F Yeah Derma Dragonfly

A meme for all you people out there suffering from dermatillomania, who need a place to share thoughts, poke fun, and find understanding in each other.

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Anonymous said: I've had picking issues since I was very small. Plucking eyelashes around 3, my mom says. Then to making the underside of my nails bleed when my mom kept getting mad about my eyelashes. Then to skin picking when I first got acne @ 11. I have scars all over. I always feel so uncomfortable with my skin and still continue to pick at my skin for hours. I'm 27. I don't know how to stop.

It’s hard for any of us to know how to stop – that’s why it’s a compulsion.

If you don’t do so already, I highly recommend frequent browsing or tracking of the #dermatillomania tag on Tumblr. Some of it is venting of struggles, some is pictures, some is personal challenges, other frustrations… However, dotted throughout are the ruminations of dermatillomaniacs in the process of cutting down or stopping picking, or even those just making an every day attempt, and many of these describe the myriad of techniques, thoughts, attitudes, toys, and tools that help these people in their efforts. (Warning: if lots of talk of picking or pictures/imagery triggers you, the derma tag may not be for you.)

That aside, there are a few basic techniques that repeat a lot in the derma community. Some examples are:

  • fidget toys (ie, spinner rings, tangles, silly putty)
  • blocking or covering mirrors
  • getting rid of tools (pushpins, tweezers, whatever else you might use)
  • having a partner or friend to keep you aware of and accountable for your picking whenever they are around
  • awareness techniques meant to make you focus on when you are scanning, when you are picking, what the stressors, motivations, and triggers are
  • addressing psychological triggers or insecurities that may feed into your derma
  • setting increasing goals for oneself
  • exposing oneself to becoming more comfortable with one’s bare skin (ie, letting yourself go out in public without makeup, allowing a zit to exist without popping it, etc)
  • centering/grounding techniques such as mental exercises, mantras, or meditation
  • alternative coping mechanisms, such as simulating skin picking on other objects, fiddling with things, drawing, writing your emotions, et cetera
  • self-affirmation and repetition of positive encouragement
  • general skin and health care to reduce the occurrence of perceived ‘problem areas’
  • counseling or professional assistance, most frequently focusing around cognitive-behavioral therapy

These are just some basic ideas and examples. You will find that many derma strugglers or blogs will go into much more detail regarding one or many of these; and some work well for one person and worse for another, or not at all for someone else. It takes trial and error and a good amount of observation and introspection to learn what motivates you to pick, how you can avoid it, and what you can do to stop yourself. However, more important than anything, don’t beat yourself up for pickingMaybe someone has gone 100 days without picking and you can’t go 6 hours, or maybe you’re somewhere in between. That’s okay! Disorders, psychology, and general cognitive function affect everyone differently, and what works for one person may just not be as effective for you. And that aside, you are not a failure for being a dermatillomaniac. Picking does not make you a bad person. You are not obligated to stop for anyone but you, and we know that it’s hard, and for every setback, you must forgive yourself. Twenty-seven or sixteen, we recognize that derma is a struggle, and not one to be underestimated! 

I hope all this helps. Many more resources can be found on the internet, some of which are included on our FAQ / About page. Feel free to browse our asks as well, as a lot of them include information you may be looking for. Stop Picking, the Trich Learning Center, and OCDLA are all good resources for advice, articles, and techniques – as are many blogs here on Tumblr. The positive thing now is that there is much more awareness, support, and community for derma than there was, say, a year ago. In that you are lucky! The derma online community, and particularly we here at Derma Dragonfly, are always here to help. 

Good luck


Anonymous said: *Trigger warning* I never even considered the possibility of having this disorder but now I'm not so sure. I have been picking at my cuticles/fingernails compulsively (until I bleed) since I was an infant. I'm almost 19 and have tried to kick the "habit" many times. My parents always called it a bad habit, but after doing research I'm not so sure. I also started self harming at 14. Does it sound like I have dermo?

You may have a form of derma. Fingernails and cuticles, and just fingers in general, are a very common place for dermatillomaniacs to pick. Of course, everyone picks some things, and sometimes it’s hard to draw the line between “normal” picking and “compulsive” picking. However, from the way you describe it, picking to the point of bleeding, finding yourself unable to stop, and that sort of thing, it does sound like more of a compulsive habit than your ordinary level. 

I cannot, of course, diagnose you. But if your picking is affecting your everyday life (for example, making it hurt to pick things up or do things with your fingers; causing you to feel self-conscious or hiding your hands; feeling like an uncontrollable habit or a destructive/addictive coping mechanism; etc) then it could be worth looking into. When a habit starts impacting your quality of living, that’s when it starts to be less of a quirk and more of a disordered behavior. 

I hope that helps some, but I definitely recommend checking out our FAQ page for a few helpful links, particularly those belonging to OCDLA! Those might also further clarify where you would fall under dermatillomania or otherwise. And in the meantime, of course, we are always here to help.

Anonymous said: I was talking to my boyfriend about what "imperfections" give me the urge to pick at my skin and he told me that I shouldn't do it unless I wanted to and I told him I didn't and that I just get urges to do it. He responded by telling me that he gets the urge to self harm but he doesn't act upon it. I just feel really ashamed about still picking at my skin even though he wants me to stop. \:

Honey, you should never feel ashamed for your disorder. It’s true that, depending on whom you ask, there is sometimes considered to be overlap between self-harm as a behavior and CSP. However, individual situations are vastly different, and the underlying psychology for each is not identical. 

I’m not an expert in self-harm, and I can’t speak for your boyfriend, but from what I understand it can often be motivated by a desire for sensation or release, a self-punishment, or a physical manifestation of frustration and/or depression. I have seen compulsive skin pickers who define their picking as a form of self-harm, and it’s possible that it is because they feel the action shares some of these motivators and feels like self-harm to them. 

