How to handle compulsive skin-picking? - Mothering Forums
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#1 of 27 Old 09-27-2007, 11:11 PM - Thread Starter
 
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My son is a skin-picker and has been for years - for awhile he pulled his eyebrows out, then he moved on to his fingers, then on to his lips. Well I noticed on Sunday that he kept picking at his head so I looked and there were two little spots of skin missing. I looked again today and there is a huge nickel-sized wet-looking scab on his head. It's not a dry scab, it's like a nasty bloody looking thing - totally gross. I've put TTO on it to help keep infection out and took a picture to show him but he hasn't stopped picking at it. His skin-picking has never led to something this nasty looking - how do I get him to stop? Oh he's 6 and has Asperger's Syndrome.

Thanks!
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#2 of 27 Old 09-27-2007, 11:22 PM
 
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ugh. we've dealt with this for years too. My son will be 10 next week. Redirect and keep the hands occupied. We used to give things magical properties that he had to keep safe (a rock, dh's high school ring etc) when he was little and we though he was going to pick his lips off.

once it's irritated skin I find if you can focus all you attention on keeping those hands BUSY until it no longer itches or is irritated and can heal a bit then it's just a matter of monitoring.

my son also frequently moves onto other things/parts to pick at (right now it's his nose. He gets 14 bloodly noses a day ) he's pulled all the skin off his fingertips and pulled out his eyelashes. Last year he delveloped facial ticks and we prayed the picking would come back!!

just wishing you the best and letting you know I understand. and it's hard.

Carrie, The Birthteacher CCE and Doula, real mom to five; and womb-mom to G. born at 23w by emergency C. 12/09
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#3 of 27 Old 09-27-2007, 11:53 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks Carrie. I just think of dirty fingernails + open wound and my skin crawls. My mom suggested asking his teacher if I can send in a stress ball for him to play with while he does his work because he has to be doing it a lot at school - I don't see him messing with it enough at home to have caused the size of the sore.
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#4 of 27 Old 09-28-2007, 10:50 AM
 
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I am and have been a compulsive skin picker my whole life. I would love to stop but can't. I don't think that is very encouraging to you, but it really might not be something he can control. It hurts, it's ugly, but no matter what I try, I can't stop. Behavior modification didn't work, picking at silly putty didn't work, the thing that worked the best was getting a bottle of elmers school glue and putting it on me so that I could pick that off. I'm sorry you're dealing with this, it's a very annoying habit.
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#5 of 27 Old 09-30-2007, 01:20 PM
 
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I think the glue is totally valid. I may see if ds wants to try this later today so I don't have to gee his arms up his nose

and I didn't know I was posting in the SN forum before. I don't think that we are SN.

and it's helpful that you pointed out that sometimes it's a compulsion and distraction or behavior mod doesn't always work.

Carrie, The Birthteacher CCE and Doula, real mom to five; and womb-mom to G. born at 23w by emergency C. 12/09
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#6 of 27 Old 09-30-2007, 01:57 PM
 
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Hair pulling is an anxiety based compulsion called trichotillomania.
I would venture to guess that skin picking is an extension of the anxiety in a different form.

http://www.trich.org/index.asp

My ds suffers from anxiety and I've found that this book "Freeing Your Child from Anxiety," by Tamar Chansky, PhD. has been a great resource:

http://www.amazon.com/Freeing-Your-C...1171120&sr=8-1

The best thing about the book is that it gives you a good idea about how the anxious child feels and gives really good suggestions on how to help.

From what I understand, hair pulling and most likely, skin picking give a sense of relief to the puller/picker and drawing your dc's attention to this is likely to make it worse, not better.

Laura - Mom to ds (10) and dd (7) "Time stands still best in moments that look suspiciously like ordinary life." Brian Andreas.

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#7 of 27 Old 09-30-2007, 05:20 PM
 
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Trichotillomania and skin picking might not actually be related. Skin picking is often a sensory kind of thing, my ds would pick at the skin around his nails and hands until it was open and raw and oozing, because he was seeking sensory input, and because he doesn't really feel pain or discomfort. This is related to his Sensory Integration problems.

