I’m More Messed Up Than I Thought

You know that satisfied feeling when you pop a big pimple?  Or maybe that urge you get to scratch at a scab when you know better?  I was lying in bed last night thinking.  (Do I think because I can’t sleep, or can I not sleep because I am thinking too much?  Oh the mysteries of the universe.)  So anyway, I was curious about where that urge, that sense of satisfaction, comes from, so today I started to Google my question about scabs.  Predictive text had the related pimple popping question out before I was even done, and through the few pages I selected and read, I learned a disturbing thing…

I have Dermatillomania.   Great, something else to add to my list of things that make me a dysfunctional human being.

The simplest definition is basically compulsive skin picking, often to the extent that damage is caused.  A lot of people can’t resist popping a giant red zit on their face when it’s sitting there like a beacon calling attention to itself.  But have you ever passed by a mirror and leaned in to look for something to pop?  Do you feel compelled to pop on other people ? (I don’t, but I am totally grossed out when I see huge blackheads on other people’s faces.  Okay, maybe I pick at hubby a little.)  Do you do it in spite of the fact that you usually make things worse?  Does your skin cause you a lot of anxiety?

Dermatillomania has been regarded as an Impulse Control disorder, compared by some to Obsessive Compulsive disorder or even substance abuse (Wikipedia.)

Some of my followers and friends may have heard me mention my OCD from time to time.  Until recently, I never really thought much about my need to pick at my face.  I hate having plugged pores and when I have a subcutaneous zit, I often irritate it to the point where it’s much worse than it has to be.  Reading up on Dermatill… oh, hell… picking…today I realized with some dismay that my need to pick is a little excessive.  It’s not as bad as it could be.  Apparently there are a few different “levels” of the disorder, and I while I do actively look for pores to “unclog,” I’m not to the point where I can’t leave the house because I look like someone suffering from leprosy.

Some cases however have been severe enough to cause infection and even require surgery! The face is the most common place people pick, but the scalp, arms, back, legs, and pubic region may be affected.

English: Skin Picking pattern and effect on th...

English: Skin Picking pattern and effect on the skin (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Anyway, from what I learned during the course of my studies for my Psychology degree and also in the course of my own treatment for OCD, there are certain behaviors that may be obsessive or compulsive, but assuming they do not cause you anxiety or physical harm, they are regarded as OCPD rather than OCD.

Differential diagnosis between OCD and OCPD was described in Wikipedia thusly:

Unlike OCPD, OCD is described as invasive, stressful, time-consuming obsessions and habits aimed at reducing the obsession related stress. OCD symptoms are at times regarded as ego-dystonic because they are experienced as alien and repulsive to the patient. Therefore, there is a greater mental anxiety associated with OCD.

Just thought I’d put that out there, as it particularly annoys me when anyone with a simple penchant for neatness or a distaste for germs describes themselves as “having OCD”, and since compulsive skin picking is considered related, these are things that may be relevant.


31 responses to “I’m More Messed Up Than I Thought

          • The finger-picking, or the picking in general? I think it does affect women more than men (check the Wikipedia entry, it might say.) I realized I look for stuff to pick at, but part of the problem is that I hate having clogged pores so much and it seems like no amount of exfoliating, washing, or moisturizing helps. I use the generic version of proactive and while it keeps as many “infected” pimples from forming, it seems as if the blackheads are still there. I can’t stand seeing that little spot and not getting rid of it. haha

    • Yeah, I pick my cuticles too, if I don’t have nail clippers handy to get the hangnails. Just can’t stand having them there. Did you take the test? I’m def not as bad as that pic there by any means, but I do apparently have the highest probability of having Dermatillomania, according to that test.

  1. I sent the link for the test to my hubby first thing this morning. His legs, below the knee, look like that guy’s arms. Maybe not as many spots, but he’s so fucking white they REALLY show. Needless to say, he does not wear shorts, ever.
    He took the test, agrees he has it – but their reccomended treatment is CBT. Never, ever, would that work on him!

    • Like, as in being more aware of what you’re doing, when you’re doing it? It sounds like it has roots in cognitive behavioral therapy, which is incidentally the recommended treatment for this. Luckily, as my case is more of a nuisance at this point than anything else, I have time to think about it. Now that I am aware that it is more than just a “bad habit,” I already pay more attention to when I’m doing it and try to adjust my behavior a bit. I don’t want it to get out of control, which is easy when you have OCD.

      Thank you for taking the time to read and comment

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  4. I had a large pimple on left jawbone for 2+ weeks without trying to pop. I did initially apply acne “burn” med on it n it just burnt skin around it so I stopped it after Thursday. It became huge today n I popped it n got head but still a bump n still weeping. Should I apply teabag? I also put peroxide on it. Thanks for sll u do!!!

    • Bonnie, yeah those medicines with the salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide (excuse the spelling) can be pretty rough on surrounding healthy skin. When you pop a big infected one like that, it has been my experience they do week for a bit and sometimes you have to “pop” again in a day or so. What I like to do with those is apply warm compresses so the pore is open and the skin on top is soft and just gently sort of prod it. You can gently squeeze with a tissue covering your fingertips, but if it doesn’t go with gentle pressure, don’t squeeze harder or you’ll just eb=nd up damaging the surrounding area and make it more swollen. You can still use the tea bag as a warm compress, to answer your question. Another trick I stumbled on is to cut tiny squares off the adhesive part of a bandaid and cover the zit with one for the night . Maybe it’s the lack of O2 but it almost always seems like my zit is smaller and less red the next day. Hope some of this helps. Worst comes to worse, if it doesn’t heal, soon, I’d check with your doc to make sure you didn’t get a skin infection.

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