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I have a complicated disorder. An affliction that people can see. It all started as a child. I would pick my cracked lips until the blood trickled out. My tongue licked the crimson liquid, cleaning my wounds. Once my kisser healed, I did the awful deed all over again. To this day, I still tear at them.
The year, 2011, and the doctor prescribed many medicines. Why so many at the same time? My picking grew, now my arms, targeted, ripping the dead skin off them. Once again, the crimson liquid flowed from my vessels, and in those places, scabs formed.
My bad habit found another target, my legs. My poor lower limbs met the same outcome has my arms and lips. I try to stop, but I can’t. When my anxiety beefs up, when I am daydreaming, pretty much everything, I tear at my body and leave behind scars.
This disorder, this evil, bears a name – Excoriation, also known as Dermatillomania. What is this-demon? The Journal of Neuropsychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences reports this villain belongs in the obsessive-compulsive disorder gang. They described his conduct by repetitive and compulsive picking of the skin. He leaves tissue damage behind as a reminder of his time there.
The Journal of Obsessive-Compulsive and Related Disorders recounts an anecdote of people possessed by this entity. They have higher levels of anxiety and stress. We know, those feelings lead to sleep problems.
Yes, it is true. I have Generalized Anxiety, Social Anxiety, Maladaptive Daydreaming, Chronic Depression, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. A few doctors felt I should add Bi-polar to the list. And, yes, I have sleep issues and nightmares.
Indian Journal of Positive Psychology thinks they can subside Mr. Excoriation. The journal suggestions habit reversal training by using Mindfulness therapy. This therapy uses meditation and breathing exercises. The aim is to kick out those negative thoughts before they grab hold, inducing depression.
- Session one, the therapist explains the procedure and what skin picking is. They will assess the problem.
- Session two, you learn how to recognize the warning signs. You learn to make a competing response, like hide your hands by sitting on them. Or, you can close your hands into fists. You could wear gloves or find fancy socks and making them into sleeves.
- Sessions three through seven, you learn to clarify your values. You healthy coping mechanisms.
- Sessions eight through ten, you learn to embrace your urges. Finding the “triggers” that cause you to pick at your skin.
Types of Excoriation
There are two types of Excoriation.
- One is automatic; you are not aware you are doing picking at your skin.
- The second is focused, you recognize what you are doing, but can’t stop. My “friend” encourages the focused.
None of my therapists have concentrated on Mr. Excoriation. They fixate on the anxiety and depression. They hope it will lessen the impulse to peel the dead skin away.
How I Cope
- Wearing jeans keeps me from attacking my legs.
- Wearing long sleeve shirts keeps me from tearing at my arms.
- Wearing makeshift arm covers from cool looking socks keeps me from peeling my arms.
- Playing games like World of Warcraft or Word Search keeps my hand busy.
- Interning at Coffee House Writers keeps me busy.
No worries, I don’t think there is something under my skin I desire to dig out. It is dead skin I peel. Remember when you were a child, you took the paste/glue and smeared it over your hands. After it dried, you peeled it off. Yeah, that is how it feels when I go tearing at my body. Now, my legs and arms scarred, and I am embarrassed, but I can’t stop.
We have our ways to cope. Focusing on Excoriation on being evil, a demon, is my creative way of handling my problem. I don’t mean to make light of the condition. It is a disorder I face every day, at home and in public.