Two years ago, dermatillomania was entered into the fifth edition Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders as Excoriation (Skin-Picking) Disorder. Leading up to that update, articles and opinions came in waves, some in support and others in condemnation of the changes being made and the disorders being added to the book.
One of those negative opinions came, shockingly to me, from an author for TIME magazine’s Healthland section online (I’ve never found out if it was published in print). Author John Cloud penned words that would change my life because it was at that moment that I seemed to understand what advocacy needed to be.
According to him, many changes to the DSM-5 were foolish, including adding skin picking disorder to its diagnostic material. To him, my disorder is a “reality-show problem.”
Over 190 comments were posted to that article, many coming from the body-focused repetitive behaviour community and other skin pickers admonishing him for his words and demanding that TIME take the article down or at least apologize. Every single one of those comments has been ignored, and beyond that, so have the numerous emails I have personally sent to TIME’s editors over the years and countless tweets I’ve sent out trying to solicit some sort of response. Over three years, I haven’t even received so much as an automated response.
This instance has always astounded me because TIME is revered. It’s supposed to be a respectable, reputable magazine that people can trust, and yet they post something like this, which I can only call trash and has since tainted my view of the magazine.
Now that I am studying journalism, I can somewhat view this from a columnist’s perspective. It was probably just Cloud expressing his opinion and venting to the world about something he thought was silly. Fair. Fine. I can live with that.
What continues to frustrates me, however, is the complete lack of response from even the editors of the magazine. Letters to the editor seem to mean nothing to TIME, and the people wounded or offended by the words “reality-show problem” have never received so much as a shred of acknowledgement.
The fact that they won’t even recognize the perpetuation of stigma and the attempt by Cloud to delegitimize skin picking disorder and invalidate the experiences of the 2-5% of the population that deals with this disorder is disgusting. We fight so hard to be recognized that words like his are a blow.
Sure, in the grand scheme of things, he is one man with an opinion, but considering the backlash that still comes our way for this disorder, clearly it is the opinion of many.
As I said, something positive came from it at least since it made me realize that if big-name magazines are going to be publishing stuff like that article, I need to be among the voices speaking out against it and properly educating those around me. We often have the bystander effect with these kinds of things, the “someone else will do it” mentality, and I think in today’s day and age we really expect that someone else to be the media. In this case, media failed.
What I learned is sometimes we have to be the ones to stand up and say something.
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.