Tuesday, June 11, 2013


The world is telling me that I need to come clean about this.  I've seen two other bloggers admit similar issues in the last week, so I think it's my turn.

I have a bit of a compulsion.  I'm not sure if it would classify as OCD or not, but it doesn't really negatively impact my life so I doubt it.

I'm a picker.  Ever since I had zits, I've always picked my face.  But since it's my face and I see it all the time and it's so obvious to others, I don't usually let anything get too bad.  I'll often have a scab or two, but it's rarely extremely noticeable.  And I don't have any scars.

But that's not the issue.

I keep thinking I just started the "new" behavior, but I guess it's probably been about 5 years now since it was definitely a worry before our wedding.  Now I pick my upper arms.  I guess I have dermatitis pilaris and I don't think that I had it before or I bet I would have started picking at it earlier.

When I get home from work, especially when I'm stressed, I go into the bathroom and look at my arm in the mirror.  First one arm, then the other.  When I'm brushing my teeth in the morning, I see the same few spots highlighted by the light from the window.  When I'm sitting at a red light, I look down at my arms.  Sometimes I even do it in class!

I feel physically calm when I am picking my arms and feel a tiny burst of joy, seriously, whenever I actually get something to "pop."  These moments are few and far in between though.  Usually I squeeze and nothing comes out and I'm left with a raised white spot (best case) or I break the skin and it bleeds (worst case).  The skin is pretty thin and my nails are pretty sharp, so it bleeds often although I try to prevent it.

I also have extremely fair skin so basically my arms have red spots all over them which looks like a rash.  And I definitely have little white scars on my arms although I don't think they look too terrible.  So basically if I'm not actively picking, my arms will heal and look somewhat normal.

I am completely embarrassed by my arms.  I'm very self-conscious in general and this doesn't help.  So I do try to keep them covered as much as possible, but when it's warm, that's just not possible.

I really want to stop.  I've tried to stop.  I've tried limiting myself to "one" spot per arm per day.  I've tried completely stopping.  I've tried keeping my arms covered.

The longest I've gone is probably 3 days.

I don't really want to seek professional help, but I'm practically at that place.  But still, I feel like I should be able to figure out a way to stop on my own.

So honestly, that's my big secret.

I feel completely vulnerable admitting it (even though it's visible to the world).  It feels like such a weakness.  But I think admitting might be the first step to stopping?

Any suggestions?

(FYI...I did get lactate lotion to help fix the underlying condition which my doctor suggested, but it's not considered safe for breastmilk, so I'm not using it.  Occasionally I hydrate either with lotion or my left over stretch mark oil since dryness is a factor in the dermatitis pilaris, but nothing seems to help although it improves somewhat in the sun.  As much as I'd like to fix the actual reason for the bumps, I think I really need to control myself.)


  1. OMG I am so glad I am not the only one. I seriously look over my arms whenever I am bored, in the car, at work, where ever.Thank you for admitting it and making me feel less crazy!

  2. A coworker of mine sought professional help and it really worked - after six weeks she knew what made her do it and after six months she only did it occasionally. Might be worth looking into

  3. I don't have any advice or information on this, but think it is really great that you are being open and sharing this with others. I have OCD stuff also, but not picking.

  4. I used to pick and scratch mine a lot too, and seriously the only thing that helped was dealing with the problem skin. Since my son was born in 2010, he has been given emulsifying cream for his eczema. The key is to apply it ASAP after you get out of the shower, while your arm skin is still holding a lot of moisture. I haven't had anything to scratch or pick since then!

    but I still pick zits. I think anyone who says they don't, is a big liar! :)

  5. There are a couple of things that have worked for me. The first was that I stopped using the regular commercial soaps that suds a lot. I switched to Kiss My Face soap or homemade soap. They don’t make lots of suds but they don’t dry out my skin either.

    The other thing that worked for me was cutting wheat out of my diet. I cut the wheat for other reasons but my skin totally cleared up. It was amazing! It is really difficult for me to stay totally wheat free but I have cut out most of it. Any time I indulge now my skin breaks out.

    1. Ugh...I hope I don't have to cut out wheat! I'll try it if nothing else works. Switching soaps makes a lot of sense.

  6. One of my best friends from college does this. She routinely has red spots and scabs on her arms and face. She also bites her nails. She's also one of the most chill, least stressed people I know, so maybe thus releases stress for her? I know she's tried to stop, but hasn't been able to. I don't know if she has sought professional help.

    Habits are tough to break. Good luck. And I'm glad you shared this. I think it's much more common than might be imagined...

  7. Speaking from the POV of the therapist/former cutter (yes, I'll come clean about that here), there's actually a neurological process in there with both picking and cutting where the brain releases endorphins and its naturally-created opiates and then becomes basically addicted to what it has put out. So if it feels like an addiction to do, you're not alone there, and some of the same measures that work with addictions are helpful for this. But also, when you try to stop and aren't able to, or when you stop for a while and go back to it, that's NORMAL, even though it doesn't feel that way. It's still a struggle when I get upset. But you CAN do it, little by little,

  8. As I'm sitting here at my desk at work, with my tweezers in my hand... plucking away at my chin hairs that keep coming back, I was happy to see your post. I KNOW I have a problem. Every day I get to work, take out my mirror, tweezers, and little blush brush and put it on my desk. I read medical records throughout the day, or whatever I may be doing, with one hand on the mouse, and one with the tweezers in hand. I pick. and pick. and pick. and pick. And the feeling I get when I pull that hair out? OMG. No one understands why I do it, no one even SEES why I do it; they don't see the little hairs, and I know they're not noticeable to the naked eye, but I FEEL THEM! I get the same way with hair growing out of moles, HAVE TO TWEEZE IT OUT! And the feeling of popping my (now ex) husband's zits on his back? OMG. I know! I know!!!! Ew! Same goes for my face, if I feel even a little zit starting, I squeeze and squeeze until it comes out. I pick at my nails too and cuticles with my tweezers. It's a problem! I feel your pain!!!

  9. I think you're very strong to admit this, and I'm pretty sure you're less alone than you think! I think getting help would probably be the best way to figure out how to stop. Definitely no shame in it. Good luck with whatever you choose!

  10. I am a picker, too! Not on my arms, just popping zits and things like that. It is so great to see the comments here and know that other people have this issue. I always wondered why I did it, when I know it ruins my face. the only answer I could ever come up with is just that I like the feeling. Who knows?

  11. It seems you are really not alone here from your comments, but also that you are upset by how your arms are looking and getting self conscious of it.

    If you could get down the to bottom of what is causing it, that would be the best thing, but if you can't take medication and don't know what is causing it, you could redirect your behavior. Like every time you catch yourself picking, you could take lotion out of your purse and put it on your hands, or file your nails, push back cuticles, or do something productive with your hands/nervous energy.

    Good luck! Please let me know what ends up working for you, I know you can overcome this!

    I'm trying to take small steps to change my behavior too. I'm making different choices, rather than sticking with the same thing. Moving my routines around a little bit. And most of all, letting go of the compulsions when they strike, and just telling myself to get over it if I can't do something a certain way. It's been kind of fun to change things up. It's like tricking my brain. And I silently congratulate myself for not losing my sh*t. :)

  12. Ugh, I do the same thing to my face! It drives my husband nuts and I just can't seem to stop. That comment above about the wheat-free diet has me thinking though...keep us posted if you find anything that works!

  13. OMG...yep. I do it, too. Except I pick at my chin. What started by removing a couple tiny chin hairs that only myself and my super duper mirror can detect, has turned into a full blown obsession. I even pick the skin when all the hairs have been plucked!