“I have had seizures for many years where I constantly fiddle with my face to empty every pore of my skin and scrape every imperfection in front of my magnifying mirror, confides Élise, 25 years old. This mania started at puberty, with the onset of acne. It has become a real obsession that I still can’t get rid of while it leaves me with redness and scabs that make me ashamed. I no longer go out without a thick layer of covering makeup. And when my skin is too puffy, I decline all invitations.
For Élise, as for thousands of other young women, this fad has turned into a nightmare. She spends hours scrutinizing herself in the bathroom for immediate relief.
But the the other side of the coin is heavy: scars, guilt, loss of self-esteem, social isolationetc… A vicious circle that it is fortunately possible to break.
A compulsive disorder to be taken seriously
“Dermatillomania is halfway between obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and addiction, explains the dermatologist Dermato Drey, instagrammeryoutuber and author of Make peace with your skin (ed. Larousse). With each crisis, a part of you wants to do well by ridding your skin of impurities. These repeated scratchings and pressings provide a kind of trance that helps you forget your daily worries. But afterwards, the return to reality is difficult because the marks are there and aggravate the bad self-image”.
We are all a little dermatillomaniac, but in some the disorder remains mild and does not disturb daily life, while in others, attacks are frequent and have an impact on quality of life.
“These are increasing in number, notes Dermato Drey, because the pressure on physical appearance is amplified by social networks”. And of course, young women are the most affected.
Of the 19,686 subscribers to Instagram account @peau.ssibledevoted to dermatillomania, 94.7% are female and only 5.2% male.
Double support needed
“Faced with a dermatillomaniac, the starting point of the consultation is generally acne, scars, spots, etc…, observes Dermato Drey. A medical response must therefore be given, but it is absolutely necessary to make the patient understand immediately that psychological support is also necessary”.
Awareness of the problem is indeed the first step to get out of it., but relying on his will alone is not enough. “Psychological care is essential, with a psychotherapist or psychiatrist to identify and act on conflicts, sources of tension that are evacuated by dermatollomania”, specifies the dermatologist.
“It’s not easy to reveal this part of me that I have kept hidden for a long time. But in the end why be ashamed of it? It’s part of my story. And healing also goes through acceptance”, testifies Camille Montaz, patient-expert author of the account @peau.ssible and book My story with dermatillomania.
After 15 years of severe dermatillomania, this 28-year-old woman consulted all kinds of practitioners (psychologist, naturopath, sophrologist, etc.) to understand where her injuries came from and change her thought patterns. “A change then took place gradually in me, in my body (before happening in my head)… Until the total healing of this disorder which had made me suffer so much”, she says.
Solutions that help
There is no need to rush too quickly towards aesthetic treatments (micro-dermabrasion, peeling with glycolic acid, fractional laser, etc.) because as long as you have not made enough progress on the path to healing, these treatments are not recommended. But there are a few tricks that give a nice boost, like hide mirrors at home to be less tempted to examine yourself from every angle. Cutting your nails very short or having false nails applied can also be effective in losing your scratching marks.
Exercising, eating healthy, breaking free from toxic relationships, spending time in nature, and getting enough sleep are also helpful. And since dermatillomania often develops on anxious ground, relaxation and mindfulness meditation sessions are also welcome.
To feel less alone in the face of this problem, join a community like @peau.ssible in order to dialogue with other people with the same disorder and benefit from the sharing of experiences.
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Torn off scabs, crushed pimples… Are you a dermatillomaniac?
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