I have always picked my skin. When I was little, it was scabs, and not just your everyday children picking scabs kind of thing, I would bleed and scar terribly and I was at the nurse’s office all the time. Then, shortly after I discovered picking and biting my lips. There was never a week I went without having large sores develop in the areas I would bite, and I would bite the sores too before they were scabbed. In middle school, I started picking at my acne although I never got that much, the pimples i did get left nasty scars. My lips are constantly bitten at, you will rarely see my hand away from my lips. In efforts to stop biting my lips, and I know this is very disgusting, I began to pick at the inside of my ears until they would bleed. I had nasty scars and infections, and would get comments from friends and family asking what they were from. Most of the time I don’t even notice I’m picking my skin. But it gets so bad sometimes that when I’m really anxious, I scratch at my hands and pick a those scratches while they are still raw and bloody. I don’t think its self harm, I don’t do it to hurt myself intentionally, I just feel like I’m going to explode if I don’t. But something especially unsettling is that a few hours ago I began to peel at the soles of my feet. There is thick, callously skin there and I haven’t had my hands away from there since. The gash in my skin is a light pink color and i have an olive toned skin. It is in a half circle around my ankle and covers about 1/3 of the surface entirely from barely over an hour of picking. It’s bloody in spots too. I feel very disgusting and germ-phobic about feet, so when I catch myself doing it I wash my hands and tell myself. I’m done. This has happened at least 4 times now. My foot burns and I cannot walk on the heel of it at all without great pain. I really can’t stop even while I’m writing this and I need help. Thank you.
A: Thanks for writing in with your question. I agree that you do need some help. First, it sounds like you may need to see a medical doctor for this latest episode because it sounds more severe and is making it difficult to walk. You could be risking infection if you have open wounds that are not being treated.
Second, you have not mentioned ever seeking any form of treatment so I am assuming that you have not seen a therapist and suggest that you do so. Skin picking (Excoriation) is a psychological disorder similar to obsessive compulsive disorder and impulse control disorder. So, it is a real condition that you can get help with. You do not have to feel guilt or shame about it either. It would be no different than if you were to develop diabetes or another medical or psychological disorder. Please speak to your parents and your doctor soon about finding a therapist qualified to treat this condition.
Here is a link to an excellent article that might help you understand this disorder a little more fully: http://www.trich.org/about/skin-faqs.html
It may be helpful for you to share the article with your parents as well.
There are many treatments available to help you deal with the anxiety you feel inside. As you develop other ways to cope with your feelings and impulses, you will give your body time to heal as well.
All the best,
Dr. Holly Counts
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 9 Jul 2014
Counts, H. (2014). Anxiety Induced Skin Picking Increasingly Violent. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 28, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2014/07/09/anxiety-induced-skin-picking-increasingly-violent/