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Addictive Behaviours Discuss and receive support for addictions not related to substance use, such as gambling, Internet, sex or work addictions, in this forum.

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scalp+skin picking - January 21st 2014, 07:23 AM

Hi I think this is a fairly common problem? I started picking at the skin of my nose when I was fourteen, so for years you could tell how stressed I was by how many patches I had on my nose/forehead.

I added scalp picking (mainly near the hairline) to the list last year while I was prepping for and taking major national exams. It started out with a particularly flaky part which I scratched till it bled, then from then on I've had at least one scab on my head at any time. The irony is that while picking helps me calm down, it also makes me anxious because I'm worried about losing my hair (I think my hairline is thinning), and that stress drives me to pick. Is hair loss permanent? I feel a need to remove all scabs/hard skin from my scalp.

I think this may also be connected to my need to feel "clean" in the sense that I pluck/tweeze the hair off my fingers etc and I have to clean out my ears and belly button, sometimes to the extent of them bleeding... or maybe my hands just need to keep moving? I'm trying to stop picking but sometimes I'll just suddenly realise that I'm picking when I'm unconscious of having even raised my hand?

My mother is convinced that I can just stop, which I feel should be the case but I honestly can't. I feel like I should just bandage up my head or tape a shower cap to my head.
   
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Re: scalp+skin picking - January 21st 2014, 08:40 AM

Hi there,

I pick at my scalp too, so I can see where you're coming from.

Sometimes hair loss can be permanent but maybe if you allow your scalp to heal, you may see some regrowth. I am definitely not a doctor or a hairdresser, though, so I cannot say that with 100% certainty.

For me, it seems like it can be a both a need for your hands to keep moving and something to do to cope with stress. Do you think that you would be able to identify when you pick the most? I know that sometimes it is hard to realize that you are even doing it, but try and document when you do realize. You may notice patterns forming that can tell you why you do it, whether it's from anxiety, feeling clean, or something else.

Maybe you can find things to bring with you so you can switch to those when you notice yourself picking. For example, you can bring a stress ball, Rubik's cube, or something else that's small that you can work with your hands, and when you notice yourself picking, switch to that.

Try and find ways to deal with the stress and anxiety, too. Writing, art, music, or exercise are all great ways to get out pent up emotions, or you can even talk to people and have them help you cope. Or, find ways to relax, such as taking a warm bath or shower.

You can enlist your friends and family to help, too. Since you don't always realize what you are doing, you can always ask them to politely let you know when you are picking so you can stop. Explain to them that this has become an addiction and a bad habit for you, but it's one you want to break.

I hope this has helped some!

-Dez


   
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