We've all picked at a scab or two before - no big deal, right? Well, what if you simply had to pick at your skin, and not just scabs or hair, but other parts of you - and you just couldn't stop? These are the symptoms of excoriation disorder, a sneaky condition that most people don't even know exists. You may be wondering what excoriation disorder is, and how does someone even get it? Well, fear not, because we're going to explore what excoriation disorder feels like, as well as some of the more terrifying facts about it.
This disorder is actually not all that uncommon and it tends to be more annoying and stressful than life threatening. That being said, that doesn't make it any less serious. Excoriation disorder has destroyed lives, and is often a symptom of a greater problem. What's more is it's incredibly difficult to stop once you start doing it.
Try not to feel too itchy as we explore what having excoriation disorder is like and how it happens. Some of the facts contained here are bound to make you squirm.
It's More Than Just Picking At A Little Skin
Pretty much everyone picks at their dry skin, sunburns, scabs, or zits - so, does that mean that everyone has a hint of excoriation disorder? Well, not exactly. While it is pretty common - with one in twenty people having it - in order for it to be considered a disorder, some specific conditions have to be met.
First of all, the skin-picking has to be recurrent to the point that there are constantly lesions on your skin, or basically until you're ready to tear yourself open. You must have also tried to stop before and failed, proving that this is more than just a bad habit. The skin-picking must cause you distress, or impairment, in your daily life, as in it has to upset you and make your day-to-day activities more difficult. Lastly, the skin picking cannot be associated with another cause such as a dermatological issue, a medication that makes you itch, or another psychological disorder that messes with your sense of reasoning.
You Could Use Your Fingernails Or Tools
When imagining skin picking, you probably think of someone using their fingernails to scratch away at their arms or face. And while that is common, people also use tools like tweezers, scissors, knives, and other sharp instruments to remove skin and scabs, sometimes to the point where they bleed. While this can actually be slightly more hygienic in some cases (your nails can be dirty!), it can also be more damaging and dangerous to the skin, as well as more painful. In some cases, people even use their teeth to bite off skin, especially around the cuticles of the fingers. Afterwards many people eat the skin that they have removed from their body.
Some People Destroy Their Bodies Because Of It
Speaking of serious health issues, it's worth noting that most excoriation experiences are minor (though problematic), or are focused on one specific part of the body. But there are also extreme cases, and those are the ones where things get really nasty.
Specifically for those who pick at their faces, the disfiguration their itching causes can be permanent. They can end up with patchy and discolored skin, a lumpy appearance, and chronic wounds all over. People who suffer from this may also try to hide their faces, or go to extreme lengths to hide the problem altogether, leading to secrecy, stress, and strained personal relationships. Some people also pick at their entire body, which means that their skin never really gets to heal entirely, and they're just about always suffering from an infection. In extreme cases such as these, surgery may be required in order to fix the damage, which can be too expensive for many people to afford.
You'll Be Left With Lumpy Scars
One of the biggest problems with excoriation disorder is that it leaves a very specific type of scar. When you pick off bits of your skin, it leaves open lesions and sores - some that are circular and some that are longer and skinnier. These lesions may heal, but if the person picking their skin keeps coming back to them, then the wound never fully heals and scars begin to develop.
But these aren't just any scars - these scars will begin to protrude from the skin, and are called nodules. These nodules may also have a layer of crust on them, to show where they are continually being irritated, and may turn a different color than the rest of the skin. These scars can develop anywhere on the body, from the face to the hands to the cuticles of fingers. Either way, the scars are definitely noticeable and can be very difficult to get rid of.