The vicious circle of compulsive skin picking.

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Ever since I was very young, I’ve had a pretty nasty habit which I used to be deeply, deeply ashamed of. While I’m going through a long and tricky process of taking ownership of my life and of talking about my experiences in relation to my mental health, here it is!

I skin pick. Compulsively.

I first developed a problem when I was about 10/11, I had always been a nail biter but it changed from biting my nails to ripping off my cuticles and biting the skin around my nails and down my fingers until they were red raw. Too red raw to show to anyone or to do much with.

I remember when I first started high school, going along to guitar lessons and not being able to play because my finger tips were fleshy, raw and exposed and they’d be pierced and bleeding if I pushed on the guitar strings too hard. So I pretended I hadn’t practiced or didn’t know how to read that song. I’d be horrified if I was ever “found out”.

This extended into the classroom too. Id hide my hands with my school jumper because they were in so much pain but I was also embarrassed that I was “found out” or that anyone discovered my dirty secret of relief.

I remember it going on my whole life. The only time I was able to relieve some of the vicious circle was when I discovered acrylic nails. I could take my grossly bitten fingers to a shop and they’d attach nails which would last for a few weeks. The beauty was, I wasn’t able to bite at these so it provided a GREAT deal of relief.

I tried to keep the acrylic nails on when I could afford them but throughout my adult life, the cycle has sadly continued. It’s like I’m not even aware and just obsessively bite and pick for tiny moments of escapism and bliss which resulted in horrible torture and pain.

It’s strange because anyone who knows me knows that I really take pride in my appearance and am relatively well groomed. So it seems bizarre that I’d do this to myself. Literally mutating my hands by choice. It’s not my choice though, it’s an obsession and a compulsion.

I posted a comment from a troll on my Facebook page earlier today which mentioned my “wonky lips”… this hurt me so much more than you can imagine.

It hurt me because I know they’re wonky.

They’re wonky because I go through a similar cycle as with my nails / fingers and I always have done.

I anxiously pick my lips daily until they bleed and it’s like I don’t even know what I’ve done until I’m in pain.

It’s such a fleeting moment of satisfaction and calm to endure a lengthy period of suffering and pain. A couple of years ago, I discovered a similar cosmetic coping mechanism to the acrylic nails. I discovered that small volumes of lip fillers could even out some of the damage I’d done in terms of the shape of my lips. But now they’re even worse because I pick away even WITH the fillers in… they only offered a short time of prevention. And so we are left with another vicious circle that’s just impossible to escape.

It’s important to remember that although I use this blog and platform to share what I deal with, however unique, sharing and opening up about your life isn’t for everyone. But I hope that this blog and community continues to provide a reminder to others that you’re not alone.

I wohkd imagine that skin picking is probably a lot more common than we think and I’m so happy to finally be taking ownership of all the things I’m not happy about with myself and my life so that I can at least attempt to work on these things for a positive outcome eventually.

But I choose not to hide any of myself any more. The world might need those parts. Even the fleshy and raw bits.

Mandy @ TEWP x

1 Comment

  1. I do this with my toenails! I’m not supple enough to bite them (thankfully) but I pick and pick and pull and tear at the nail until they are bloodied and sore and frankly, a damn mess. I’m not proud of it. I never talk of it. Never. I am trying hard not to do this picking thing and I’m succeeding. Today at least.


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