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5 Tips for When You Can't Stop Touching Your Face: COVID-19 Edition

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I was filled with mixed emotions the first time I researched best practices to help stop the spread of COVID-19 — a new viral strain in the coronavirus family that affects the lungs and respiratory system.

Wash your hands. OK, no problem, I can do that.

Don’t touch your face. Panic set in. I cannot do that.

I don’t mean that as in I sometimes touch my face. I mean it as in there are times when I literally can’t stop touching my face. I’ve been diagnosed with dermatillomania (skin picking) and trichotillomania (hair pulling). For the longest time I believed I just lacked self-control when it came to picking my skin and pulling out my eyebrows and eyelashes. At least I know now it’s not just a bad habit, but rather a complex condition. Telling those with body-focused repetitive behaviors (BFRBs) to “stop picking” is similar to telling people to “stop being sad” when dealing with depression.

There’s no quick fix, but for anyone struggling with dermatillomania now, when keeping your hands off your face is important, here are some tips that have helped me fight the urge to touch my face:

  1. Find something to occupy your hands. I have a fidget cube to help while I work. Video games are also a good distraction, especially using a controller or game that requires both hands.
  2. Tap into your creative side. I hardly have any artistic ability, but I have found joy in coloring, bullet journaling and practicing my hand lettering. You could try your hand at knitting, crocheting or needle point.
  3. Ask a loved one for help. I have asked my husband to help me become more aware of when I’m touching my face. He’ll gently tell me, “Lisa, you’re picking.” I made sure he knows to never say “stop picking” since that isn’t helpful at all. This has helped me so much since there are times when I don’t even know I’m doing it.
  4. Do a puzzle. I enjoy jigsaw puzzles, crosswords and Sudoku. Not only do puzzles occupy your hands, it also stimulates your brain and helps distract you from touching your face.
  5. Take a nap. Napping is my favorite hobby. I usually will put on a lighthearted TV show that I’ve seen before and cuddle with my cats. If you’re like me and pick in your sleep, I’ve found that wearing mittens have helped.

If you need more resources, feel free to check out this list of fidget toys that may help with skin picking, as well as 21 unexpected coping techniques for people with dermatillomania.

I hope you all stay healthy during this season. You are not a failure if you can’t stop touching your face, and I hope these tips can help. You’re not alone.

Concerned about coronavirus? Stay safe using the tips from these articles:

Getty image via katflare

Originally published: March 17, 2020
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