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ADHD in Women

Skin picking

Today I was in my college counselors waiting room, bored, desperately scrolling through my phone for anything that might break through the dull and numb agony that is a waiting room for someone with A.D.D.
A woman walked in with a small child, and as I peered at her over the top of my cell phone screen, I noticed the same dark and ugly constellation of scars running up and down her otherwise normal legs that blotched and ruined my otherwise normal legs. I was fascinated! I had never seen another woman with the same obvious affliction of skin picking. Years of mosquito bite scratching and scarring has turned what would have been amazing legs into something I’m ashamed of and hide. To see another woman out and about with her similar scars showing made me want to rush over to her and yell, “You’re not the only one! I’m not the only one!” And pull up my pant leg to show her. The only thing that kept me silently in my seat was the fear of making her feel uncomfortable or embarrassed about having attention drawn to them. I know I certainly would have felt that way.
How do you ladies deal with skin/acne picking and how do you feel about your scars?


I’m not sure if I have ADHD or not, but have been chronically skin/scab picking, nail biting, pimple popping, knuckle cracking etc etc for years. To be honest I haven’t found anything that nips these things in the bud 100%, however I started carrying moisturiser in my bag and found that rubbing moisturiser (onto hands, scabs, etc) is soothing and also makes things less dry & therefore tempting to pick at. Also - putting bandaids on to physically stop me and give them some time to heal. But I feel the shame too - I have scars all over me, particularly my face. Most people think it’s gross and don’t seem to understand… Although I wouldn’t wish this stuff on anyone, it’s certainly relieving to know I’m not on my own so thanks for posting grin Would be very keen to hear if anyone has any other ideas!

Posted by J-Lady on Feb 06, 2017 at 12:06pm

The supplement Inositol is supposed to help a great deal with this. There’s been at least one study of it’s use with trichotillomania (hair pulling) that showed phenomenal results.

ADDconnect Moderator, Author & Mentor on Parenting ADHD, Mom to teen w/ ADHD, LDs, and autism

Posted by adhdmomma on Feb 06, 2017 at 5:34pm

My skin-picking compulsion used to be much worse & is now limited to my face, and Is usually limited to either times of serious stress, or when I’m PMSing & start to notice pimples. However, my legs, arms, and bikini area (is that weird?) used to be completely covered in scars & scabs.
I have managed to keep this under control for the last 6 years. It is fairly easy to maintain progress as long as I’m busy. But initially, it wasn’t so easy. I managed to get control over it by wearing pants & long sleeves, replacing the compulsion w something less destructive (i.e. Like adult coloring books which often have tiny spaces that requires you to meticulously hyper-focus on small details), and by keeping rooms dimly lit. For me, picking often starts by noticing or feeling a bump on my skin, I know that it’s super important for me to not be overly observant of my skin. When I first started to get control of this, I would even stand 4 feet back from the mirror while blow-drying my hair, and covering the mirror (unless I was putting on make-up or doing my hair — which, again, I would only do from a distance). My picking was so bad, that I really had to accept that I needed to eliminate all opportunities/access to inspect or examine my skin.
As horrible as you feel now, and as difficult as it is to stop, it is completely possible! It’s way more simple than it feels. I look at it similarly to an alcoholic or drug addict that needs to eliminate all triggers and exposure to the substance - but it’s completely possible to overcome once you figure out exactly what you need to do in order to prevent the initial act of examining your skin. Even now, when I have a pimple outbreak, I can easily zone out in the mirror for 2 hours before I realize what I’m doing (my bathroom mirror is even covered now as I write this). I wish you well! You can do it!

Oh! I forgot to mention this initially: when my skin picking as at it’s worse, I also used to bite the thick skin on the sides of my nails, towards the tip of my fingers. At that time, I worked in retail & it was so bad that I would have to put bandaids on every finger — and it became excruciating to apply any kind of pressure to my fingers (including pressing buttons on a cash register, carrying any kind of weight, etc). Since there are so many different forms of body-focused compulsions, I just wanted to add this detail.

Posted by AdhdProfessional on Feb 07, 2017 at 5:55pm

You’ve probably already tried this, but in case not check out The TLC Foundation for more resources and information.

Posted by HouseofADDMom on Feb 07, 2017 at 7:20pm

I never picked but I chew lol I have been chewing on my fingers since I’ve had teeth. It would start with a ripped nail, then cuticles and often the skin around or on the sides of my fingers. I would do it without being consciously aware that I was doing it at times. As an adult, I know get gel manicures, which makes your nails tough as…well nails lol BUT I still chew the crap out of my (dry) cuticles and the calloused parts of my finger tips (calloused from testing my blood sugar for the last 11 years), and it gets worse with stress & pms (I have pmdd but the pill curbs it significantly). It’s not just chewing though, like, it’s worse when I’m hungry. My mother would always yell at me to stop cannibalizing my fingers, but no deterrent worked. We tried everything from bitter apple spray to hot sauce to wearing gloves. I was always ashamed. My mother was getting on my case once when i was in high school (oblivious of my total and utter lack of self esteem), and I had never dated, everyone was an asshat, and she says to me, “Boys aren’t gonna want to hold your hand if you keep chewing on them.” Which really hurt. Boys already didn’t want to hold my hand because I was short, wore glasses before it was cool, have a big nose, was socially inept and to many i was “annoying” any time I opened my mouth, even if it was to merely defend myself. They reminded me how unwanted I was every single day from 3rd grade through 12th. So i replied, “If a boy is so shallow that it puts him off that much, he doesn’t care about me and so I wouldn’t want to be with them.” Shut her up for a long time. I’m 34 and married now, my husband is dyslexic, ADD and has a nervous tick (from an abusive childhood) and is the sweetest man alive. He doesn’t give a flying hoot what my fingers look like and whether it’s my ADHD or just some weirdo habit/compulsion. Does anyone else have this habit? I don’t know a single other human being who does. It still embarrasses me in a work environment if I have a bad bout of ‘the chews’ as I call it. It’s like, ignoring it makes me want to scream and rip out my hair, so I give in and chew so long as I’m not with a customer or on the phone. And I purell my hands every time before I touch anything, as I am immuno-compromised from the T1 and try to be as conscientious as possible…because even though it’s my fingers, I know it’s still gross. :-(

