The Dreaded Relapse: Dermatillomania

Originally posted on Canadian Body-Focused Repetitive Behaviour Support Network (CBSN) on June 18, 2014.

For those of us that are dealing with and working through Dermatillomania, we’re all familiar with the major ups and downs of this condition. From going to a few weeks or hours without picking or just managing to reduce the picking to a minimum for a while, we’ve all encountered the occasional times after these instances when we are faced with a major relapse in our picking. These relapses are not only damaging to our skin but are oftentimes devastating to our self-confidence and mental health. Here are some tips, remedies and advice to get back on track and staying positive through these tough times:

  • Determine the trigger:  Are you stressed? Getting enough sleep? Or perhaps you’re excited or anxious? These are vague trigger definitions but they are a start. Part of making progress with this condition is monitoring your habits and getting in touch with your triggers. Many people with this condition are self-sabotagers on other levels than with their skin. Whether it’s not getting enough sleep or exercise or just ravaging yourself with negativity and self-hate, recognizing these behaviours are essential for healing. Do you notice that you pick when you have trouble making decisions? When you’re overwhelmed and unorganized? When you have to face/deal with certain types of people or situations? Or are just triggered by perhaps the feel or look of your skin? Get specific and write it down. Create a habit log. It doesn’t have to be complicated but include things like how strong the urge was, how long you picked for, where were you when you were picking and how you felt.  Once you start to notice a pattern of thoughts, behaviours and places where you pick you can start creating strategies for the future. Check out CSBN’s tips and tricks page for more resources.
  • Forgive and be kind: Relapses, just like skin picking, don’t define you or your progress. Be kind! Negative self-talk, hatred and pity will get you absolutely nowhere. Do not make yourself a victim. Victimization will perpetuate the cycle of picking and anxiety. Recognize that you’ve slipped, tell yourself it’s okay, give yourself a hug and look forward. I highly recommend diving into these books for further assistance in getting over some of these mental roadblocks: “The Gifts of Imperfection” by Brene Brown and “Skin Picking: The Freedom to Finally Stop” by Annette Pasternak. Check out CSBN’s store for more book recommendations.
  • Don’t let the relapse hold you back: The red open wounds of a relapse make most of us want to crawl underneath the covers and never emerge but this is often one of the worst things that you can do. Don’t cancel plans over your skin and don’t let it stop you from doing what you want to do. Reclaim your control and get out there! Wallowing at home often leads to more picking and negativity.
  • Reinforce positive thoughts and go back to your picking-reducing behaviours ASAP: If you know you can’t control yourself in certain instances there are few things that you can do to help keep your hands away.
    • Disposable medical gloves work really well in keeping hands away from the skin. They are thin enough that they don’t get in the way of everyday tasks (they even work with touch screens) but will prevent you from looking for and picking at perceived imperfections.
    • Cover up: if your pick spots are on places on your body cover them up so that you’re not tempted to inspect your skin.
    • Set timers and cover-up mirrors: If the bathroom is a room you can’t seem to get out of then cover that mirror and get yourself a timer so that when you do have to make use of that room you’re on a tight time limit. Create a system of rewards and punishments for making or breaking these time limits.
    • Fidget toys and spinner rings: Keep those hands busy! There are many places where you can get these great little trinkets for your hands.
    • Don’t want a fidget toy or a ring? Try knitting or making friendship bracelets. Check out the CSBN’s bracelet project!
  • Healing the wounds you have made: So you’ve made peace with yourself but you’re still left with the open sores. Try these remedies to speed up healing and reduce redness:
    • Apply a clay mask: clay reduces redness and draws out impurities to prevent infection. It can, however, dry the skin out don’t leave it on for more than 20 minutes.
    •  Try a mix of honey, cinnamon and lemon juice: Honey (unpasteurized is best) and lemon juice have natural anti-bacterial properties to keep those sores clean and infection-free while the cinnamon has anti-inflammatory properties to reduce redness and swelling. Leave it on as long as you want and remove by washing or wiping your face. This mixture works well on the fresh wounds, as it will help create a nice even scab making it less likely you will pick it off later and the sticky honey is a deterrent to keep your hands away from your skin.
    • If you’re going to wear make-up try to let those wounds scab over to an extent and try not to cake it on. Use a green concealer to masks redness and a mix of foundation and pressed powders to get the best coverage. Get mineral-based and oil-free make-up to prevent further aggravation of your skin.
    • Tea tree oil: a natural and pain-free antiseptic that will keep wounds clean and will dry them out quickly.
    • Bactine: This pain-free antiseptic spray will clean out sores and has a pain reliever that will numb surface pain.