He actually had a severe anxiety problem when he was in school, too, but the skin picking didn't respond to the stuff we did for his anxiety, unfortunately. It can be hard to tease out what exactly is causing what symptom or reaction. Because it was his hands (and sometimes feet) that he picked at, and he seemed to get more satisfaction from picking at scabs and hardened skin, what I did was moisturize his hands and feet several times a day and cover them with cotton socks. This kept the hard skin from forming and also kept him from picking (at his worst I often had to tape the socks or gloves on his hands.)

I had a neighbor who was also hsing her son who had asperger's, and he had a serious skin and hair picking problem. Taking him out of school (since a lot of his anxiety revolved around school) helped to lessen the picking, but not entirely. For him it was totally anxiety based and dealing with the anxiety was the only way to stop the picking.

My ds was also a chewer, fiddler and general destructive tornado of a kid, who always needed some sort of sensory input, or he'd start going haywire. For him, constant redirection, and giving him things to fiddle with and bite (surgical tubing, koosh balls, sensory toys) helped a lot (he's also in the constant nose-bleed club : btw Carrie, does your son have TS? My son does, and his sensory stuff and picking usually come at times when his ticks are starting a waxing phase.)

So, what I'm trying to say, in my long-winded kind of way, that how you approach this depends on where the behavior is coming from, if it's anxiety, or sensory-seeking.
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#8 of 27 Old 09-30-2007, 06:15 PM
 
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Originally Posted by alima View Post
: btw Carrie, does your son have TS? My son does, and his sensory stuff and picking usually come at times when his ticks are starting a waxing phase.)

So, what I'm trying to say, in my long-winded kind of way, that how you approach this depends on where the behavior is coming from, if it's anxiety, or sensory-seeking.
I don't know what TS is.

also, could it be both anxiety and sensory seeking behavior? For us they are almost always the same. at least it seems that way.

OK so I offered ds the glue and he says he'll only do it if he can add black and red food coloring to it to gross people out.

I've been thinking of since reading at this forum (today was my first visit: !)

Is it possible that constant rain-man like chatter (and forgive me, I'm not trying to be insentitive) is it possible that my son actually can't control this behavior? He's not even silent when asleep and it's inane factoids 24-7 otherwise. He doesn't really clue in to the fact that we aren't interested. When I cleanly say (and I must interrupt him to do this!) "hey, I really just want to listen to the birds for a few minutes could you stop telling me how rocks are formed for like 4 and a half minutes?" he looks a little glazed for a second, paces and picks his hands (nervous habit) and sort of begins to walk away and they comes back talking even faster with shorter breaks.

we just think of it as a social difference. He's over come a lot of weirdness and OCDishness to be as functional as he is. He's just (and I hate to say it) annoying in some ways. I need a little brain break sometimes and I can't seem to ever get away from the chattering. My head wants to explode after 12hrs of it.

Carrie, The Birthteacher CCE and Doula, real mom to five; and womb-mom to G. born at 23w by emergency C. 12/09
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#9 of 27 Old 09-30-2007, 06:17 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thank you everyone for your input. My son is a sensory avoider - highly sensitive to touch, pain, textures, etc so I'm surprised that he was able to do something to this extent. If you touch any of the hairs on his head he winces yet he'll sit there and pick at it.

He is having a major time with anxiety right now - I've got a few books including the one mentioned here; it looks like I need to go back and read through them again.

He asked me to take a picture of the sore and show it to him. He hates "owies" and since I took the picture on Friday evening I haven't seen him playing with it. I looked at it last night and it looks like it is healing.
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#10 of 27 Old 09-30-2007, 07:40 PM
 
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TS is Tourette's Syndrome in this context, I would imagine (on other threads it would more likely be Turner's Syndrome or Tuberous Sclerosis, but these don't really fit here). Skin picking can be a tic or at least something that is something people with both OCishness and chronic tics are more likely to do.

Besides Freeing Your Child from Anxiety, Freeing Your Child from OCD might be helpful, as it talks about ways to understand and help a child with rituals. I think there is a section on trichotillomania. She has a website called worrywisekids.com and I also think that the ocdandparenting yahoo group would be helpful (you don't have to have a child with fullblown ocd to be a part of it, but it's a good place to find people who would have experience with skin picking).

