So now you know. Compulsive Skin Picking (CSP), a/k/a dermatillomania, is my deepest shame. I've gotten to the point where I can tell lots of people about my OCD and GAD. But CSP, well, I don't know. There's just something so disgusting about it. Very often it makes me feel disgusted about myself. What kind of person purposely disfigures her skin for no good reason? This kind of person. I can no longer wear tank tops because of the scarring on my upper arms. It is even getting embarrassing to wear short sleeves. I recently confessed my struggle with CSP to some friends of mine. I was so humiliated I could only stare down at the table when I told them. I am working on the shame component though. As I explained it to a good friend a couple of weeks ago, I was actually able to look at her. I told my doctor this week that I was finally ready to deal with it.
Enter Habit Reversal Training (HRT). With HRT, it is first important to pay attention to when you pick. For me, it is when I'm bored, agitated, anxious, in the car, reading, or watching T.V. It's a pretty long list. Initially, my doctor told me to take about a week to keep track of all the times I pick. Once you are aware of when you pick, you can take action. The minute you feel the urge to pick you are to perform what is called a competing response. You should either pick up some kind of exercise ball in each hand and squeeze hard, or sit on both hands, or make tight fists. Whatever you do you need to do it by putting pressure on your hands, hence the tight fists or something similar. Then, and this is the important part, you need to do this competing response for a full 60 seconds - with a timer. Not less than 60 seconds and not more. Research shows that this is the optimum timing. If you do this each time you have an urge, apparently the urges will come less and less frequently. This is my assignment for the week.
I share this with you because I can find so very little written about CSP by others. I have only found one blog and one memoir that mentioned CSP. The memoir only briefly discussed it. It certainly was not enough to be of any real comfort. This is painful to write about. Sometimes I feel like a freak. I often wonder if I am one of only a handful of people who struggle with this. I have been assured that I am not. If you struggle with CSP, you are not alone. Would you like to work on this with me? Maybe we can encourage each other.