Lots of young people experience anxiety and depression, and many like me retaliate on their bodies physically. I’ve come to peace with suppressing the need to cut myself and I am very proud of the strength I’ve gained mentally and physically to do so. Over the past few years, my self-harm has changed to destroy any spot of imperfection on my body. Because under all of the pseudo self-confidence, I just want to look perfect and have the beautiful skin that haunts me in every facet of the media. And my anxiety for a flawless face is just the reason why I feel ugly without my makeup on.
I have the condition Dermatillomania, which is an anxiety disorder a lot more common than you would think. Dermatillomania is the compulsion to pick at ones own skin and in some cases it can cause substantial physical damage. And while the most common place for picking is the face, some people release their anxieties or feed their compulsions through picking or scratching their back, arms, legs, fingers, and toes. Dermatillomania can be as simple as excessively attacking facial blemishes, to more severe episodes of picking which can lead to bleeding and later infection and tissue damage.
For me, my anxiety centralizes on the blemishes (whether real or imaginary) on my face. I don’t always have the compulsion to pick, but when I do it’s usually after a bad day where I’ve be subjected to large amounts of stress. It begins when I pull out the magnifying mirror from my closet, my looking glass into what seems like a galaxy of blackheads and raised bumps that need to be cleansed of dirt. Once I start, it takes a while for me to stop and immediately after I spend a considerable amount of time washing my face as if to reverse the anxiety that I have just unleashed. After I have cleaned my face, I feel like a monster. My face is red and blotchy and the spots that were once barely noticeable now react in anger at my own ignorance. I tell myself that I won’t pick again, because no small pimple is worth ten more popping up in its place; but I always wind back up at square one. And I will be the first to admit that I need help.
I need a way to release my anxiety outside of harming my skin but it’s harder than it looks. I’ve tried maintaining my skin to the point where I don’t need to pick at all, but after a while I find a way of picking at nothing. In my experience with anxiety, the best way towards recovery is being honest with yourself. When a compulsion to harm yourself comes on, it is time to take a deep breath and let the anxiety pass. If that doesn’t work, maybe it is time to find an outlet to let out all the stress you are keeping bottled up. Going to the gym, expressing yourself artistically, or even watching your favorite movie for the hundredth time are all ways to break down anxiety. It’s all about doing what feels good for you, because we all put too much pressure on ourselves to be perfect.