The Truth About Living With Anxiety And Dermatillomania


I’ve struggled to write about anxiety many times, a term for this perplex mental illness involving many more components than just “being worried.” Through my numerous attempts at putting my thoughts on this disorder into words, I’ve found that it is far too difficult to describe exactly what happens in my brain when it comes to anxiety. Maybe I struggle so much with putting it into words because I struggle so much with anxiety in general.

From an early age it was obvious that I was an anxious person. I was obsessively concerned with the weather as a young girl, and as I grew older, more and more things tended to spark my symptoms.

I was always a picker as a kid. Any scab I had was picked at, leaving my arms and legs with endless amounts of scars. So of course when puberty came about, I began to pick at my acne, and of course, my struggles with anxiety increased as I matured. At first I didn’t see it as a problem, but now my habits rock me to my core. It wasn’t until recently, when a kid that I mentored asked me what was wrong with my face, that I realized I had a problem. I will always remember going home that night and taking a long, hard, cold glance in the mirror. Examining each and every scar on my once baby-skinned face, I thought, “Damn, how did I let myself tear my own skin apart? How did I let myself make me this ugly?”

My face will probably never look like it did when I was younger, and no amount of makeup will ever cover up the craters and flaws that I’ve carved into my complexion. To this day, I still pick at my skin. Most of time I don’t even realize I’m doing it until there’s blood covering my fingers and dead skin lodged between my nails. Any person that doesn’t struggle with anxiety probably wonders how the hell I don’t realize what I’m doing when I’m destroying my face. But for any person that does struggle with anxiety, you know that it isn’t about just worry.

Everybody worries. Worry is normal. Anxiety is about not being able to function because your mind is in a constant state of apprehension.

When my mind runs through thoughts on end, I get lost. And when I get lost, I’m unaware of what I’m doing to myself.

Many people see my habits as self-harm, but the DSM has actually classified it as a disorder called dermatillomania. Dermatillomania is a mental disorder where people compulsively pick and scratch at their skin until damage is done. I never intended to make myself bleed, it just happened.

I will always be an advocate for mental health. As a writer, I want to make the world aware of people’s struggles with mental illnesses, including my own. I don’t want to share this in order to receive sympathy. I don’t want to share this in order to make kids stop asking me what’s wrong with my face. I want to share this because it’s the first step I need to take toward getting better. Admitting you have a problem is the first step. I want to share this because there are so many disorders out there that people are unaware of. I want to share this in hopes that someone else will be able to relate to it. And most importantly, I want to share this because I’m done resenting myself for inflicting wounds on my face.

I’m ready to accept that my skin is beautiful, and all that marks it are battle wounds from an inexorable war that originated from anxiety. Thought Catalog Logo Mark

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