Breaking the Breakout Cycle
Victim or Aggressor? Silence is Not Always Golden
A Habit Filled With Shame, But Who is Responsible?
Posted to several medical newsgroups in 1996:
Can anyone on the “healing” list — especially those of you who live in Europe — point me in the direction of research on a condition that the French call “Jeunes Fille” (young girl)? It refers to the nervous habit of excessively picking one’s facial blemishes. The French believe that women do this as a subconscious way to avoid sexual attention from men, in other words, to stay young girls instead of women.
In the DSM-IV it comes under the categories of obsessive-compulsive disorder and self-mutilation (self-injury), but there doesn’t seem to be much American research as to the psychological/emotional reasons behind this behavior and ways to heal it. From my own and a friend’s informal research, it seems that women who had critical mothers or fathers, who have low self-esteem, or came from a dysfunctional family seem to be prone to this form of self-punishment. Also, the habit of picking one’s cuticles seems to fall into the same category of anxious behavior.
I will much appreciate any leads on this subject and also welcome comments from women who suffer from this habit (you can write to my personal e-mail address and keep it anonymous if you desire).
No responses came back.
It’s the dirty little secret that’s out in the open. It’s as plain as the blotches on the nose or chin or cheek on your face – yet no one talks about. It is the very real phenomenon of nervous, compulsive, obsessive, and habitual picking. The sad fact is that most pickers suffer in private torment, filled with shame over what they do, unable to turn anywhere for help, and are often literally left unable to face the world.
It is more than self mutilation, more than obsessive compulsive disorder, more than a possible response to physical abuse in childhood or other traumatic occurrences, more than the result of anxiety, fear, or self-judgment, more than a desire to control one’s destiny. It is more than the sum of all of its parts. Habitual picking is a very complex and painful emotional disease that often has and tragic consequences. Self inflicted wounds of any kind are a kind of social taboo and they carry a huge burden of self guilt that sometimes takes a lifetime to overcome.
To me personally, to publicly admit that I picked my face seemed more horrifying than admitting I was an alcoholic or heroin addict (I am neither by the way). At least then I could blame my addiction on a substance outside of myself.
The sad truth is that most pickers avoid the so-called evils: drinking drugs, gambling. In fact they are often over achievers, or at least people who have a lot on the ball. They are often people who tend to carry a huge weight of responsibility. And they are usually accomplished at fulfilling those responsibilities and adept at putting on a very together “face” for the world.
Tammy: I finally got around to reading your notes and the entire OJ Simpson transcript today. Incredible – she picked her face every night??? I noticed that what seemed to get it started that particular night was rejection, since the argument was about his alleged infidelity. And then later in your notes you mentioned that you started after being rejected by your husband.
MM: It’s almost like we’re thinking subconsciously, “I’ll give him something to reject me for” (or something to justify the rejection, i.e. make ourselves ugly) or “I must punish the part of me that is unlovable.”
Tammy: It’s really SO deep, even deeper than I had originally thought because it can’t be compartmentalized. It’s all over the board — self-esteem, sexual inadequacy, control, fear, critical parents, perfectionism, anger, etc. Like skin, there’s so many layers…
MM: Chris came over yesterday and we talked. We did some counseling and discovered what my bottom line was� I have not felt worthy. That is my ultimate issue (for now) which I think has driven me to pick.
Tammy: Christ actually ‘came out’ to me and admitted she is a recovering face picker herself and she says her sister has an extreme case and is suffering drastically as a result. She thinks what we’re doing is great and will answer a survey when it’s ready and will pass one to her sister.
MM: She also mentioned the Nicole Brown Simpson case. I think that is very interesting. I bet lots of closet pickers ‘picked’ up on that piece of news when it came out and identified with Nicole.
One of the first widely publicized mentions of face picking happened during the OJ Simpson Civil Trial when Nicole Brown Simpson was exposed as being a chronic face picker. When questioned about why Nicole Simpson’s face was so red, OJ replied that she was picking her pimples. We know that Nicole was a victim of spousal abuse and must have suffered from low self esteem as a result – and she was also a person with the skin picking habit.