Compulsive Skin Picking: What is Makeup Really Covering Up?


For years now I have been visiting support forums and websites in order to read about and interact with other human beings that are facing the same disorder that I am. I suffer from obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), which manifests for me mainly in compulsive skin-picking (CSP). Compulsive skin-picking (CSP) and general obsessive –compulsive behavior have been my means of coping with life, and dealing with myself and what goes on inside of me.

Interacting with others gives comfort in a way as it reminds us that we are not alone, and that there are others out there that are going through the same thing, and experiencing the same difficulties as myself. One of the things that I have noticed is the discussions about makeup which take place in such interactions. Cover-up is used to hide and conceal the damage done unto the skin, so that one may face the day and face life without having to also deal with and face the reactions of others to the huge blemishes and the multitudinous scars, cuts and sores that are created as a result of CSP.

I have often wondered about cover-up used in this way, because I knew deep down that covering up the damage done by the disorder is in no way treating or preventing the disorder. This realization is a combination of common sense, as treating the symptoms is NOT the same as treating the condition itself- as well as personal experience; because if using cover up to hide the blemishes was in any way an effective treatment for the disorder, I would have been ‘cured’ long ago, as I have been hiding my secret disorder behind makeup for years now- over a decade. So what is it that I am really covering up and hiding behind when I conceal my blemishes?

In the following blog, I am going to look at the internal experience that is escaped through OCD and CSP, and covered up with concealer, and I will look at how I myself actually create this experience throughout the day:

Within walking my process, and now focusing on walking through and out of skin-picking, I have been looking at, becoming aware of, and identifying the internal experiences which cause friction and conflict within me, and which I suppress and avoid through a series of distractions and the pursuit of ‘just being happy,’ and ‘okay’.

This is a pursuit outside myself, meaning, the happiness is being sought as an external experience, which can only mean one thing: there is an ‘unhappy’ experience present. However, instead of looking into and fully investigating that ‘unhappiness’, it is simply ignored and suppressed and covered up by all the ways in which happiness is attempted to be attained.

One of the common way this is attained for CSP sufferers is by looking ‘normal’, or looking ‘good’, ‘beautiful’, or ‘presentable’, by covering up the damage done, as if the disorder did not exist, or as if we could forget about the disorder so long as no one else can see our secret truth.

To reiterate: one of the techniques I have used to avoid the seemingly unbearable internal experience I exist within and as, has been to pick at my skin, and to engage in obsessive-compulsive tendencies in other ways. This has been my fruitless attempt to ‘make it right’, and achieve a ‘satisfied’ or ‘orderly’ experience of myself, attempted through external actions only- again not looking at what causes the internal experience in the first place.

Over the past few days since I have been writing about skin-picking, I have been looking at this internal experience with more intention, attention and focus. When I’ve had the desire to pick my skin, I’ve looked at what it was that I am trying to escape what is the current experience? What is creating this? How do I create this for myself? Why do I feel I cannot cope with, or face this?

So, as my mind would lead me into the endlessness of mind activity, I would stop within myself and just feel it- what does it feel like?  And It is nasty, yes, it certainly is. Obviously this is so, otherwise I would not feel the constant need to escape it. However, it is impossible to escape it,  because ‘It’ is me. It is within me, as me, and over time and throughout the day it becomes like a white noise- constantly there, but I’ve become so used to it that I don’t notice it unless I put a dedicated effort into doing so. But this background noise has, and still does have the ability to completely run my life.

So what can be done?

What can be done is to see how this ‘background noise is created. To see, realize, understand and notice events throughout the day that slowly accumulate this toxic internal environment that is so unbearable it must be escaped, ignored and/or endured.

The following is an example of one part of one day, wherein I put in the effort to look at and face, and even play around with myself and my internal reactions and experience in order to see how I create such an experience for myself day in and day out:

For context, this is an example of a day where I’ve already taken back the first hour. I have taken ownership of the first hour of my day, four days a week before work (I work four ten hour shifts a week), and have moved on to now taking ownership of my drive to work. Within this ‘taking ownership’ what I do is really look at and investigate what is going on within myself during that time. I look at it, face it, and script out a way to change it, and then I apply myself to live out that new script, and I do it over and over again until the new script simply becomes who I am and what I do. The new script I write for myself obviously does not involve skin-picking behavior, and it goes a step further to include self-supportive activities which over time, lead to a strengthening of self, and a nurturing and honouring of self. I will expand upon this in blogs to come, and reveal in these videos:

