From a teen in the U.S.: I have a “habit” of picking at my face. I’ve tried to stop, but the thing is I don’t even realize when I’m doing it. I don’t know why I do it or how it even started.
Every time I encounter a mirror, I get the urge to dig my nails and scratch out all the flaws visible on my face. I’ll just be changing in the bathroom and the next thing I know blood is running down my face. Of course, then I end up with awfully nasty scars. My grandmother has no qualms about pointing out how ugly they are, and I feel like that makes things worse. She tells me to stop and I want to, but I really can’t. I’ve broken bad habits before and this is a lot tougher to tackle because of the fact that I don’t know when I’m doing it. It’s like I go into a trance. Whatever good sense I have is gone. I’ve spent an hour locked in the bathroom solely picking at my face.
It’s unsettling to me that I can’t stop. I try really hard to keep my hands busy with little trinkets or keeping them in pockets and even putting gloves on, but I always end up directly in front of the mirror with blood on my face and under my fingernails. Keeping my nails trimmed helps, but I can manage to get the right angle and still do some damage, although much much less than it would have been originally.
Apologies if this is a bit messy, I”m just not sure what to do about it.
I’m so glad you wrote. It takes courage to confront a problem when you feel so much shame about it.
I want you to know you are not alone. I’ve heard similar stories many times before. Everyone who falls into skin-picking as a habit for “self-improvement” wants to stop and feels that they can’t. But there is treatment and you can learn to control the urge.
Skin picking is generally a form of Body Dysmorphic Disorder. Dr. Sabine Wilhelm and her team at the Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) Clinic & Research Unit at the Massachusetts General Hospital/Harvard Medical School have dedicated years of research in how best to treat it. A combination of medication, cognitive behavior therapy and support will help you do what you can’t do for yourself. I suggest you go to their website to learn information and to use their therapist locator to find a therapist who specializes in the problem.
Please follow through. The longer you delay getting treatment, the more damaged your skin will be — and the more your self-esteem will suffer. You deserve the good help and support that a therapist can provide.
I wish you well. Dr. Marie
I Can’t Stop Scratching Up My Face
Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker
Dr. Marie is licensed as both a psychologist and marriage and family counselor. She specializes in couples and family therapy and parent education. Follow her on Facebook or Twitter.
APA Reference Hartwell-Walker, D. (2018). I Can’t Stop Scratching Up My Face. Psych Central.
Retrieved on November 20, 2019, from https://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2018/04/29/i-cant-stop-scratching-up-my-face/
Last updated: 27 Apr 2018 (Originally: 29 Apr 2018) Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 27 Apr 2018 Published on Psych Central.com. All rights reserved.