There’s a lot to be anxious about these days.
Anxiety, which seemed to be at epidemic levels even before this coronavirus, is now compounded. Instead of amorphous fears we are now surrounded by more immediate fears for the health and safety and also the financial well-being of ourselves and our loved ones. Additionally, anxiety thrives in isolation from our friends and normal social activity, a situation that is now a necessity.
Is your skin picking worse lately because of this added stress and anxiety?
There is obviously a relationship between anxiety and skin picking, but it can be more complex than you think. Sufferers and treatment providers alike recognize that anxiety can contribute to skin picking. However, because most doctors and therapists are not knowledgable on how to treat skin picking, they (and we) tend to assume the picking is merely a symptom of the anxiety, and that when they treat the anxiety or teach you skills to reduce the anxiety, the picking will go away on its own.
I was told this by three different therapists with regard to my own skin picking. I had gone to them specifically for help with the picking, but they were ultimately unable to help. I’m sure they believed they could help me to reduce my anxiety, and I worked with each of them for a few months, separated by a few years in which I managed on my own as best I could, until the next time the need to try again became pressing. Again and again, until I finally found specialized help (at the OCD Center of Los Angeles), I was told that working on my anxiety would solve my skin picking problem.
It’s not that simple.
It’s not that simple because skin picking itself is causing or contributing to the anxiety problem, not just the other way around.
I’m not just talking about the anxiety that is created when you feel like you have to hide and cover up the damage you did, the anxiety of hiding it from friends, family or coworkers. Not that kind.
The skin picking is an addictive habitual behavior. You are stuck in a cycle. Your body learned subconsciously, probably a long time ago, that when you did the picking behavior, you felt just a little bit better, if only for a short time. That creates addiction.
Then, in the absence of doing the behavior, like a withdrawal from a drug, anxiety and the urge to pick builds up worse than before. What I’m saying is that a consequence of picking to reduce anxiety is the creation of more anxiety (the bottom arrow in the schematic). Which of course leads to more picking.
Anything you can do to reduce stress and anxiety helps (ex. deep breathing, reducing caffeine, compassionate self-talk, physical exercise, time in nature) but ultimately you also need to stop the cycle, to break the habit, interrupt your patterns and block yourself from doing the behavior.
It’s a two-pronged approach, and to be successful you need to work on both parts – stress reduction and blocking the behavior.
I want to help you succeed at both these things.
Here are several ways:
- My books, “Skin Picking: The Freedom to Finally Stop” (or the audiobook version) and journal / accountability tool, “The Freedom Companion for Stopping Skin Picking“.
- Personal Coaching – contact me here.
- My online course, “Break Free from Skin Picking“. Get it for 50% off this month when you use the coupon code APRIL50.
- My YouTube channel.
You can do it!
Love and support,