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.
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.