However, that does not mean that your case is comparable. Typically, dermatillomania revolves around obsessive, anxious, and/or dysmorphic thoughts or focuses regarding one’s skin or real and perceived flaws. Picking tends to be the mind’s solution to these nagging worries, and the compulsion to do so is often provoked by immediate stresses or emotional states that trigger the impulse to ‘attack’ or ‘solve’ the so-called problems. 

Both picking and other self-harm can be considered coping mechanisms, and both can stem from similar psychological states. But your boyfriend’s urge to harm himself is not necessarily the same urge you feel when you need to pick. And whether or not his ability to resist is more successful than your own, the blame is not to be placed on you (or anyone!). Psychology just differs, and having different reactions to urges is not something to be shamed for.

I’m glad you have a boyfriend you feel you can open up to about your picking, but I hope as well that, with some education, he can understand that your dermatillomania is not always something you can control, and that, like any disorder or illness, it’s not a representation of your own deservance or failures. In the meantime, you always have us here at Derma Dragonfly and the rest of the Tumblr and web derma community to support you; we all empathize with derma and what you are going through, and you will never be shamed for your experiences.

I hope that communication between your boyfriend and yourself improves, and more so I wish you well-being and luck in pervading through your struggle. 


Anonymous said: Sometimes I feel super inadequate because my picking isn't visible. I peel the skin off of the soles of my feet, big patches, sometimes until I bleed and it hurts to walk, but my sister picks at her knuckles and cuticles. I wish my scabs were visible, even if it meant I'd pick more often. I used to have huge scabs on my fingers because I'd rip the skin off with pins, and though I love my boyfriend for helping me stop, I sorta miss being covered in dried blood.

You definitely aren’t inadequate. Any damage is damage, whether other people can see it or not. (Believe you me, those whose damages are visible put quite a lot of effort into making it not so!) 

I’m glad you’ve been able to stop at your fingers, even though I understand that there are things to miss about it. In the end I think it’s worth breaking from, if only because having to rely on an addiction that causes pain and shame is just never an ideal state.

Good luck with your current picking spots, and I wish you the best of luck with dealing. 

eccentricat said: I pick my boyfriends back and shoulders all the time, so you're definitely not alone there. He picks at me and all the places I can't reach so it's a win-win. I've made him bleed before though whoops....

Ouch! Thanks for sharing 

beautyisanaddiction said: About picking others; I don't pick their imperfections, but since people know I have derma sometimes they let me peel their skin if they're peeling because of sunburns. It feels nice for all involved and since it's going to be peeled anyway, no harm. Otherwise, I accidentally hurt my ex once by picking his hangnail and he never let me pick at him again. hah Whoops.

That’s a clever way to get around it. And ahhaa yeah hangnails are a tricky subject. 

How do others feel about this? 

erisnoteros said: I pick a lot, but I found something that helped me. I had too much testosterone in my system for a female, so now I'm on a contraceptive with hormones in it, and it cleared up 95% of my acne. Without the acne I have next to nothing to pick at, so my skin cleared up dramatically.

That’s interesting! That seems like it might be an uncommon case, but that’s true that hormonal imbalances would definitely be a contributing factor to acne in your case. I wonder if that’s the case for anyone else here?

[Image: skin texture background with a picture of a green dragonfly in the center. Upper text reads: “GET ANXIOUS ABOUT THE HOMEWORK YOU’VE BEEN PROCRASTINATING ON” Lower text reads: “WASTE 2-3 HOURS PICKING, THUS PROLONGING THE PROCRASTINATION”]

[Image: skin texture background with a picture of a green dragonfly in the center. Upper text reads: “GET ANXIOUS ABOUT THE HOMEWORK YOU’VE BEEN PROCRASTINATING ON” Lower text reads: “WASTE 2-3 HOURS PICKING, THUS PROLONGING THE PROCRASTINATION”]

crackcityrocker77 said: This may sound odd or it may be completely normal, but does anyone else with derma pick at the skin of their significant others as well as themselves? If I am very close to somebody, I will have the desire to pick at imperfections on their skin as well and since I've been with my boyfriend, I spend hours picking at his skin. It's almost become a bonding activity but I also feel very compulsive when I do it. Just curious if anyone else does this.

I would say that’s not abnormal; I’ve heard of many dermatillomaniacs finding it soothing to pick at the skin of a partner or pet in addition to their own. It’s nice to have a relationship partner who will let you take out your compulsions on them, but at the same time it’s still feeding into your dermatillomania and not particularly safe when it comes to things like infection. 

Anyone else do this or have anything to say about it?

Anonymous said: So I'm pretty sure I'm suffering from either dermatillomania or OCD or both... I constantly pick at my scalp and face. Especially my nose. So much that my boyfriend has noticed has it is even starting to put tension on our relationship. I don't know how to make him understand that this is not something I control or necessarily want to be doing. Is there any way I can get a more confirmed answer about what I have?

Dermatillomania as a disorder has been linked to OCD, actually, because they share obsessive aspects (obsessing over having perfect or smooth skin, or that scabs and bumps are ‘flaws’ or ‘wrong’) combined with a resulting action to relieve the thoughts (picking or scratching or what-have-you). 

If you check the About page, you’ll find a link to a test by the OCD Center of Los Angeles (which specializes in disorders like these) that could give you a better idea of whether you would fit the diagnosis of dermatillomania. Aside from that, you can only get an official diagnosis from a qualified individual - this could be your doctor, a psychiatrist or psychotherapist, et cetera. Try talking to your family doctor or looking through the links on this blog to find a psychologist in your area that specializes in OCD or impulse-related disorders. OCDLA also offers distance therapy through video or voice talk-therapy sessions.