Dermatillomania, which falls under the umbrella of OCD disorders, is among other things, an anxiety disorder. What has intrigued me is how and why OCD/dermatillomania sufferers build up anxiety until it reaches a state of disorder- meaning; it continuously cycles and perpetuates itself regardless of the current life-experience of the sufferer. I have observed this from experience throughout my life, because over time, I’ve taken specific steps to create many big changes in my life in an attempt to cut out the stress and anxiety that was causing me to compulsively pick at my skin.
I recently realized a lot about anxiety, after listening to a very informative interview which, if you have the resources, you should invest in because it definitely helped me to streamline my understanding of this experience.
I have experienced a lot of anxiety in my life, as I’m sure many people can relate to. I have tried to write about the experience but have found it quite difficult. The difficulty arose from the fact that I found it very hard to figure out what was causing me to be so anxious all the time, it just seemed to always be there, wearing a different mask or pinning itself to a different situation. In my life, I would resolve issue after issue, thinking the anxiety would go away, but it just kept on cycling over and over, until I had to realize that the ‘issues’ weren’t the problem, it was the pattern that was the problem.
What I learned about anxiety is that it is triggered by something, like a new situation (meeting someone new for example), or a project about to start, and then it finds a feeling or emotion (or even a personality/character) to attach itself to and amplify. In my case, wherein I have an actual anxiety disorder, I will use the anxiety to amplify a worry or a fear for example, to the point that it becomes unbearable and actually starts to disrupt my life.
I have likened OCD/dermatillomania to a drug or an addiction before, and I want to use this same understanding to look at the use of anxiety within self as a self-experience. When we feel things (feelings/emotions), our body is subjected to chemicals secreted by the brain, wherein we can actually react to our own thoughts, and have a chemical experience based on our own mind/body reaction to the thought, in the form of a feeling (positive) or emotion (negative). After repeated exposure to these chemicals over years, the physical body can then go through a withdrawal when the feeling or emotion fades, and can then look to re-charge or re-inject the body with the same chemical it had been repeatedly subjected to. Just like cigarettes or alcohol can quite easily become addictive with repeated and prolonged use, so can depression, stress or adrenaline, for example.
Looking at OCD/derma again, I’m sure as many battle with this disorder, periods of triumph are experienced. This is certainly the case with myself. I will be ‘doing good’ and ‘on the road to recovery’, and then I will experience this weakening and then a fall back into the disorder. This fits with the analogy where my body is not getting the energetic charge or ‘drug’ it receives when I cause the internal anxiety that eventually leads me to the compulsion, so it needs a boost, a re-charge, an injection of worry, of stress, of fear or irritation.
So if I could take an example of a real-life situation, I would look at where and how I get these ‘injections’, meaning, where does a subtle anxiety experience arise, causing me to now analyze a situation from the perspective of fear, or worry, or stress as examples of my most common anxiety induced experiences. My first example would be walking into a cluttered room. I would have a very brief moment of no reaction – that small window where I can either think practically and rationally about the situation, devise an efficient and effective cleaning plan, clean the clutter then move on. Or, what more commonly happens is that I’ll feel a little movement within my solar plexus – an intensifying electric energy that tightens my breathing as the anxiety moves in, and then my outlook on the situation is now chaos; my thoughts jump to conclusions such as: the amount of things to clean is innumerable, there must be bacteria everywhere! I’ll have to scrub ever corner in order to get this room really clean. So in this circumstance, the anxiety let me mindlessly filter through all possible reactions, only to choose the most extreme one that is fitting for this particular situation, which in this case, happened to be overwhelming-ness. The anxiety attached itself to this emotion and amplified it, causing my body to be flushed with a chemical, and causing my actions to become obsessive and compulsive, as I would desperately seek to change my environment to calm me down, when the real culprit is actually my internal experience consisting of the thoughts, feelings, emotions and reactions going on in my mind without any intervention from my awareness.
Another example: I would make a mistake at work. I would have a moment of no reaction, followed almost immediately by the first sparks of anxiety. So instead of understanding the mistake, learning from it and moving on, I am having thoughts of losing my job, of my boss yelling at me, and I’m experiencing my entire team’s disappointment in my performance. The anxiety had attached itself to my fear (fear of survival, fear of not having money, fear of failure), and amplified it within me so that I am actually experiencing fear-reactions to the thoughts as if they were actually happening.
This pattern is going on a lot, to varying degrees, to a point where at the end of (and even during) each day, there is this accumulation of amplified emotions such fear, overwhelming-ness, stress and worry that I don’t know what to do with. I personally feel dirty with it, it feels like its crawling in my skin, and my whole body feels grimy. Picking at my skin feels like a cleansing. It becomes a hypnotic purifying ritual where I can go so deeply and fully into the experiences of the day that it feels like I’m processing them and clearing them out, but what I’m actually doing is like recycling them, re-hashing them, re-living them at some deep level and integrating them into and as my very physical body.
What I am going to do from here, is to locate five examples of instances where I go into an anxiety reaction. I am doing this in order to learn how to slow myself down enough to be able to pin point the moment where the anxiety it triggered. I will then use that moment as an opportunity, instead of a falling point. It will be my opportunity to choose who I will be, how I will be and how to handle the situation, instead of letting my auto-pilot, unconscious mind, default-mode way of thinking direct me, my personality and my actions.
Some self-forgiveness to pave the way:
I forgive myself for accepting and allowing myself to fear taking on the beast that is anxiety.
I forgive myself for accepting and allowing myself to fear living without anxiety because as I have lived so far, I have become dependent on the energetic experiences it gives me, and I fear losing this thing and the withdrawal it may bring.
I forgive myself for accepting and allowing myself to hold onto something that is detrimental to myself in every way.
I forgive myself for accepting and allowing myself to not pay attention to myself and my reactions in small moments where I miss windows of opportunity to direct myself, and instead I accept and allow anxiety to direct me for me.
I forgive myself for accepting and allowing myself to live with anxiety and let it decide for me who I am and how I live.
I forgive myself for accepting and allowing myself to be a slave to anxiety, and I forgive myself for accepting and allowing myself to think/believe/perceive that anxiety is bigger and stronger than me.
I forgive myself for NOT accepting and allowing myself to see/realize and understand that I created this beast, and so I can un-create it and stop my participation from within and as it.
I commit myself to support myself to open up moments of choice for myself, where I can step in as a clear and aware author of my decisions and the directions I choose to take.
I commit myself not to be fearful of that which I myself have created, to rather look upon these things as investigations to be done into myself, with myself, as an assistance and support to walk myself out of the disorder and into an order I have chosen to create for myself.
I commit myself to walk a process to stop hurting myself, physically and emotionally.
I commit myself to pay the utmost attention to myself, and to open up opportunities for my self-healing, self-growth, and self-expansion.
I commit myself to show myself that I am in fact strong enough to face myself, my life and how I’ve lived.
I commit myself to be gentle with myself through this process, and forceful when necessary.