DO YOU PICK YOUR SKIN?
Do you bite your fingers?
Do you have scabs on your fingers from pulling on the skin?
Do you have stubby nails from biting them?
Is the skin around your nails gnawed?
If you are nodding your head to any of these, you may have a condition called Skin Picking Disorder (SPD).
It is more common than you think. What differs is the amount of harm people inflict on themselves.
Some classify it as a mental disorder but I beg to differ. I believe it is more of a behavioral disorder. This is not the place to try to prove how it should really be classified. I want to focus on helping you understand what is going on with you and give you practical tools to overcome this habit.
You deserve to have pretty, pampered, un-swollen, and pain-free hands!
THE PROBLEM CAN START AT A YOUNG AGE
Sometimes, children start biting their fingers before they can even chew. They can pick on their knees, elbows or other part of their skin until it is raw and bleeding, even before they start preschool.
It often starts with biting nails, biting or pulling on cuticles, biting on pretty much anything they can put in their mouth from headphones to a doll’s feet.
This condition can grow with age and become more severe. Sometimes, people can hurt themselves to the point their fingertips are too swollen and injured to bend, and too painful to pull on clothes or hold a pencil.
They can stain their clothes, notebooks, and keyboards with blood smears. They can disgust their friends, teachers, and strangers with deformed hands.
THIS can take a toll on anyone’s psychological, emotional and social wellbeing.
Long-term effects of SPD could include scarring and deformation of the fingertips, and can also cause damaging infections.
When damage is serious, it can cause stigmatization and social embarrassment, not to mention physical pain.
TEENAGERS ARE MORE AT RISK
- The transition from childhood to adulthood can be stressful. If they don’t have a proper outlet to relieve their emotional stress, they can resort to hurting themselves.
- Social acceptance is very important for teenagers. If they have a habit of picking on their skin and they appear ‘unattractive’ in anyway, it can lead to more complicated emotional, psychological and mental issues.
- It is not always easy for teenagers to express themselves. If they are unable to connect to people around them and are unable to express themselves properly, they can resort to hurting themselves.
- Pressure of studies, environment, or from parents and peers can result in skin pulling as well.
- Sometimes, nutritional deficiencies can lead to psychological conditions which may result in repetitive and obsessive behaviors like skin picking.
These are just some of many reasons why teenagers are more likely to have this condition.
However, the good news is that this condition is completely curable. Even people who have been picking on their skin for 20 years or more have been able to overcome it. If they can do it, of course you can too!
You can have smooth skin.
This is how.
If you ever want to change any situation, you have to first understand what is happening, accept that it is a problem, have will-power to change it, and then do what it takes to make that change happen!
These steps are also true for this condition!
I read an interview from an artist who struggled with SPD from childhood into her 30s. She said, “Lots of people think it’s just a bad habit, but it’s so much more than that. It’s caused me decades of guilt and pain but during the act itself I feel peaceful. It’s not painful — it only hurts when I stop. Then I feel guilty, which makes me pick more.”
“It was the awareness and subsequent guilt from picking and biting which enabled me to stop. It started bothering me that I was uncontrollably inflicting such horrible wounds on myself. As a first step towards stopping, I forbade myself from injuring my third fingers, my least damaged. The rest were still fair game.”
This is a good place to start.
TREATMENT FOR SPD
- Love Yourself
First step in making any change is loving yourself. If you don’t love yourself, you can’t love others. If you don’t love yourself, you can never really truly take care of yourself. And if you don’t take care of yourself, who will?
If you don’t take care of yourself, how can you take care of anyone else?
How can you fulfill your purpose in this world if you neglect yourself?
The first step is to love who you are. Sure, you are not perfect. But who is? Every day we can only try to be better than what we were yesterday. If you are no longer angry at yourself and love yourself, then you will do anything to take care of yourself.
- Gradual Approach
If you have been in the habit of pulling on your skin or biting your fingers, it is very difficult to stop it all of a sudden. The impulse is so strong it makes you feel powerless. Don’t bother trying to stop it altogether. Choose the finger that is least hurt and start with that. Don’t touch it at all. Allow that one finger to heal completely and then move on to the next one. Little by little you will overcome the problem entirely.
- Use Deterrent
One simple strategy to reduce picking is called stimulus control. It means changing your environment to make it harder to pick. Examples of this technique include keeping your nails short, wearing gloves at times when you are most likely to pick, and making the skin more difficult to access by wearing tight-fitting clothing or long-sleeve shirts. You can also try distracting your hands with any number of items including silly putty, stress balls, fidgets, and tangle toys. Once you have found an item that works for you, make sure to have one everywhere you spend time such as work, home, and your bag, so you are fully covered.
- Know Your Triggers
You may be tempted to pick for a variety of reasons, from boredom, itch, or negative emotions, to blemishes or simply looking at or feeling your skin. You may even find the experience of picking itself pleasurable. Understanding your triggers can be a first step in deciding which treatments to pursue. For example, if your picking is triggered by a skin condition such as acne or itch, you might be best served by first seeing a dermatologist. If, however, your picking is triggered by depression, anxiety, or more of an urge, you should consult therapist.
- Seek Therapy
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a structured type of psychotherapy that aims to produce healthier behaviors and beliefs by identifying unhelpful thoughts and behaviors. A specialized type of CBT has been developed for SPD. This type of CBT includes more of the stimulus control techniques described above, as well as habit reversal training, in which individuals are taught to engage in a harmless motor behavior (like clenching one’s fists) for one minute when triggered to pick. It is best to work with a therapist until you have learned some techniques which work for you and then apply them on your own. It is possible, but difficult to do it alone without a professional’s help.
- Find Something to Do with Your Hands
Find a hobby which involves your hands. This way you can use your hands for something when you have the impulsive urge to pick on your skin. This can include doodling, drawing, scribbling, calligraphy, clay modeling, knitting, crocheting, skin brushing, brushing your pet, origami, or simply pulling out threads from a muslin cloth. The point is to occupy your hands and teach your brain an alternative to pulling skin.
- Multivitamin and Mineral Supplements
Nutritional deficiency is known to contribute to the onset of poor mental health in people suffering from anxiety and depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and ADHD. These are usually the triggers which lead to SPD. Eat healthy and well-balanced diet, drink 8 to 10 glasses of water daily, and take a multivitamin supplement to make sure you don’t have any nutritional deficiencies.
If you follow this natural treatment method you can have clean, smooth, scar and pain-free skin in just a few months.
I would love to hear from you how these treatment methods have worked for you.