Monday, 7 October 2013

Eczema & Dermatillomania

I must start this post first off apologising that my posts are becoming less and less, but it's because I feel as though I don't have much to talk about recently. My blog started off in its infancy as a blog to inform people about my severe eczema and to help them, and other fellow sufferers, relate to the debilitating nature of the condition. As time went on I found out about Red Skin Syndrome and I was getting illnesses pop up far too frequently for my liking and so this here blog took the form of a journal.

Not a great deal has changed since my last entry regarding my skin, it is still rather pale, however the scabs on my legs have dramatically spread and look even worse in their appearance because I just can't leave them alone. This is why I would like to turn to the subject of Dermatillomania.

Dermatillomania is described as an obsessive compulsion of skin picking. It is much the same as Trichotillomania (hair pulling) where the compulsion becomes too much and despite knowing the consequences, such as creating ugly, raw and even scarred, disfigured skin, it just can't be helped. It brings a sense of relief to pick at the skins irregularities and is even a pleasurable experience.

I, myself have been picking at my skin since the beginning of my severe eczema phase (Jan 2009). Prior to this I had strange habits such as cutting individual split ends from my hair for hours and hours. Skin picking is not a habit that can be easily broken, much like scratching the all-consuming eczema itch. Having eczema primarily means that I will always have scabs to pick and dry flaky skin to attack with tweezers, it's just part and parcel of the condition. I know I won't be alone in my skin picking habit, as I know of many others with eczematous skin who do the same.

I wanted to talk about this because I am having a lot of trouble breaking the habit of picking at the scabs on my legs. Skin picking has always been something I've done as a way to relax and is one of my coping mechanisms. I have been known to spend hours and hours just picking and tweezing away at my skin and I even have urges at various points in the day to just go home and pick. When I'm out away from home there's always the thought in the back of my mind about how I will go to town on my skin later on. It's a bit like a dirty little secret because I like the experience of just sitting there picking off all the dead and irregular skin but if people knew what I did, and I have told some of my friends, they would be horrified and disgusted.

I realise how I'm basically destroying my skin and making it even worse because it just isn't being given the time or the means to heal naturally but I just can't help myself. It's like an addiction. It has been compared to self harm because you're fully aware of what you're doing to your body but the compulsion for relief is just too much.

I've decided to publicly create this post because I feel the more people who know about this, the more I may feel embarrassed that I am causing myself harm. I've been taking measures to not use tweezers on my legs, to keep them covered up, and if they do become itchy to allow myself to scratch if I have to just to quell the itch, otherwise it just becomes all too consuming and there's no stopping me. I will literally go to town taking every single scab off, making it bleed and produce proteinaceous fluid so that it can form new scabs. Sadly if scabs are picked off too much it can cause scarring and larger areas to form.

I said in a previous post how one of my life goals was to be able to freely wear shorts next year without tights or leggings. Let's hope I can leave my legs alone to actually fulfill that.






Does anyone else suffer from this annoying little quirk? Please comment and let me know :)

29 comments :

  1. I used to have trich tendencies - I know EXACTLY what the compulsion feels like. It still manifests in the urge to constantly touch my hair (if I have my hair up and I can't get to it, the compulsion is way worse). Knitting helped to beat it (as did smoking, but I don't recommend that! In fact the hair-touching increased once I quit) since the pleasure of making something and keeping my hands busy outweighs the feeling of needing to get relief through pulling.

    Best of luck in stopping, it's not easy, but you've overcome so much I'm sure you have it in you. :)

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    1. Thanks Charlotte :) I love crafting but unfortunately the itch can become too much sometimes as I think some of the things I do irritate my skin. Hopefully when I can overcome this "Red Skin Syndrome" my skin will be less sensitive like it used to be and I'll be able to happily get on with these things. I used to read a lot too but with how I've been I don't have an awful lot of concentration so find it hard to tackle books these days, even ones I don't want to put down. So what I'm saying is, even though I can control the compulsive side through these activities, the itch still exists! Grr xD