Dermatillomania used to be my dirty little secret. It is now something that I have mostly overcome and I am working with a bunch of great people at the CBSN to spread awareness and offer support for people dealing with body-focused repetitive behaviours.

For more posts and information on Dermatillomania, check out:


Smart Marathon Training by Jeff Horowitz

4/5 stars.
Paperback, 224 pages.
Read from May 15 to 29, 2014.

I’ve been running now for about 3 years and I’ve read, browsed and skimmed a variety of articles, magazines and books on different running techniques and training programs. What I found with so many of them is the excessive amount of exercise that are contained within the recommend training schedules, even ones for the absolutely beginners. I always felt that a 6-day-week training program that mixes 4 or 5 days of running with a variety of different cross training and weights is way too much for a beginner. To me, that spells burn-out and injuries. The first year I started running and training for a marathon I ran 3 days a week and I was utterly exhausted managing just that! The average person has a busy life juggling work and family, which is tiring enough in and of itself, just finding a solid running base before beginning any sort of training is challenging enough. Whether a beginner or not, every runner wants to be successful, injury-free and find a balance with everything in their life and this book finally confirmed everything that I was already feeling about training: less is more.

Jeff Horowitz challenged the idea of running back to back races without injury and has successfully run over 150 marathons and has applied this knowledge in his career as a coach and in this book. The traditional marathon training plans which can have runners clocking in over 80+ kilometers in a week (50+ miles). The premise behind these traditional plans is that in order to better at running you need run and do a lot of it. Horowitz argues that this isn’t the case and that you can run a better marathon by running less and making your workouts more efficient. His system focuses making your training dynamic in that each of your training runs have a concise goal and effort scale. For example, The long run: is to expand your endurance and work slow twitch muscles. This is run with the a 60-70% effort while the tempo runs are shorter runs in which you are running near your race pace or a bit quicker and you should be exerting about 80 to 85% effort. He emphasizes how important hills and speed work are to build strength, reduce injuries and work your fast twitch muscles which, will give you the speed to beat your personal best.

I had to flip the notion that “more is better”…devised a plan that includes three runs a week, totaling no more than 35 miles, consisting of speed and hill work, a tempo run and a long endurance run; core strengthening, strength training, running drills and balance work two to three times a week; and aggressive crosstraining…at least twice per week.”

What makes his program unique is that the emphasis isn’t on the amount of kilometers you’re making each week and he suggests running no more than 3-4 times a week while following quick and easy weight and strength training exercises, cross training (biking is his highest recommendation as it compliments running the most) as well as core and flexibility. He emphasizes just how important and beneficial these exercises are to running. Having a strong core and legs will ensure you will encounter less injuries and will improve your speed while cross training works out different muscles to keep your body from reaching exhaustion but at the same time you’re still adding to your overall training. Exercising while exhausted is not only hard, but not wise. You risk injury and you’re not doing your body and favors but pushing yourself that hard. Horowitz helps runner’s recognize when they’re doing too much and to pay attention to their bodies and intuition, which so many training programs ignore.

This book is by far one of the best marathon training programs and it has affirmed that my own ideas about marathon training are good ones. I would highly recommend this read for anyone embarking on a marathon, whether they are beginner or just looking to change up their training scheme.

Beginner Gardening for Canada by A.H. Jackson.

I am an absolute noob when it comes to anything green. I can keep my cats alive but I’m notorious for killing indoor plants and up until recently I’ve never had a yard to attempt anything other than that. I now have a yard that requires my maintenance and I am afraid. My Dad was the gardener in my family and was such a Nazi about his yard that the one time I mowed the lawn for him as a teenager,  he went out and did it again as I had the pattern all wrong and it really wasn’t done to his standards. However, my Dad did have a passion for gardening and I always loved eating fresh vegetables or seeing our own flowers grow so perhaps his green-thumb will transfer to me?

