Nails, Skin Care, Mind, Lookbook, Wellness

I have a skin picking disorder that took over my life

For years, I thought my skin picking was just a gross habit — until I realized I was dealing with something more.

Since I can remember, people have always complimented me on the length of my extraordinary large hands. I never really understood what they meant until I measured them against those of my friends and realized how long my fingers actually were. I’ve always taken pride in my hands. They came in use when I played guitar and they looked pretty with the many rings I always like to wear.

But, for as long as I can remember people commenting on my fingers, I can also remember picking my nails. I don’t know why but there was something about pulling away rebellious parts of cuticles and making the skin around my nails smooth that I found satisfying.

Sometimes I did it out of boredom, sometimes I did it out of anxiety.

 I’ve tried many times to stop, but it’s a difficult habit to break. Sometimes, I wouldn’t even notice I was doing it until several minutes had gone by. If I noticed a hangnail, the urge to pull it was too hard to resist, even if it hurt or started bleeding. The pain was worth the satisfying feeling after I had rid my nails of these imperfections.

But what I was left with were hands that looked ragged, bloody and attacked. When I’ve really picked at my nails, the skin grows back feeling itchy and dry.

Lately, I’ve begun to regret my habit when I take a look at my hands.

I recently got engaged which has been a joyful event that I love sharing with people.

The day after my fiance proposed to me, I examined the new ring and I realized how much people would be looking at my hands. I took a hard look at my skin picking habit and realized how ugly I had made my hands.

I told myself that enough was enough, I needed to stop.

About the same time, I stumbled on Instagram user roobs_grlclb. Born Ruth Finn Leiser, she posts a lot about feminism, mental health, and dermatillomania. Dermatillomania, otherwise known as compulsive skin picking, affects about 1.4% of American adults. It is a psychological condition in which the person will repetitively touch, scratch, pick, and dig at one’s own skin. In the highlights section of Ruth’s account, there is a long but helpful discussion about skin picking, framing it as an addiction.

I had never thought about it like this, but hearing that definition made a lot of sense. I can recall many times in which I stood in front of the mirror scanning my face for things to pick or sitting over my hands compulsively examining them.

Picking my skin never made me feel happier, it was just filling a void.

Until I decided to stop picking my skin, I didn’t realize how often I actually did it. I now find myself almost unconsciously pulling and pinching at least 5 or 6 times a day. Every time, I stop myself, look at the scars around nails and tell myself that I need to let my hands heal.

Like breaking any habit, it’s a process, but each time I pull myself out away from skin picking, I feel better.

A drawing of a person with long dark hair rests their head on their propped up arm and looks off in the distance to their left. They have two speech bubbles over and to the side of them that read "I have dermatillomania. A skin-picking disorder]
[Image Description: A drawing of a person with long dark hair rests their head on their arm. They have two speech bubbles that read “I have dermatillomania. A skin-picking disorder] Art by Jamie Squire.

For resources and tips, check out sites like The TLC Foundation for Body-Focused Repetitive Behaviors. If you want to read Ruth’s blog post about skin-picking, you can find it on grlclub’s website. The Instagram account jamiesquire_ also has a cute and informative comic about dermatillomania.