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Skin Picking in Oprah.com

So excited to see that Oprah.com has an article on skin picking! I feel like BFRBs are becoming more well known and I’m glad that there are more skin picking articles like this on the Internet. Anything that can spread awareness and good information is an awesome thing.

I think how the article explains that everyone picks but it becomes a disorder when it interferes with your life. Author June DeMelo writes:

I started picking my skin when I was around 11. I figure I’ve spent 15 minutes every night since then in front of the mirror, which means I’ve wasted about 2,192 hours of my life on this icky ritual. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve repeated these steps: Squeeze bump. Curse pain. Await scab, tear it off to reveal…fresh skin! Once, I had to wear a bandage on my chin after attempting to lance a pimple with a needle. And at the restaurant where I used to work, I mangled a blemish so badly while on break that I had to cover it with the orange chalk we used to write out the daily specials.

Definitely encourage you to read it.

Life with Dermatophagia

An article on The Mighty focuses on the problems of living with dermatophagia, a BFRB where people bite their skin compulsively. Skin biting can include many different behaviors including biting of the cuticles, biting of the skin around the finger nails or even cheek biting. Biting of the fingernails is not usually including as part of dermatophagia, since it has its own name: onychophagia.

Biting of the skin can become very severe in that it can cause bleeding. This usually leads to secrecy, isolation and shame. The author, Ryan O, writes that he felt the effects of his dermatophagia every day and tried to cope somehow:

As I progressed through high school and into college, it became — and has become — a full blown addiction. Sometimes (and unfortunately still to this day) I would walk into class, hiding my hands and/or crossing my arms because of the gnawing during the lunch hour and during prior classes. Sometimes I would sit down in my desk, smearing blood all into my notebook or over my clothes because I hadn’t even noticed I was bleeding.

What I found interesting was that there is this huge amount of shame which leads to poor self-esteem. Ryan writes:

I’m a person with a monstrous problem, not a monster with a personal problem.

I can relate to this quote very much. For many years I felt like a monster. I felt terrible because I was causing this myself and because I was scarring and disfiguring my own body. What kind of person does this to himself? I think that understanding that there’s a compulsion and you cannot normally stop yourself has helped me accept my BFRB. Ryan paints a great picture of what it’s like to live with dermatophagia and how it has impacted his life.

What About Nose Picking?

While scrolling through my Twitter feed, I came across an article from Lifehacker called “Why You Probably Shouldn’t Pick Your Nose“.  This post essentially is highlighting a video from Business Insider and the video itself features Dr. Erich Voigt, an otolaryngologist at NYU Langone who talks about why it’s not a good idea to pick your nose. I don’t have much of a problem with the video itself because I think it’s informative. However it does not address the issue of nose picking as a body-focused repetitive behavior.

It’s good to know some of the science about why nose picking is not healthy (because it may introduce germs into your body). But they don’t address that it’s a compulsion for many people and they cannot stop doing it. Compulsive nose picking is called rhinotillexomania and it’s not well known how common it is. Wikipedia has this:

“…some surveys indicate that it is almost universal, with people picking their nose on average about four times a day.”

I recommend reading the Wikipedia article but it’s not perfect either. Whether it’s a compulsion for some, it appears that nose picking is almost universal. People don’t like to admit to doing it. People hide it and are shamed if they are ever caught doing it in public. There’s also a sense of disgust to nose picking (and other BFRBs but that’s another story). Here’s the first paragraph from the Lifehacker article:

“Picking your nose probably won’t kill you, but it’s not exactly a healthy habit either. Not only does picking your nose look gross, it could be leaving the door open for dangerous bacteria that want to call your nose home.”

I cringed when I read the word “gross” and “habit”. Words like these can further stigmatize those who have BFRBs and drive them further into shame, silence and secrecy. I wish the video would have addressed nose picking as a compulsion and as a BFRB. I also wish that I did not read any of the comments to the post or to the YouTube video.

People who are “caught” picking their nose in public are often shamed and called “gross”. There are scenes in movies and books where nose picking is considered gross too. I hate seeing things like BFRBs being portrayed negatively but don’t know what can be done to change this. Raising awareness and speaking out is one way perhaps.

15 Fidget Toys From BuzzFeed

BuzzFeed has a great list of fidget toys that includes some you may already be aware of (fidget cube, tangles and spinners). I have some of them already actually but others I just need now! My favorites?

2. Fidget Dice

It’s like a fidget cube only with a more fun color palette. And a few different fidget mechanisms because it has 9 sides!

11. Fidget Pen

Sure I can use a free pen (thanks TD Bank) or a 25 cent pen rather than this fidget pen for $24. But I like the idea of having a bunch of other fidget tricks in a pen. The downside? Losing it like I lose all my TD Bank pens.

I also like the Monkey Ring, mostly because of the name. And texture.

The Parental Connection and BFRBs

For people with BFRBs, having a supportive person in their life can make all the difference when in recovery. Parents, in particular, can be important parts of that support. Gessie Perez, an online trich advocate, writes in The Mighty about how her relationship with her mother helped her with recovery.

In particular, I really liked that she travelled to the TLC Conference to meet others in person. In particular, Gessie writes that listening to her mother speak about her experiences was an eye-opener:

Three years ago we were at a workshop for trichotillomania and related behaviors. My mom shared with the group that she felt a loss of my hair like she lost a part of her daughter — that her daughter was known for being the one with the beautiful curly hair, and for me to go from that to having bald spots was really painful to watch. I was sitting right beside her and I teared up when she said that. It was the first time I was hearing that; I didn’t know she had felt that way. However, it allowed me to see things from her perspective. I realized then that this was just as hard on her and she had her own struggles and emotions in dealing with this as a parent.

Yes, parents and other loves ones are struggling alongside those with BFRBs. It can be tortuous to witness a loved one who is picking their skin or pulling their hair compulsively. And not be able to do much about it.

It makes me wonder: What kind of help can parents give to children who suffer from BFRBs? Clearly being supportive and positive are important. What else can they do? How do you want to receive support?

OCD Linked to Brain Inflammation

According to a new study, inflammation in the brain may be a factor with people who have OCD.  Researchers studied brain imaging from patients with and without OCD and found that people with OCD had more inflammation.

The results were clear: in the brain regions associated with OCD, individuals with the disorder had 32 percent more inflammation when compared with people without the condition.

It sounds promising for those with BFRBs since it is believed that BFRBs are related to OCD.