Sherri
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#11 of 27 Old 09-30-2007, 07:45 PM
 
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Originally Posted by Rockies5 View Post
I don't know what TS is.

also, could it be both anxiety and sensory seeking behavior? For us they are almost always the same. at least it seems that way.

snip

Is it possible that constant rain-man like chatter (and forgive me, I'm not trying to be insentitive) is it possible that my son actually can't control this behavior? He's not even silent when asleep and it's inane factoids 24-7 otherwise. He doesn't really clue in to the fact that we aren't interested. When I cleanly say (and I must interrupt him to do this!) "hey, I really just want to listen to the birds for a few minutes could you stop telling me how rocks are formed for like 4 and a half minutes?" he looks a little glazed for a second, paces and picks his hands (nervous habit) and sort of begins to walk away and they comes back talking even faster with shorter breaks.

we just think of it as a social difference. He's over come a lot of weirdness and OCDishness to be as functional as he is. He's just (and I hate to say it) annoying in some ways. I need a little brain break sometimes and I can't seem to ever get away from the chattering. My head wants to explode after 12hrs of it.
While I'm certainly going to diagnose your child with anything on the basis of a few posts, you may want to read about Asperger's Syndrome and see if that fits him. While I have mixed feelings about the recommendations and overall attitude towards Aspie kids in the book (it's very make them act like other kids and not stand out in attitude), I think that the discussion of "Asperger Types" in Sohn and someone's _Parenting Your Aspergers Child_ (or something close) is pretty good. The OASIS Guide to Asperger's Syndrome is pretty good, too.

Sherri
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#12 of 27 Old 09-30-2007, 07:50 PM
 
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Oy. I've only dealt with this in an adult. I have an exbf who used to pick skin off his um...well...manly parts. That, and tear taste buds off his tongue. The only thing that helped the man back then was medication. I have no clue what to tell you about a child. I'm sorry.
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#13 of 27 Old 10-01-2007, 12:03 AM
 
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I don't know if it could help, but the Bach Flower remedy, "White Chestnut" is for rumination and obsessive thoughts. It might help for the repetitive aspect of the behavior. Another is Rescue Remedy for general anxiety.

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#14 of 27 Old 10-01-2007, 12:10 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Thank you Pat. We have Rescue Remedy and I've managed to get him to try it 1x - since then he won't. He only drinks water and I've tried adding it to the water and he can smell it - he's super sensitive. *I* use Rescue Remedy all of the time and it really helps me. I'll have to look into the other thing and see if he'll try it. If he doesn't at least I know I'll get some use out of it.
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#15 of 27 Old 10-01-2007, 12:12 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JohannasGarden View Post
While I'm certainly going to diagnose your child with anything on the basis of a few posts, you may want to read about Asperger's Syndrome and see if that fits him. While I have mixed feelings about the recommendations and overall attitude towards Aspie kids in the book (it's very make them act like other kids and not stand out in attitude), I think that the discussion of "Asperger Types" in Sohn and someone's _Parenting Your Aspergers Child_ (or something close) is pretty good. The OASIS Guide to Asperger's Syndrome is pretty good, too.

Sherri
Thanks sherri and I'm sorry I hijacked this thread. I read all the books on Aspergers beginning whern he was 7months and continue to read whatever new comes out I still don't see that a diagnosis would benefit him in any way.

we had him evalulated for Tourettes a few years back when his facial ticking become frightening. with some stress-relief behavor it went away very quickly and hadn't returned.

it's just something we watch and try to help him not become overly stressed. He really takes the control of the whole world on himself and flips out alot over things that he shouldn't feel responsible for. My nephew is really similar and slightly older. If it's aspergers or tourettes or a little of both it doen't matter to us as long as he's feeling ok and suceeding in what he wants to, you know? it isn't inhibiting him in any way so it isn't a probelm to us.

I'm very gun-shy about this sort of thing having watched my brother be basically ruined by therapists and shrinks for his ADHD and everything else from ages 5-17.

Carrie, The Birthteacher CCE and Doula, real mom to five; and womb-mom to G. born at 23w by emergency C. 12/09
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#16 of 27 Old 10-01-2007, 12:13 AM
 
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Melissa I'm really relieved that seeing it helped him so much! goodluck to you.

