Monday, 10 October 2016

World Mental Health Day: Understanding Dermatillomania | Blogtober

CONTENT/TRIGGER WARNING: Discussion of Skin Picking, Self Harm.

You may have noticed via social media that today is World Mental Health Day, a day for education, for spreading awareness and sharing support for those who suffer with mental illness. It is also a reminder that we should all look after our mental well-being and not be afraid to seek any help when our mental health is affecting our daily lives. For a while now, I have wanted to share a side of my mental illnesses that I don't talk about. Taking the step to discuss dermatillomania with you all was a tough one. I want to thank all of my fellow bloggers who have shared about their personal struggles with mental health; they have inspired me to find the courage to talk about my own experiences. Three posts that I found the most inspiring are by Leah from x Love Leah x, by Sarah from Sarah in Wonderland & by Nicole from Thrifty Vintage Fashion. Thankyou lovelies So today, since it's Mental Health Day, I thought it was time to take this step and share with you all about what it's like to live with Dermatillomania. I hope that this post can help remind others that are not alone and inspire people to be unashamed about their mental illness. Stay Strong! 

World Mental Health Day, Dermatillomania,

 What is Dermatillomania? 

I wanted to start off my post by explaining what dermatillomania is, as it's one of those conditions that is not talked about often and is largely unheard of. It is also a mental health condition that is often misunderstood and undermined, with people saying things like 'oh just a bit of skin picking? Everyone does that'. So many mental illnesses are undermined like this and this needs to stop! Events like World Mental Health Day are dedicated to spreading awareness about mental illnesses and working towards breaking the stigma and lack of understanding society has about them. 

So, Dermatillomania, also known as Excoriation Disorder or Skin Picking Disorder (SPD), is a mental health condition where the sufferer feels overwhelmingly compelled to pick at their skin. It is considered as a type of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) as it is an 'impulse controlled disorder' - Anxiety UK. People with dermatillomania will repeatedly pick at areas on their skin, in an attempt to remove both visible blemishes, such as spots, moles, insect bites, etc., and also blemishes that are viewed by them as imperfections or irregulaties, which very often can only be seen by the sufferer. This can result in wounds, scarring and tissue damage. Those who struggle with the condition will often pick almost ritualistically, focusing on certain areas of their body, with the face, back, legs and scalp being some of the most common areas. 

The compulsion to pick is often so strong that people with dermatillomania will pick at their skin without even realising they are doing it. It is a disorder closely linked with depression and anxiety, and sufferers feel a relief from stress after picking. Additionally, it is viewed by some professionals as a form of self harm, as it is used as a way to relieve stress by self-injury. 

World Mental Health Day, Dermatillomania,

Dermatillomania & Me 

I have struggled with the urge to pick at my skin for the last ten years. It began with the onset of my depression in my early teens. It makes me embarassed to say this, but I found enjoyment almost out of picking at any blemishes I found on my skin... spots, lumps and bumps, scabs, any little part of my skin that wasn't smooth would get picked at. When I had finished picking at the area, I felt a lot more content, even though I had just left behind a sore, open wound. As I got older and went through difficult times, my depression grew in severity and I developed anxiety disorder (although I had always seen that coming because of the way I was, the way I felt in certain situations, etc). The deeper into my depression I got, the more the urge to pick at my skin increased. I now wasn't only picking at visible spots and such as I had done at 14, I would spend time searching for the tiniest 'imperfection' and would sometimes repeat this for hours at a time. If I developed a scab as a result of my picking, I couldn't fight the urge to pick at that too, no matter how much it hurt. 

During the time I was studying for my degree, my mental health reached an all time low. I had never yet sought help for my anxiety or depression, I guess because I was scared about telling people and I just had so many reasons that where making me anxious, keeping me held back. This is around the time when my dermatillomania really worsened. I would find myself picking and I hadn't even known that I was doing it, almost like I was completely dissociating. It was scary! I also began picking as a way to distract myself from my overthinking and intrusive thoughts. These thoughts kept me awake for hours at night, ruminating over and over every detail of my life, and it was overwhelming. It seemed that the only way to find solace during these times was to concentrate on the pain that my picking caused :( It got so bad that I was waking up in the morning with dried blood all over my hands and fingernails, stains on my bedding. This is so difficult to write, knowing that people are going to read it. It makes me feel embarrassed and it really shouldn't! I'm hoping that others keep sharing their own stories and the stigma that influences these feelings of embarrassment will no longer impact us. 

I pick most frequently on my scalp and at the top of my back, but no part of my body is safe from these compulsions. It is something that I still currently live with, and it gets worse when I'm having bad mental health days or when I'm feeling really stressed. I'm currently taking medication and having psychological therapy for my mental illnesses so I am working the best I can right now towards recovery. I'm going to end this post with some ways that those who struggle from skin picking disorder can try to help stop their compulsions. 

Managing Dermatillomania 

There are lots of ways that can help you work on your dermatillomania and your urges to pick at your skin. As well as using my own suggestions, I have sourced ideas from various websites so I will list some of them at the end of the post. I hope these are helpful to any of my readers who struggle with this condition, too.

• I find it personally helpful to keep my nails cut short, which can be annoying if you want to have long nails that you can paint, but it is something that is a necessity for me. 
Keep your hands occupied until your urge to pick stops. This can be achieved by doing some sort of hobby, like knitting, painting, colouring, whatever you like to do, but you can also play with a toy to keep your hands busy. There's these great little toys called 'Twiddle Toys' or 'Fidget Toys' that are really helpful for this, google them :)  
• Some people find it helpful to wear clothing that covers up their skin as much as possible to help them resist the urge to pick. This doesn't help me though but it's worth a try. 
Wearing gloves can be a good way to stop, as this can make it difficult to pick at your skin.
• I've heard that another good way of managing dermatillomania is to apply skin care products, such as moisturiser, whenever you get the urge to pick. This way you are concentrating positivity on your skin and distracting the urge to pick. 
Squeezing a stress ball or a cushion can be useful.
• I found that keeping my hands occupied was not always enough because I still had the urge to pick and I started a habit of rubbing my fingers together instead which caused my fingers to become sore and inflammed so I bought some cheap rubbers/erasers and picked them whenever I felt the need to pick my skin. I have also done this with some cheap blue tack.
•And finally, it is important to seek help from professionals if your dermatillomania is getting bad, CBT or Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is the most common treatment to help treat most types of OCD as well as antidepressant medication

(Sources: NHS website, Derma Support Network, Anxiety UK).

Thankyou for reading! 


 Do you struggle with a mental health condition? Please let me know if you find this post helpful :) 

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