To give myself some confidence I picked up a book at the library called Beginner Gardening for Canada by A.H. Jackson. The book is easy to read and has a decent amount of pictures. There were times I felt that the author was a tad pretentious and condescending towards non-gardeners like myself and particularly about the direction that many people have taken in terms of outdoor decorating and the environments we thrive in everyday. With that being said, his passion did rub off on me and he made some very valid points in terms of how humans have fallen out with nature and the benefits of reconnecting with it. The author is also extremely experienced and knowledgeable and I learned a few things! So here are few things that I’m going to retain when I tackle my yard in the coming spring weeks:

1) Map your yard. It’s a good idea to map out the sunny and shady areas in your yard as well as the water drainage areas.

2) Rhubarb leaves are toxic to both humans and to insects. Put the leaves into boiling water and it soak for 24-hours, filter and add a few drops of dish detergent and you have a very natural and effective insecticide for mites and aphids.

3) Know your soil. Analyze samples of your soil by gathering some from various spots and places and put it a large jar with water. Screw the lid on tight, give the jar a good shake and let it sit for 24 hours. The soil will settle into laters: sand on the bottom, then layers of silt, clay, water and floating organic matter. If the sand, silt and clay settle in almost equal layers you have well-balanced soil.  If there is little organic material it indicates that your soil needs compost, peat moss, rotted manure or all three. If you have a lot of clay, that will need to be remedied.  Clay is the bane of any gardener’s existence as it provides very poor drainage. To counter clay, build raised beds with quality top soil.

4) Soil testing is important. Especially if you’re planning on starting a vegetable garden. Homes and soil have been subjected to a lot of different things over the years and you want to ensure that your soil is free of toxins as those toxins will make their into your grown foodKnowing what’s in your soil will also give you an idea what kind of plants will thrive in your yard.

5) Ditch the deck. According to the author, decks are the “insidious 1960’s-era inventions of lumber dealers wanting to horn in on the rising popularity of the flagstone patio”.  The author argues that decks turn landscape into an afterthought and that they raise homeowners above their gardens making them “nature voyeurs”. He insists that we should be one with nature and that a patio is by far a better option.

6) Rookies should avoid bramble bushes. Jams are delicious but brambles are needy. They require a lot of attention and grow like weeds. They can easily become overwhelming for a new gardener.

7) Wear garden gloves. I always figured that gloves were just to prevent scraps and bruises while messing around in the dirt but there is actually a lot more to it than that. Soil is full of bacteria, mold and nematodes. C. tetani, lives everywhere, to the air with breathe, our beds, skin and food but for the most part they call their home in the earth.  Many people get this bacteria by stepping on a nail in an outdoor or dirty environment, it’s because this bacteria needs a deep wound void of oxygen in order to survive. If you get deep wound while out gardening always get a booster shot as this bacteria can develop into tetanus which, causes painful muscular spasms that can lead to respiratory failure and, in up to 40% of cases, death. Nematodes, or more commonly known as the Roundworm, lay their eggs and larvae in soil and are everywhere you dig. If they get on your hands and then you touch your mouth you will have some new friends living in your intestine. Wearing gloves will protect you from these microscopic dangers.

8) Shrubs and hedges are great for beginning Canadian gardeners. Shrubs are a result of climate rather than an actual botanical category. They are trees that have evolved to adapt and recover from storms and unfavorable weather. Almost any tree can become a shrub or a hedge with pruning. They can also be a lot of fun to work with as you can get creative with your shrub or hedge shapes.

9) Keep your mower blades sharp. Dull mower blades will rip your grass instead of cutting it causing damage your grass.

10) Weeding. Know your enemy. Careful that you’re not pulling up what you’ve worked hard to plant. Avoid weeds in a vegetable garden by using a rototiller prior to planting and use mulch in flower beds. Mulch prevents sunlight from reaching weed seeds and slows water evaporation. It’s also organic so it will eventually breakdown and add nutrients to your soil.