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  2. Hi, Jenny. I'm glad you made this post as it is something I can relate to. I've always considered myself a "compulsive picker" whether my skin is doing good or bad. Anything irregular with my skin I find myself picking at whether it be flakes of dry skin, scabs, or the odd pimple here and there. I'm not quite as bad I don't think as I don't spend hours picking at my skin (at least not that I'm aware). I didn't know about this condition to until this summer when someone posted about it on the ITSAN forum. I've had eczema since I was 2 years old so I have no idea whether it's merely a symptom arisen from having eczema or if there is further deeper issues behind my picking. I wish I had some advice to impart but I've yet to find any remedies. I just try to keep myself distracted as much as possible throughout the day usually with my phone or iPad. I share your dream of being able to wear shorts and dresses without a care. I've never been one to show off my legs as they have been covered with scars since I can remember. One day though! One day we'll be able to wear anything we like with confidence. *(^.^)*

    Btw, are you still on cyclo? Just wondering how that is working out for you.

    Xx Chantal

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    1. Hey Chantal, thanks for commenting :) How are you getting on with the withdrawal? I try to distract myself as best as I can but sometimes you just have to succumb to the itch and then in the end you just cant take your hands off yourself as you just pick away. Grrr!

      No, I stopped the Ciclo at the end of July after my suspected 8th bout of herpeticum that turned out to be MRSA. I figured all these drugs are having too much of an impact on my body and so I'm too open to infections. Since stopping it and taking the antibiotics for the MRSA infection I'm doing a lot better. However you do have to take into consideration that I had been a constant user of immunosuppressive drugs for 3 and a half years after only getting "severe eczema" 1 year before that so I think it was a step too far in all seriousness. I think if we'd just found out about TSW earlier that would have been the crux and I needn't have gone through all this extreme therapy. As I say, eczema wasn't an issue for me prior to 2009, I just had a little bit of dermatitis.

      Yet that isn't to say I don't believe others shouldn't use immunosuppressants if they're going to work properly.

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  3. I have done this since I can remember. I still do but not to the same extent as I used to. I still cannot focus on a task if I know there is a scab or a flake to pick but as a child I would stay up most of the night just to pick in peace. I had no idea it could be classed as a compulsion. Well done for speaking out! And I should admit I picked twice whilst writing this and when I got in earlier I immediately undressed so I could pick more easily...

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    1. Thanks for commenting Eleanor! I do that too. Sometimes I get up in the middle of the night and just start picking for a good hour or so :| I also feel I have to "hold myself together" until I get home sometimes and then I just strip off and go crazy at my skin. I swear most of my life is just wasted by just picking at myself. Need to try stop it :\

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  4. hi jenny i'm glad u made this post. i have a much serious habit - i slap and bang my face when it itches and burns :( i can spend a whole night slapping my face, picking, wiping off ooze and repeating this all over again. it's seriously getting in the way of healing. but healing is happening very slowly i've realised my skin is not as raw on my face nowadays. for me not moisturising at all has helped a lot, i have itched way less now and i have much stronger skin to scratch on if that makes sense. plus i'm drinking traditional Chinese medicine, the herbalist said i need to get all that fluid and ooze out of my body as that is all the steroid toxins so i just scratch and scratch till all the ooze comes out. i think these picking, scratching, 'self-harming' behaviour will all stop once we are healed with healthy skin so don't worry. i just take it as part of the healing process. don't get overly anxious about it. lots of love to you xxx

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    1. Hi ahfaye ... I'm curious as to what you're drinking? I have some pretty funky eczema going on. Wish i could go without moisturizing though, if i don't my skin burns so badly. Including my mouth cracking (i get it on my face very very bad) ...

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  5. Hi Jenny!! I too am a picker...but not so obsessively as some, I have always picked at my skin since I was a kid. It is more of a habit, like biting nails I suppose. I don't think about it. I don't even notice I am doing it half the time. It doesn't bring me any satisfaction that I notice, but now that you wrote this, I will pay more attention to my picking and see what is really going on. Hope you are well!!! :)

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    1. Aye, it is described like a habit but with the compulsion to do it to remove impurities on the skin, but then even though you know it'll lead to further damage you just do it anyway. Going through TSW and having eczematous skin isn't exactly helpful to trying to break the habit but the compulsion is so strong. I've always had tendencies to go to town on myself with blackheads and the like but since I developed eczema it has only gotten worse for me. I don't think I'll ever stop - I enjoy removing these irregularities too much. I even do it to Shane haha >_< bad girlfriend! x

