Anxiety can look like this…

I haven’t been formally diagnosed with a skin picking disorder. Most people I know that pick their skin haven’t been identified, because skin picking wasn’t added to the DSM until several years ago. Skin picking doesn’t always occur alone, but instead often with other comorbidities. It happens with anxiety and depression most often, followed by others such as ADHD, PTSD, etc. I’ve made myself bleed randomly before. I’m often unaware that I’m literally damaging myself. Concerned people with good intentions will point out what I’m doing and tell me to stop, not realizing that bringing attention to what I’m doing only makes me more self-conscious and then even more anxious. I do it when I can’t sleep, when I’m teaching with my fingers hidden behind a lectern, when I’m a student, hands under my desk. If I doodle, I can manage some, but when I doodle, people believe I’m not listening, and then I worry about that. If I sit on my hands, my fingers go numb. The kindest thing anyone has done so far is to silently pass me a couple of band-aids. If you ask me how I’m doing when I’m making futile attempts to stop the bleeding with the hems of my t-shirt, I’ll just get more flustered. It’s not as simple as stopping. Navigating the thoughts in my brain takes a lot out of me. Certain situations present more variables than my brain has room for and the stress flows down into my fingers. When I have the energy to stop, I try. When I don’t have that momentum, I don’t. Whether my fingers look presentable just isn’t a priority. I’ve learned to spray liquid bandage on my fingers to create something to peel that isn’t my skin itself, but the liquid bandage stings horribly if I’ve already got open tears. It’s far worse than hand sanitizer. If your fingers look like mine, please don’t berate yourself. There are actually a lot of people like us, and we usually have band-aids when no one else does.

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