Posted by DenaBean on Feb 07, 2017 at 7:25pm

Hi. I’ve been living with trichotillomania since 3rd grade. Maybe before, but I recall a specific event* that accelerated the behavior.
    I’ve also chewed the insides of my cheeks and done enough picking at zits, scabs… And now I have one or two autoimmune disorders that seem to have made me itchier than ever.
    My mother’s solution to this was to ridicule me in public and hit me in private. That was not the way to handle it- and she has a degree in psychology!

    I’m excited to hear about that supplement mentioned by the monitor (above).

    What I have done to lessen the behavior and it’s impact on my physical appearance, mind you that this is all without counseling/meds/etc, is, as soon as I realize I’m doing it I stop. I stop and remind myself of the pain and shame. If my fingers are still itching to do it, I make a fist and clench it until the urge passes. Sometimes I’ve had to repeat the fist clenching several times for the sensation that my fingers are seeking to go away.
    I also found a lotion that I treat myself to that feels good and that I tell myself I don’t want to scratch it off because it smells so good. (I’d say what it is, but I don’t know if that would be appropriate.) This has made the scars and scabs on my forearms to heal amazingly well, so I don’t want to sabotage the healing.

* One day, my wonderful teacher realized I was in her math class…and I wasn’t supposed to be there anymore because I tested UP into the harder class. So I had to go into the harder class, with a mean, ugly teacher. It was like having Glinda the Good Witch and being given to the Wicked Witch. So not only was I separated from a great teacher, I was behind in the work, and humiliated. I didn’t really understand why I had to change rooms and there were 30 pairs of eyes staring at me.

Posted by Bertnoternie on Feb 07, 2017 at 8:31pm

Hi. I have been a nail biter, nose picker, pimple popper and head picker (not hair puller) for as long as I can remember. And shame and frustration have followed me like a loyal and pesky puppy.
I was finally diagnosed a few months ago with ADD at the ripe old age of 69. Running very close to 70 now.
The diagnosis was a huge relief. It seemed to lift a burden off my shoulders especially when I read that all these bad and punishable and emabarrassing habits were merely part of the deal.
Head picking is the one that has persisted and even escalated since I started medication. And weirdly there is a great a sense of satisfaction when a particular piece of skin is freed. But only briefly.
I have quite fine hair and so am constantly aware of people seeing the results of my efforts. And going to the hairdresser is torture especially if it is a new one.
I notice that I start with a gentle, soothing, massaging search of my scalp as soon as I sit down to read or watch television and sometimes even while I’m driving - like to a hairdressers appointment or meeting.
Of course I always find a satisfying scab or twenty to annoy. And it is no longer a gentle thing.
And stopping is so hard. But I know now, that as with any addiction or habit, the only way to change the behaviour is for me to keep noticing when I am doing it, to wonder what triggered it, to take my hand away again and again and again. And sometimes I don’t!!
I have become aware that I actually like the activity and anticipate the good feeling like I do before going out to enjoy myself with friends.
And that is so irrational, because it actually causes me grief.
And the process continues and will, no doubt for a while yet,  but I think I am beginning to understand
that there once was purpose, albeit misguided, and really now it is just a habit.
And I can, and I will, overcome by continuing to find other ways to soothe my agitation and seek satisfaction.

Posted by LarryR on Feb 07, 2017 at 11:31pm

I pick and chew at my fingers. It usually starts around the sides of the nails but I then keep it going so it goes down to the joints and also all to undo the finger to the other side of the nail. It bleeds sometimes and hurts in a particular intense way. End up not being able to bend my finger without discomfort
I know it’s worse when I’m stressed 😩- in fact I’m trying to use it as a signal to myself that I am stressed. Then I can try to address the root cause
None of this is easy. This is the first time I have ever written this down I was 50 on my last birthday.
I am also trying to remember to use moisturiser- sometimes helps.
I have considered getting manicures but I’m too embarrassed to go while it’s obvious and don’t think about it when it’s not

Posted by Ottoline on Feb 08, 2017 at 7:34am

I used to pick the bottom of my heels and the balls of my feet until they bled. I stopped that but continue to pick at the sides of my thumbs. Running and strength training in the gym has made all the difference for me. Also coming to terms with my husband and son’s ADHD and my husband’s recovery from alcoholism has relieved a lot of my stress. So it is possible to stop picking as long as you identify your stressors. Never give up!!!

Posted by picklecar on Feb 14, 2017 at 9:44pm

OMG, as I lie hear reading this, I’m picking the scab on my face that started as a small pimple in December last year.  It has spread in two directions and is now about 2 1/2 cams in length.  The only thing that stops me from picking is to cover it with a band aid.  Every time I look in the mirror I hate myself for it, but this doesn’t stop my from continually picking it.  I used to bite my nails, but managed to stop in my late teens.  I also pick the skin on the sides of my thumbs.  I’ll pretty much pick any sore on my body.

Posted by Kylieb on Mar 11, 2017 at 9:21pm

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