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When Obsessive Skin Picking Becomes More Than a Habit

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I know many people who pick or prod at scabs or pimples. You’re bored or getting ready for school or work and you see this gross bump on your face or arm or leg and you have to get it off. Then you do and you’re relieved and move on with your day. But what if you felt the need to do that with every little bump on your skin? From a pimple, a freckle, a scratch, a scab, a mark, a scrape, anything — you had to pick it away. Any little deformity you had to pick off.

Then you bleed and a new scab grows and you pick at it and it bleeds and a new scab grows and you pick at it and the cycle continues. But it’s all over your body. Eventually your face is covered with scars and your ears are bleeding from infections and your legs have scabs galore that you just can’t seem to stop picking off. It’s gross and it hurts, but you do it anyway.

I always pick at anything on my face, to the point of having little divots in my head from picking so much. I hit the very top of my head on the bottom of the pool when I was 15. Of course it bled and a scab grew and then I picked. I picked and I picked until I had a big bald spot on the top of my head with a huge scab in its place with blood oozing out. People always ask me, “Why is your ear bleeding?” or “What happened to your face?” The answer is I have excoriation disorder.

Excoriation disorder is obsessive picking of the skin. Picking isn’t something I want to do. I pick at my skin because I have a compulsion to pick. It hurts and I know it’s bad for me, but I feel the need to do it no matter what! I never want to go out places because I have all these bloody scabs on my face and my hand is on my head or in my hair searching for something to pick. Sometimes the need to pick feels so essential, like the need to breathe. If you don’t pick at that scab, it’s there and it’s an imperfection on the skin and it’s uncomfortable. I always wonder if it is more uncomfortable to pick at the scab or just leave it because the feeling of not picking it off is so intense. It’s hard to stop. It’s so hard to stop.

People don’t understand. I didn’t even know what I was doing had a name or diagnosis until two years ago. People will judge you and look at you weird. But I just want to let people who have this disorder know that they’re not alone. Even if it feels that way, you’re not alone.

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Originally published: February 10, 2016
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