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My 'Self-Grooming' Disorder

A Continuous Cycle of Pain

By Scarlett WoodPublished 5 years ago 3 min read

!WARNING! This story contains graphic content.

What does it feel like... having beautiful hands and fingers? I haven't had that feeling ever since I was 11-years-old.


"Self-grooming" behavior or body-focused repetitive behavior (BFRB) is a term used to describe a group of disorders that cause people to repeatedly touch their hair and body in ways that result in physical damage.

Some of these disorders are:

  • Trichotillomania (hair-pulling)
  • Onychophagia (nail biting)
  • Dermatillomania or Excoriation disorder (skin picking)
  • Dermatophagia (skin biting and nibbling)

NOTE: When it comes to fingers, dermatillomania and detratophagia are basically the same, picking and then biting your cuticles.

An Introduction to My Disorder

Dermatillomania or excoriation disorder is a chronic condition that can begin at any age. It consists of picking at one's own skin to the point where physical damage is caused. The picking can happen on any part of the body such as the arms, legs, face, and torso. In my case, it happens on my cuticles.

In 2013 the DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) classified dermatillomania as its own separate condition under "Obsessive-compulsive and related disorders" with the term "excoriation (skin picking) disorder." Many people still believe it should be a part of impulse control disorders and not its own category.

Causes and After Effects

There are many theories regarding the causes of excoriation disorder. The most common theories suggest that it is triggered by:

  • Anxiety
  • Tension
  • Stress
  • Boredom
  • Trauma

Psychologically this disorder can cause distress and feelings of loss of control, shame, and embarrassment which leads to more picking. Physically it can cause permanent damage to the skin such as discoloration and scars.

My Hands

"Both of these photos where taken in the midst of writing this."

My Personal Experience

It started when I was in sixth grade. I remember being bored in class and having a small scar, so I started picking it. I don't really remember much, just that I began doing it out of boredom. As time passed I kept on doing it. It would always stop in the summer, so I thought it must have been because I didn't have to think about school or practice. Now after all these years it's not happening out of boredom. Sadly, it is happening because of the anxiety and stress that come with being an athlete and studying for exams that could determine the next four years of my life.

The worst part about this disorder is the people around me—or at least the ones that don't even try to understand the situation I'm in.

Someone might say, "Well have you at least tried stopping it?"

Yes, I have spent countless hours searching for a way to stop it other than medication.

Yes, I have tried so hard. Harder than you can imagine.

Why? Because I want to go to a nail salon without the lady looking at me like I'm crazy. Because I want to stop crying every other night because of the pain. Because I just want to be happy with my appearance for once in my life.

Take for example my mom who keeps nagging about it. Always telling me to stop and that it is a bad habit. Grabbing my hand out of nowhere because I'm doing it next to her, instead of just telling me to stop because—keep in mind that I sometimes do it without realizing, and then getting mad because I pull my hand away from her. IT IS NOT A HABIT AND I CAN'T STOP IT!

Do you think I want my hands to look this way? Don't you think I want to hold girlfriend's hand without the fear that she will find it disgusting and leave me? If I could I would stop it in a heartbeat but no matter how hard I try it always comes back 10 times harder.

I'm even doing it right now while writing this.

I feel disgusting.

But hey, who cares right?


About the Creator

Scarlett Wood

Just a 17-year-old helping people through their struggles while trying to do the same.

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