Dermatillomania Part 1- What is it and why I started picking my skin (D&M time)

Sunday, 29 November 2015

Having acne is one thing, but the weeping scabs, wounds and dark scars that coming from picking or squeezing your pimples is devastating on both a physical and emotional level. Dermatillomania/skin picking disorder is the repetitive picking at one's skin to the extent of causing tissue damage. It is classified as a Body-Focussed Repetitive Behaviour where symptoms include repetitive touching, peeling or digging into the skin. These episodes most commonly correlate with feelings such as stress, anxiety, excitement and boredom.

Yes that's my chin :(.

In this post I am going to tell you about my experience with Dermatillomania. I have mentioned it briefly in my 'Supplements and Hemp seed oil for Acne' post, but it really took me years to realise that it is a legitimate disease and that I may need professional help. It is actually classified as an excoriation disease by the DSM-5 and is associated with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Some of you may be surprised to find out that I have this condition, but the truth is, it is easily masked with makeup, lighting and the occasional photo editing. This topic brings about so much shame for me, but I feel that it is important to share my experiences to let others with Dermatillomania know that they are not alone.

Causes of Dermatillomania
For many people, Dermatillomania comes about with the onset of teenage acne (most common), excema, psoriasis and other skin conditions. Now it is almost 'normal' to pop a large whitehead, so the difference between that and Dermatillomania is that the amount of skin grooming or damage is disproportionate to the severity of the skin condition. This is exactly me- I have tiny clogged pores which are hardly visible which I manage to turn into huge, gaping sores from attempting to squeeze all the non-existent 'gunk' out of them.

It is a learned behaviour
When I started getting acne at 12 years old, my Mother would pick my skin for me. She would make me lie with my head in her lap and she would go over every spot on my face and back and forcibly extract them using her fingers. My Mother is a GP and should have known better, but all this is in the past now and all I can do is control my current issue myself. Who knows, I might have ended up with Dermatillomania even if she did not introduce me to it!

Poor coping skills, obsessive thoughts, abuse
Yes, yes and yes. I'm not ready to open up about my childhood here but it was altogether tough and shocking for even me to look back on. Don't worry though, I have accepted and healed from what happened in the past and have moved on- I am my own person now and am completely responsible for my own happiness! 

Emotional trauma and Bullying
I was also bullied at school from the ages of 4-16. I was the only Asian girl in my year group in Primary school and was subject to many racist taunts from classmates and even some teachers. It got worse when I moved to Singapore, because the cyber bullying started which was much crueler! The theory is that when a child is traumatised, they lose control over their environment and by choosing which blemishes to pick, they can exert some control over their environment. I am not sure whether this was the case for me, but I definitely displayed similar behaviours when I was a child. I remember cutting small holes in my school dress, and even though I knew it was wrong and that I was going to get beaten, I just could not stop.

Stress and Anxiety
The theory is that skin picking is an impaired stress response. When we are stressed or anxious, we cope with it by picking! This is certainly true for me. This year was the final year of my degree and has been one of the worst years of my life. Along with off-the-chart stress levels and breakouts galore, my compulsion to pick and squeeze tripled. I have found myself picking almost daily this year despite all of my attempts to stop myself which I will cover in another post.

Other causes of Dermatillomania include: drug use, repressed rage and Dopamine levels. 

I hope this post wasn't too heavy for you, but this issue has been life-shattering for me and has caused me to hate myself for my uncontrollable urges.


I recently filmed a video on my new go-to product for healing acne scars! Funnily enough, knowing I had to film my skin every day for you guys really made me resist touching my skin! Watch my video for day by day progress of my healing. And please subscribe!

Dermatillomania Part 2- How to Stop picking is coming up next. 

Information in this post was taken from, a fantastic source of information and coping techniques.

Have you suffered from Dermatillomania before? Please comment your experience below.

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