I’ve noticed that while driving in my car to work, regardless of what time it is, I will become anxious about getting to work on time. I have been late to work SO MANY times over the years because of skin-picking, because I would become trapped within a skin picking session up till the last minute, and then I would have to hurriedly apply make-up to look ‘normal’ again for work. Throughout this entire play-out I would be building and generating anxiety until I was tightly wound up; and this would be the starting point of my day. This has happened so many times over the years that I find, even when I am not late I will automatically go into this anxiety before work as a habit because it’s what I’m so used to. It’s become all that I know. I feel as though, if I do not go through these motions I will not be able to get to work at all, because in the past, it has been the anxiety of getting to work that has broken me out of the skin-picking possession and got me moving towards actually getting out the door. So now there exists the belief that without the anxiety, I cannot move myself, and I won’t get to work.

Continuing with this common sequence: after I would get myself out the door and off to work, I would be in a really unpleasant state. I would get to work, and would probably have an air about me, or a presence about me that others may react to. Whether I did or not, I can never be sure, but what is certain, is the fat that because I felt so anxious already, and because I would also feel insecure due to the fact that my picture presentation was covered in flaws, and because I created and manifested the anger at myself, the fear, the self-loathing caused by picking, I would reflect it back to myself off of my coworkers.

For example: the other day I got to work, and as I was walking by a couple co-workers I said “good morning”. One of them looked at me and replied, but the other one just looked at me and turned away and began talking again. As I continued walking to put my coat away I remember this having given me a really bad feeling, I felt like they disliked me, did don’t want me there, and painfully endured my presence.

So the interesting thing about this is that these thoughts and self-beliefs can only be experienced by me if I created them already. Somewhere in my life I accepted and allowed myself to feel these ways about myself, ways which are now activated within and through certain situations. So, within self-honesty I can see, realize and understand that I in fact painfully endure my own presence at times, especially within and as skin-picking. I dislike myself when I participate in the self-abusive habits that I participate in. I in fact don’t want to be me when I feel the way I do after I have had a pick session, for example. And these emotions and beliefs are at the forefront of my mind when I have a picking-session before work. So when I interact with others, I subconsciously believe they are all feeling the same way about me on some level. What a self-sabotage!

I thought about this that day, and I tried something new to see if they were in fact feeling this way about me, or if I was simply creating it all in my mind. I walked back over there and asked how they were doing, and the other one ignored me again. So I pushed through the fear, self-consciousness and anger, looked straight at her and asked if something was wrong. This seemed to surprise her or catch her off guard, she sort of snapped out of it and apologized. She actually reached out and touched my arm, and participated in a very warm and welcoming interaction.

As it turned out, she was dealing with an extremely stressful situation within one of her work-cases, and she was trying to figure it out with the other co-worker. She was just completely wrapped up in it, and had probably worked herself up into a state where she was so self-involved in her own situation that she was not concerned or aware of the impression she was giving off to others- which is definitely something I myself have done!

So when I pushed it a little by asking her if anything was wrong, I learned it had nothing to do with me at all. I had just been taking everything personally, and consequently feeding my own cycles of self-loathing, insecurity and lack of self-acceptance.

Within the state of mind I enter into within and through the disorder of skin-picking, I become even more prone to these self-experiences, by taking so many things throughout my day personally or out of context, because I set myself up to already feel this way: so a glance, a comment, my own internal conversations, etc… using all of this to accept and allow myself to feel terrible; creating and manifesting an absolutely dreadful internal experience, and then getting home to abuse myself within skin-picking as a release and escape from it, only to start the whole cycle over again: Waking up the next morning and not wanting to face the day ahead. Reluctant to get out of bed, and feeling fatigued on my drive to work because of this absolute reluctance and the anxiety that I create for myself—I mean, is this living? Or is this simply enduring the day? Within and through skin-picking, I create a life which that I can’t endure and which I would rather escape.

So how does all this relate back to makeup? I will expand upon these realizations and how they relate to the act of covering up with makeup, and explain how makeup/cover up/concealer can actually be used as self-support, in conjunction with sorting out the internal experience. Because recall: it’s never really about what we do, but rather, Who We Are Within that which we do.

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