1 Voice in a Million – My life with OCD-Skin Picking Disorder, a set on Flickr.
I am a story teller by nature. My original degrees are in theater and print journalism. For me it’s a natural reaction to want to use my portfolio to tell a story. At the time we were assigned this project, my doctor and I had our regular 8-week appointment in which he asked me about my picking.
Roughly 2.5 million people in the United States have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). My particular OCD type is called Compulsive Skin Picking (CSP). This is repetitive picking at one’s own skin to the extent of causing damage. Usually, my face is the primary location for skin picking. However, CSP may involve any part of the body. Some with CSP may pick at normal skin variations such as freckles and moles, but for me, I pick at actual pre-existing scabs, sores or acne blemishes. Sometimes I pick at imagined skin defects that nobody else can observe.
Individuals with CSP may use their fingernails, as well as tweezers, pins or other mechanical devices. As a result, CSP may cause bleeding, bruises, infections, and/or permanent disfigurement of the skin. My skin is like the rings of a tree documenting every moment in which life got too stressful for me to handle.
My skin-picking is preceded by stress, anxiety, worst of all boredom, and a strong “itch” or “urge”. Sadly, a feeling of relief or pleasure usually follows picking my skin. A CSP episode may be a conscious response to anxiety or depression, but is frequently done as an unconscious habit. On top of my CSP I also have Rosacea, a chronic skin condition that makes my face turn red and causes skin sores that look like acne. This increases my need to smooth my skin, to find relief.
My theme for this project is to document my journey through my illness and treatment. I am trying hard to not over-dramatize my illness. Instead, I want to show my illness as it affects me physically and mentally. I am trying to be open about my illness by photographing how I pick, when I do it, what I pick with. Finally I want to show how I am being treated for my OCD with my doctor and medication, and how my family and I deal with it day in and day out.