Carrie, The Birthteacher CCE and Doula, real mom to five; and womb-mom to G. born at 23w by emergency C. 12/09
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#17 of 27 Old 10-01-2007, 11:54 AM
 
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Thank you Pat. We have Rescue Remedy and I've managed to get him to try it 1x - since then he won't. He only drinks water and I've tried adding it to the water and he can smell it - he's super sensitive. *I* use Rescue Remedy all of the time and it really helps me. I'll have to look into the other thing and see if he'll try it. If he doesn't at least I know I'll get some use out of it.
You can rub either Bach Flower remedy on the skin also. It has some benefit that way, I have found. RR also comes in a cream and spray. The spray can be used on the skin or in the mouth.

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#18 of 27 Old 10-01-2007, 12:03 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Ohhh I didn't know that. I'll be at the HFS today so I'll have to look for the cream - he actually likes lotion so he'd be apt to try it.
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#19 of 27 Old 10-01-2007, 02:26 PM
 
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Great information here, thanks! My 7 yr old dd has been doing this for quite a while, mostly to her fingers. I just assumed it was a nervous habit. She is usually satisfied with a bandaid, although that usually doesn't last too long. She is also undiagnosed, we are most recently testing for autisim spectrum disorder and ADHD. I'm not convinced it's either of these, or maybe some of each.

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#20 of 27 Old 10-01-2007, 06:00 PM
 
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This might prove useful: http://www.homestead.com/westsuffolk...inPicking.html

This is an article by a psychiatrist that specializes in OCD and trich - a list of general articles here: http://www.homestead.com/westsuffolkpsych/Articles.html

If you want to try an alternative remedy, you might check out Penzel's articles on inositol (http://www.homestead.com/westsuffolk...l_and_OCD.html)
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#21 of 27 Old 10-01-2007, 09:35 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thank you for the links - I need to sit down and go through them this evening.

My son got out of school and the second he saw me he got tears in his eyes and said "I was picking it again." He picked the scab off and made the sore even larger. I took a picture of it next to a penny for reference.

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#22 of 27 Old 10-01-2007, 09:50 PM
 
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I just sat down to post about compulsive nose picking. DS is nearly 4, and has just been evaluated but not officially diagnosed for SPD. He has a LOT of ticks that involve picking or biting. The nose picking is nearly continuous throughout the day. I guess we are just living with it for a while. I have to admit: it's really gross because whatever he finds is then consumed and he does this all day long. I'd heard from someone that chewing gum helped with a lot of compulsive behaviors--specifically shirt chewing. Anyone try it?
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#23 of 27 Old 10-01-2007, 09:59 PM
 
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As a child (and, to a lesser extent, as an adult) I would pick compulsively. I know this sounds terribly basic, but make sure the fingernails are clipped as short as possible...daily, if necessary. It doesn't stop the behavior, but helps A LOT to minimize the amount of damage he can do. I still keep my nails very short for this reason.
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#24 of 27 Old 10-01-2007, 10:41 PM
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#25 of 27 Old 10-13-2007, 02:08 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Just updating this post - he quit picking it for a few days. I noticed that when he quit picking it one of his vocal tics came back. LOL One for another I guess.

Well these past few days he's started at it again but I haven't made a deal out of it, etc. Just keep his nails clipped, keep his stress ball in his hand, etc and just hope he doesn't pick. This afternoon he came up to me and said "mommy I picked the scab off again, is it bleeding?" - he was so upset it just broke my heart. This did give me a good opportunity to look at it really closely - the entire scab is off, the hair where the sore is is gone, and it is even bigger. He's got a bald spot there - I'm hoping the hair follicles aren't permanently damaged.
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#26 of 27 Old 10-13-2007, 02:15 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by WuWei View Post
I don't know if it could help, but the Bach Flower remedy, "White Chestnut" is for rumination and obsessive thoughts. It might help for the repetitive aspect of the behavior. Another is Rescue Remedy for general anxiety.

Pat
Thanks for the idea Pat. DH is a picker - he hates that he does this but he cannot stop. He doesn't even realize he's picking most of the time.
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#27 of 27 Old 10-13-2007, 02:24 AM - Thread Starter
 
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I picked up the White Chestnut as well as Aspen (another Bach product) because he does it sometimes when his fear/paranoia get out-of-control. I'm hoping something clicks soon for him.
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