If you know me, you know I am usually very open with depression and anxiety, but there are a few other disorders I have that have always brought me great shame and embarrassment. I’ve mentioned them a few times here and there, but never really explained it.
It wasn’t until a few months ago that I found out about body-focused repetitive behaviors (BRFB). BFRBs are considered under the umbrella of obsessive-compulsive disorders, and affects 1 in 20 people.
I learned from The TLC Foundation (https://www.bfrb.org/) that “BFRB is a general term for a group of related disorders that includes hair pulling, skin picking, and nail-biting. These behaviors are not habits or tics; rather, they are complex disorders that cause people to repeatedly touch their hair and body in ways that result in physical damage.”
BFRB awareness week begins today, so I figured there was no better day to share my story.
I have dealt with skin picking (also called dermatillomania or excoriation disorder) and hair pulling (known as trichotillomania) since I was a sophomore in high school, years before I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety. For the longest time I believed I just had a lack of self-control when it came to the picking and pulling. Even though I’m still embarrassed by these conditions, at least I know it’s not just a bad habit.
I have had acne since middle school, especially on my back. I’m almost 33 years old and I still break out all the time. But acne is dangerous for a person with dermatillomania. Feeling a bump on my skin (whether it’s a pimple or not), I immediately feel the urge to pick. I feel like I need to pick to feel that sense of relief after I pop a zit or dig at an unsuspecting bump. It isn’t until I have to deal with the aftermath of blood and scabbing and eventual scarring that I feel guilt and shame for destroying my body. My back and upper arms have a great deal of scars, to the point where I had difficulty finding a wedding dress that would hide my imperfections. I can never wear anything with a low back for fear of being judged and having my scars and fresh scabs on display.
When it comes to trichotillomania, I can’t remember when it started exactly, but I’m guessing it was when I was around 16 years old. I focused my hair pulling on my eyelashes and eyebrows. I remember having to color in gaps in my eyebrows (this was before wonderful brow pencils and powder so I had to use brown eyeliner) and I always wore eyeliner to hide my missing eyelashes. It wasn’t until I was 30 before I felt comfortable going to work or out in public without wearing makeup. I remember being at sleepovers and waking up early to fill in my brows so no one would ask about it. When I told one of my best friends in college about it, I was shaking with fear.
The stigma is real, friends. Telling me to “stop picking/pulling” is similar to telling me to “stop being sad” when dealing with depression. There’s no quick fix, but I am starting to look into specialized therapists to help control my impulses. I am finally at the point where my eyelashes are growing out, but I hesitate to celebrate this victory because I know it only takes one bad day to reset all my progress. If you’re like me and silently dealing with BFRBs, you are not alone. It is not your fault. I encourage you to talk with your healthcare provider about finding ways to manage the BFRB.
4 thoughts on “confession: my disorders that I’m most ashamed of.”
The Grimeses are genetically predisposed to adult acne. However, if I were you, I would cut ALL dairy & fried foods from your diet for AT LEAST 6 months & see if that makes any improvement. The dairy industry relies heavily on added hormones, insecticides and genetically modified feeds and those cause hypersensitivity in many individuals. Plant based milks, butters, ice cream, cheeses, etc, etc, etc, are widely available, even in grocery stores. Love you! Aunt Deb
Love you Lisa for your vulnerability! When I was a child, I pulled out my eyelashes, bit my fingernails ( and toenails, too!) all as a response (I am pretty sure) to the stress in my home. So no judgement here! Hugs!
Love you girl! This hit home with me a little. I have these skin colored bumps on my arms and legs for some reason, probably similar to moles that just aren’t colored brown, and I always pick then off I can! I have always called myself a picker and enjoy peeling Matt’s skin when he burns bad etc Haha currently it isn’t an actual issue id say, but coupled with my other body issues and depression I could see it taking a turn for the worse occasionally
I sympathise (and empathise). Your back looks like mine. I’m never quite sure how I am able to reach all areas of it, but obviously I do! I’ve been skinpicking since I was about 13 and am now 68 and still doing it. That said, I had a few years in which I stopped completely and I wish I could remember how or why. But I got an allergic reaction to a hair dye in the 1990s and the itching set me off again so, even when the rash had gone, the spots and scars hadn’t and I was skin-picking all the time. I’m embarrassed to watch my wedding video as I’m scratching in vew of the camera… pretty embarrassing, I hope people didn’t realise what I was doing.
Areas which have healed but left scars go white in the summer if I can get into the sun. Like most people with this, I rarely wear short sleeved tops in public (that is when I actually go out.)