFT strikes me as very knowledgeable:
Over the course of my awareness of this behavior, I have done a LOT of research on ways to help myself cope.
When I find the courage to actually answer truthfully about what my skin is going through, I find that many people experience similar urges and behaviors. We are definitely not alone!
Some things have successfully helped me to stop picking, either briefly or for a more long-term solution.
In case you are one of the crowd of people also struggling with BFRBs of any type, I would love to share some of these tips with you:
This compulsion happens for me nearly all day, every day. I usually find myself reaching for my skin during class, while driving, while sitting still, while writing, or while watching movies/tv.
One useful tool for dealing with BFRBs is a toy of some sort that you can fidget with.
Many of you have witnessed me in rehearsal or class playing with a “baby toy” or with a stone or with a bracelet. When I feel the urge to pick, I turn to these things to occupy my hands.
If you’re interested in looking at some examples of fun fidgets, two of my favorite videos on the subject are below:
Because my Dermatillomania began in my highschool years with the onset of severe cystic acne, I find spots, pimples, and zits to be incredibly triggering. Touching my skin only increases the acne problem, which increases the picking, and so on.
While I can’t give anyone advice on skin care products, I definitely swear by having a stable skin care routine.
Personally, I notice that when my skin is dirty or dry I pick MUCH more often.
Even though it is very difficult during periods of depression to engage in any kind of habit-forming activity, I try incredibly hard to maintain even the most basic skin care procedures.
At the most basic level, the state of my skin depends on washing my face daily and following that with a nourishing moisturizer.
At the very least, I keep a packet of makeup remover wipes next to my bed. When I fall into bed, sometimes I can get myself to reach over and grab a wipe, which I use while laying there and relaxing.
Of all the products available, I find that keeping my face moisturized makes the most difference. If my skin is not dry and flaky, I have a lot less to feel and to pick at. With moisturizer, my skin is also “slick” and it’s much more difficult to pick.
This may be an incredibly obvious point, but I have found that a simple application of concealer and powder can be incredibly helpful for keeping myself from touching my face.
Putting on makeup sometimes has the added bonus of making me feel more confident. Covering up the marks and scars can improve the way I go through the world every day.
Beyond that, however, I find that when makeup is on my skin, I can more easily stop picking at the “feeling” stage.
When I reach up and feel makeup on my face, I sometimes remember the work that it took and can stop picking in order to preserve the look that I created.
A note of caution, however: if you experience dry skin as I do, makeup “caked” over your skin may only increase your urge to make the skin smooth. By the end of the day, the urge to pick at the makeup over the spots is almost unbearable.
About once a year I go in to get my nails done. I know… I may be lame in only going so rarely. Broke college students don’t have money for that!
However, when I go I always ask for the “dip” manicure. This means that the technician applies layer upon layer of powder and polish to each nail, creating a finish similar to an artificial nail.
This creates an incredibly thick (and dull) nail, which is almost impossible to pick your face with! Huzzah!
Unfortunately, by the time I get frustrated with the grown-out manicure, I have also figured out how to get around this problem and scratch my skin anyway. The success is short-lived.
This strategy may very much work for you, though!
Seeking support from friends and family may be tough for someone who experiences BFRBs.
Well-meaning folks may attempt to monitor the behavior for you (without your asking) and can lead you to feeling even more self-conscious.
However, finding others who also struggle with these issues can be such a relief!
I constantly am on the lookout for vloggers who are open and authentic about their experience with BFRBs. Their successes inspire me, and I empathize with their hard times.
Simply put, finding others like you reminds you that you are not alone.
One of my very favorite vloggers, Rebecca Brown, has a channel entirely devoted to her journal with Trichotillomania. She is not only a fascinating and beautiful person, but also an incredibly inspiring vlogger.
Watching Rebecca over the years, I am reminded that others struggle with hard issues for a long period of time just like I do. I feel comforted by watching her go through life “with” me.
Another vlogger who discusses her struggle with Dermatillomania:
In the end, I feel so lucky that my Dermatillomania isn’t a huge concern to me personally. I am so thankful that my skin picking does not drive me to tears or increase my anxiety.
Perhaps I just have much bigger fish to fry as far as issues go. Ha. :P
I do hope that the insights that I have gained from others online will be helpful to at least someone out there struggling with a similar compulsion!
Skin is not only an envelope protecting the inner body, or a membrane that allows exchange between exterior and interior of the body. It also serves as a mingling point between the outer world and inner self, and between body and soul. — Miru Kim