One of the reasons I blog about skin-picking disorder is because more often than not, I feel like it is overshadowed. Dermatillomania falls under the category of body-focused repetitive behaviours (BFRBs), and sits alongside trichotillomania (hair-pulling disorder), dermatophagia (skin-biting disorder), onychophagia (nail-biting disorder) and a few others. However, a lot of the time, it is trichotillomania that hits the spotlight.
I don’t know if it’s a matter of it being more interesting to the public, but articles in large media resources are not so uncommon anymore. It’s been spoken about on major news sites like MTV and featured on Buzzfeed; there have been many magazine articles over the past several months as well. Dermatillomania, however, is barely anywhere to be seen.
I’ll admit, dermatillomania is slowly crawling its way into the media, however with much less recognition and much less impact. Not to mention that not a single magazine or news website has gotten back to me about my pitches for a story about dermatillomania, even if they’ve already featured a story about trichotillomania. (This is really annoying, as you can imagine.)
I’ve wondered if it’s a matter of people thinking dermatillomania is more gruesome, or maybe even the stigma that makes people believe that we must be drug users or have a skin disease, that keeps the media farther away. Is dermatillomania too graphic for the public?
I don’t expect the media to be easy to crack though, so while that’s frustrating, it’s not disheartening. What is, however, is when my own BFRB community seems to exclude skin picking.
Trichotillomania is more largely known, and some people with trich don’t even know what dermatillomania is. Or even if they do, there are a select few who think it’s too confusing to consider these related disorders as, well, related disorders. (Also annoying.)
Whether someone’s confused or just ignorant of dermatillomania’s existence, this all becomes problematic when it comes to BFRB awareness. You see, BFBRs even have an awareness ribbon to attribute to them. Blue stripe on the edges for the link between BFRBs and obsessive-compulsive spectrum and anxiety disorders. Green on the inside for community.
What’s the problem with that? The number of times I’ve seen it referred to as the “trich ribbon” or the colours being “trich colours.” It seems silly to complain about it, but when I first saw the ribbon and saw it was for BFRBs, I felt like I finally had something to symbolize my struggles. Every time someone refers to it as the “trich ribbon,” it’s like they’re trying to take that away from me and trying to leave me with no way to express my disorder and no way to show awareness for it.
As someone who suffered for a long time and then thought she found a home, it’s awfully disconcerting to suddenly feel like you’re not even welcome there. Even awareness events or information workshops often focus on trichotillomania, and in that case it is largely because there is more research for trich. This is perhaps one of the biggest problems because someone who wants learn has very little information to lay their hands on. To be honest, I’ve been to serveral BFRB workshops, and I rarely feel like I learn anything new about dermatillomania.
This all needs to change. I don’t know why exactly dermatillomania seems to be excluded and overshadowed, but something needs to be done about it.
I blog not only in the hopes of reaching other dermafolk, but also in the hopes that people will see the word dermatillomania and more will learn about it. In hopes of showing the importance of recognizing this disorder not only in the medical world, but also in the community. No one should feel like they are without information or answers. No one should feel excluded.
About Laura Barton
Laura is a 25-year-old writer living in Ontario’s Niagara Region. Her passion for writing and personal journey with mental health issues has led her to become an advocate, a blogger for the Canadian BFRB Support Network and also to release her own book, Project Dermatillomania: The Stories Behind Our Scars. She struggled with depression and anxiety through university, but pulled through, receiving a BA in English Language and Literature from Brock University. She is currently pursuing a diploma in Journalism. You can follower her on Twitter and find her on LinkedIn.