In my previous post about dermatillomania, Robert B asks:

“Do you mind sharing what kind of therapies were tried?”

Sure! When I first met with my therapist, I made sure that she used cognitive behavioral therapy, since that’s one of the approaches most supported by scientific evidence. I also made it clear that I was an atheist to make sure she was okay with that (PS – check out the Secular Therapist Project if you’re looking for a secular therapist or want you current therapist to sign up).

The main therapy we did was “mindfulness,” which is pretty much how it sounds. She encouraged me to pay close attention to when I started to pick. For the first couple of weeks I wrote down every time I started picking and what was going on around me. This was partially to see if any specific events triggered the picking, though that wasn’t too enlightening to me. I already knew I picked when I was either very stressed out or very bored, and that’s about what I found.

But it did help me realize how much I picked. And since paying attention to my picking was on my mind, I was much less likely to start absent-mindedly picking during a lecture or a movie. Or if I did start picking, I would realize what I was doing and try my hardest to stop. It didn’t totally solve the problem, but I did pick less. And since I picked less, I had less scraggly skin available to pick, which in turn made me want to pick even less.

The problem was it was really easy to fuck up once, and that derailed the whole process. If I happened to go crazy picking while spaced out and watching a movie, or if an exam was coming up and I went to town, I basically had to start the process all over again. mindfulness worked for a couple of months until it…well, just wasn’t on my mind anymore. It’s hard to constantly think about.

The other thing that was suggested to me was just finding a hobby that could keep my hands busy instead of picking each other. I’ve found random twitchy iPhone games to be great for making me not pick while riding the bus, and that still works reasonably well. The main problem is idle work situations, like sitting in a lecture. She suggested I take up knitting since that’s fairly socially acceptable to do in a lecture hall, but I just never got around to it.

But overall, the treatment for dermatillomania isn’t really well understood. There are a number of proposed drugs that may help (including SSRIs), but we never discussed that option.

This is post 32 of 49 of Blogathon. Donate to the Secular Student Alliance here.