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To Sam

Worries about a habit

Dear Sam,

I have had a skin picking habit ever since I was young, many years ago, and now I am starting to think it is a problem. I have done some research and I think I have dermatophagia (that might be spelt wrong). I have done a lot of online quizzes, and the majority of the results say that I have it. I have only told a close friend about it and no one else. I have tried to start a conversation about it with family members, but it always goes off topic. I really don't know what to do now. The other day, a friend asked what had happened to my fingers, and I was really embarassed about the fact that people had started asking me what had happened. I lied about it because I didn't want anyone knowing. I also don't know whether it counts as self harm or cannabilism, but I don't do it for any of those reasons. Please give some advice about what I should do next, it would really be appreciated.

Ask Sam

Sam

Hi there,

Anything that you do regularly can become a habit. Some habits can be healthy routines like eating breakfast or listening to relaxing music before bed. And other habits can be things that aren’t so helpful. But there are things you can do to change a habit or addiction you’re unhappy with.

You might pick your skin or bite your nails when you’re feeling emotions that are uncomfortable, like feeling anxious, stressed, or bored. Sometimes skin conditions like acne, eczema or having marks on your skin can trigger skin picking. Feeling upset or embarrassed about what you’re doing or trying to hide it from others can be signs that it’s time to change.

You could try doing something to keep your hands busy – like using hand cream or having a small object you can squeeze or play with, like a stress ball. You could also try a breathing exercise – like taking deep breaths in and out for 4 seconds each. Sometimes telling someone you trust can help so they can let you know if they see you skin picking without you realising you’re doing it

Try to keep your skin clean and your nails short. It’s always best to speak to your doctor or NHS 111 if you’re worried about a scar, a cut that doesn’t heal, if you’ve picked a mole or you think you might have a skin infection.

Remember, only a doctor can diagnose you with a condition or reassure you that you don’t have one. So, although it can be tempting to try to diagnose yourself with online quizzes, you’ll still need to see your doctor and you might end up worrying that you have something you don’t actually have.

Thank you for writing to me and I hope this advice helps. You can talk to one of our counsellors for advice too.

Take care,

Sam

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