It is probably fair to say that my dermatillomania problem is more an issue for one of my alters than me as a whole, but it certainly affects me as a human being.
Dermatillomania, as defined by Wikipedia (the answer to all of life's definition dilemmas) is 'an impulse control disorder characterized by the repeated urge to pick at one's own skin, often to the extent that damage is caused'. The way in which a person may suffer, depends on the person: for some it might be picking at bits of rough skin, spots, any blemishes or imperfections. For others it might be peeling off cuticles or scratching at skin.
It is also known as 'Complusive skin picking' but on this blog we will stick to using the more obscure title of dermatillomania simply because the thought of 'compulsive skin picking' incites nauseating mental images that result in the feeling of impending hurling.
Dermatillomania tends to be caused or worsened by anxiety and stress. It is certainly the case for me and my anxious alters. In my experience, the problem tends to lead into a spiral where it gets worse and worse: the more you scratch and pick, the more damaged and scabbed the skin becomes, so the more there is to scratch and pick at and so on...
When my dermatillomania takes off (as it is not consistently a problem, but if I switch to a specific alter or if I am very stressed it will become problematic) I find myself picking and scratching at my skin: mainly my face, head, behind my ears, my upper back, arms and chest but it could be anywhere. I don't consciously do it, but I will run my hands over my skin looking for any rough or loose skin, any blemishes or lumps and will then pick, squeeze and scratch at said parts uncontrollably.
At the moment, I am a sight. I've got several really ugly sores on my face where I perceived there to be a spot developing and squeezed and picked it to death. I am sure if I hadn't, the blemish/spot would be long gone by now (if it even was one at all) but instead I have ugly scabs which I can't leave alone. Every time they scab over again I pick them off again. It sounds rather disgusting when you think about it.
Today in work I was scratching away behind my ears (OK that makes me sound like a dog... just to clarify, I wasn't using my foot) for so long that it started bleeding quite a bit and then I had to mop it up with tissues whilst hoping no one would see.
So what helps dermatillomania? Well, since it's often induced by stress and anxiety, it follows that reducing these symptoms will help reduce dermatillomanic tendencies (easier said than done, we all cry). For me, when it is at it's worst, the problem in itself adds to my anxiety, because I want to stop but feel out of control. At times like this, it is often my husband who is the help. He notices it more than I do (because I'm not consciously doing it but it upsets him to see me damaging myself) so will keep telling me off and may even resort to holding my hands so I can't use them anymore. This can actually be really helpful in the middle of an uncontrollable scratching session (woof woof) and can give time for the urges to pass.
Something else that can help is to find tasks to keep your hands busy and your mind distracted. This is one I haven't really tried, because as I said, it tends to be unconscious, but it seems like a good idea. You might want to try wearing soft gloves (you could also do a mime act with these...that might distract you).
This next suggestion may seem a little odd but really works. I have found myself in the past, pasting PVA glue onto my skin, letting it dry and then peeling it off. It gives the satisfaction of the action but without the damage. I guess it doesn't really help to break the habit, but it is fun!
Anyway, I'm not going to try to advise any more than that, because I am hardly one to talk, with a face currently resembling a map of the Northwestern Passages but if you are a fellow dermatillomaniac feel free to give me some suggestions!