My name is Erimentha and I'm from Melbourne, Australia. I like reading, exploring trendy cafés and spending time with friends. I’m interested in social justice, ethical living, travel and understanding others. My dream career is as a paid mental health advocate or anthropological field researcher. I have a condition called Dermatillomania (skin picking disorder) which is now classified as a Body Focus Repetitive Behaviour (BFRB).
I remember it started around 10 or 11 with the skin on my ankles and feet, I would sit in front of the TV and use a pair of scissors to cut the skin from my hands and feet. During my teenage years, I suffered through trauma and various mental illnesses. At the age of 16 or 17, my dermatillomania became much worse and more pain orientated - sometimes BFRBs can be confused with self-harm but the main differences for me are intention (control/punishment/pain vs. correction/compulsion/tactile and sensory/anxiety). Now it occurs mostly with acne and imperfections on my chest, neck, face and hands. I can spend upwards of an hour standing in front of the mirror, in the shower or in bed picking at my skin. I often pick my skin in social situations and I have become very good at hiding it from others (secrecy and shame is a key aspect of this condition).
The worst part of having a BFRB is constantly “monitoring” my behaviour and “catching myself” picking subconsciously. This happens mostly when I am sitting idly on the train, during lectures or talking about something distressing. I remember scratching at my scalp till it bled or being unable to stop even when it unnerved others. Another challenge is the social stigma and shame. Not many people know that I have this condition or even know it exists! This makes help seeking incredibly complex and it is often dismissed under other “more serious” conditions such as depression or PTSD.
The best part is recognising that it’s a coping mechanism and not a symptom. Understanding that it is a behaviour that I am unlikely to ever completely eradicate or control (acceptance is key). Learning about others and meeting people with related conditions (especially ADHD which shares similar therapy techniques of fiddle toys or calming strategies). If I told someone about my condition, the best thing they could do is validate how debilitating it can be. Although, “oh yeah! I pick at my hands sometimes when I’m nervous too!” might seem like a supportive response, it often misses the compulsive and destructive aspect of BFRBs (which have previously been classified as either a form of OCD or as an impulse control disorder similar to pyromania). Another important thing is asking what it means for me and how they can help in the future. To newcomers to this disorder, welcome! Stay strong, be open, honest and remember that everyone’s definition of recovery is different to your own. This is me.