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  6. HI Jenny, I am glad you made this post and once again cheers to you for your bravery and honesty in sharing this. I am/was somewhat of a "picker" too but not to the point where it was all-consuming. I still always have a tweezer handy because, you are right, it would be way too maddening if I wanted to pick at my skin and wasn't able to. When I was younger, I had a few brief stints with self-harming by cutting, and I think getting these things out in the open is a healthy step to understanding the mechanism behind it and coming up with alternative ideas rather than picking/tweezing/cutting, etc.

    I did do a lot of picking when I was in the throes of TSW, but I had the same motivation as you - I wanted to be able to wear shorts and tank tops freely, and knew that if I kept picking, I would have more prominent scars. By keeping that motivation in my mind, I was able to taper off and keep my picking to a bare minimum, and now.... I can wear shorts again! So I'm absolutely rooting for you to get there too in your healing!

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    1. Hey lovely,

      Sorry for my delayed response! I'm happy to see that I'm not alone and that you managed to come out the other side - I can only hope that I will too. Your message has been stuck in the back of my mind but I still can't help myself :( I really wanted to turn up to my derm appointment this week and throw it in their faces that I was coping well but with this incessant picking it just isn't getting better and won't be better by then. I'll just have to keep my hands busy doing other things!

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  7. I'm always unintentionally slapping my face- it can go on for hours. I don't understand why I do this and I really want it to stop because I'm now starting to get dry, bruised skin on my cheeks. Can someone please give me advice on how to stop myself

    Thankssss

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  8. Hi Jenny, thanks, I'm glad you made this post.

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  9. We are like twins. My skin is just like yours, I'm telling you. My body is covered in scabs due to severe eczema, and I can't stop picking and scratching. I feel like they will never heal, and if they ever do I will be full of scars. I don't know what to do, this is making me depressed. Hope you are feeling better than I do. Hugs from Scandinavia, Sweden to be exact.

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  10. I'm so glad I found this post I really thought I was it was just me an my anxiety playing up. Can relate to so many items of your post especially being away all day without picking and having to go mental and pick all scabs off when I get home. Even though I know it's not going to heal and will hurt like crazy in the shower come the morning.

    Mines seems to be worse on my feet but also affects my legs. I'm medicated for anxiety and to numb my immune system but worried this is going to just cause more infections.

    Thanks again for posting this, could feel the relief even just reading it.

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  11. Hi! I've got severe eczema as well, been to 3 specialists and no prrscribed medication worked for me until i went to my 4th specialist. She told me to soak in the bath with water and 1 cup of bleach. And i kid you not my itching stopped, redness gone. I also have to apply some ointment afterwards. And also ive been going to a different cosmetology clinic to do a sensitive light peel.. hopefully by the end of the year ill be able to wear skirts shorts and dresses. Check with your doctor first before you try anything

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  12. Hi Jenny. Have you heard of Dr. Aron? He treated my 5-year old son and after several months of continued treatment, my boy is currently eczema free for the first time in his little life. Dr. Aron's method's seem to work for everyone across the board, so I'll encourage you to come and join our Facebook group to learn more. The change to my son's skin is nothing short of miraculous. His pediatrician told us it was the worst case she had ever seen of eczema and she's now in shock at the results we've gotten.
    Swing by and join the group. We have many photo testimonials. You'll be quite surprised.
    Best of luck to you!
    https://www.facebook.com/groups/492451777525485/

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  13. Coincidentally, my allergist and dematologist both suggested a bleach batch. My primary care doctor was initially horrified by the thought of this, but accepted the idea when I explained that it actually works very effectively! I now take these on a regular basis, especially when my itching flares up. It also seems to heal the open wounds from my scratching. After a nice, warm bleach bath, this is also a good opportunity to apply topical creams/ointments as the pores are now open making these topical meds much more effective. This has resulted in very noticeable improvements in about a week.

    As for Dermatillomania, out of desperation, has anyone considered hypnosis (like people do to break a smoking habit)?

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  14. I have the same problems, but I don't believe I have a compulsion to pick scabs, more like it's just something to do. I've done it since I was little and I never grew out of it. I only attack the smaller ones that itch though.
    For a long time my skin doctors had me doing bleach baths, but it dried my skin out a lot and another doctor stopped me from taking them.
    I'm now on immune suppressants to stop my immune system from over reacting and causing my eczema. I'm on 4-5 medicines plus the ointments and lotions for my eczema & allergies.
    I feel it's fair to note that I also have allergies which contribute greatly to my eczema.
    I've come a long way from my severe eczema episodes where I had large chunks of my skin oozing and peeling. I'm almost back to normal, meaning I just have a lot of small itchy areas and scabs on my body.
    I would recommend taking the immune suppressants, because they greatly helped me, but of course ask a doctor first.

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  15. My picking only started maybe halfway into my eczema? I'm "celebrating" my 4th year anniversary when it flared big time and hasn't left since. .. now i scratch my itches which make flaky holes with flaps of skin that must be removed which sometimes tear too much which itches.Sometimes i can calm the itch with Calamine and peppermint oil (I've tried everything and those are my favourites, i was wary of steroids but they never worked anyways) but Calamine helps dry which makes it flaky which must be removed which. .. cycle continues! !!!! If things heal despite me , luckily the scars aren't too bad but i wish they would just all heal immediately and I'd never itch again!

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  16. I even have urges at various points in the day to just go home and pick. When I'm out away from home there's always the thought in the back of my mind about how I will go to town on my skin later on http://homeremediesforeczema.org/

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  17. Yep, been struggling with this for about 5 years. Always had eczema to some degree. Then got PUPPP during my pregnancy (basically itching from hell), and I have never really recovered. Went on steroids for about 5 months which controlled it, but not good side-effects (weight gain mainly). It's getting hot now, I'd love to wear shorts :(

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  18. Story of my current life. Eczema flared like mad 4 years ago and somewhere along the line i started picking. I know it's awful but even as I'm doing it i can't seem to stop. Tried hypnosis once but i did not work and it was pricey so i never returned. It doesn't help the scabs itch, plus are 3d and ugly. Like if i scratch it off there's nothing underneath but of course there's now some mini pain and no more itch but soon I'll be doing it again in the same spot and never be better. Dangit.

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  20. Hello I'm glad to hear I'm not the only one suffering from this I have very very deep infected wounds from my ezcma and I'm so embarrassd to say that I have been doing it but I've tried something that really really helps me and that is putting plasters (band-AIDS) over all of your fingers and/or all of your cuts this will help stop your self picking as you can spend time peeling of the plaster, enough time to stop yourself. I also found that; I got a stress ball so when ever you feel the urge come on just have a squeeze of that for 15 minutes while doing something else can really really help I've tested this millions of times, not on my ezcma but on my fingernails, I used to always peel them off because I knew I would be harming my self by peeling myself so I would resort to peeling my nails off resulting in disgusting nails but and soon as i put band aids over them I couldn't get the the fingernails and it stopped in a bout a month this should be the same with your ezcma. Try getting rid of all of the tweezers and either cutting your finger nails regularly, bandaging your fingers up or bandaging your sores up. This should take anywhere to a few weeks, few months, maybe even few years but I promise it's all worth it in the end. Also try anxiety pills it seems silly but picking is due to stress so try taking those whenever you feel your urges come on :)
    -Abi (13)

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  21. Has anyone tried the blow drying method? It seems to be the only thing that stops the itch for a couple of hours. Put blow dryer on high heat, aim at itchy spots until you feel a little burning sensation, and the itch will temporarily stop. I read that the cells dump the histamine, or something similar to that. I hope this helps somebody, because it was a real lifesaver for me.

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    1. Do you find a hot shower helps you too? I find a hot shower makes it worse, so I wonder whether a hot blow dryer would be the same for me.
      Actually a few times when my young daughter has had bad eczema, she's asked me to put the fan on so she can sit in front of it, so cool air works for her.
      Whatever works!!

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  22. This Product may be of interest .
    Tea Tree Gel mixed with aloe vera.
    https://www.amazon.ca/Ransom-Aloe-Pura-Vera-200ml/dp/B003VTVRVS

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