Linda Smith has been suffering from an addiction since she was a child, one that makes her skin bleed, scab, and scar.
As the Mirror reports, the 50-year-old mother of two suffers from a compulsion where she picks her healthy skin, turning it into a bloody mess. Smith explained:
“I have had it ever since I was a child, I have been picking for as long as I can remember. I’ve always liked the feeling of picking things like the picking paint [sic] feeling. I do know that stress aggravates it.”
The Pennsylvania woman was diagnosed with dermatillomania, or skin-picking.
The OCD Center of Los Angeles describes the compulsive disorder, also known as excoriation, as the repetitive picking at one’s own skin to the extent that it causes bleeding, bruises, infections, and permanent disfigurement of the skin.
People with dermatillomania pick at healthy skin, scabs, and sores that already exist, and even skin defects that they are imagining. They find pleasure and relief when they do it; it satisfies a strong “itch” or “urge.” While skin-picking can be a conscious reaction to depression or anxiety, it is usually an unconscious habit that strikes people.
“It is definitely a mental thing. It is a form of OCD and mixed with addiction. There is no logic to it. That is the number one thing. Your brain is thinking I will tear whatever this imperfection is off my skin and then my skin will be perfect but it doesn’t work that way. It works the opposite way.”
No matter how long she picks away, it is never enough to satisfy her urge:
“My skin is never going to be good enough to please me. I have had eight hour picking sessions before.”
The compulsive condition has driven her into hiding. She hardly leaves her house, and when she does, she covers her face in heavy makeup. She avoids dating and even keeps her true skin out of her children’s view:
“I will never forget when my son came over one day my face was really bad after one of my picking marathons and he looked at me and shuddered. I would not leave the house without make-up so this was the first time he had seen me like that.”
Smith was given medication to help her heal, but that made things worse — she discovered the steroid cream she was prescribed made her grow facial hair and she was forced to shave her face daily.
The never-ending pain and suffering made her come to a shocking conclusion:
“The only way this could ever happen would be if I were unconscious and put in a coma. I don’t think they would ever put you in a coma so you skin could heal but I definitely would do it if it was an option.”
Her desperation made her go even further:
“It is very hard to deal with all of the time. This might sound extreme but I feel like I want to be dead already because it is just never going to stop.”
After having the horrible addiction to picking take over her life, the woman decided to make a brave move and come out of hiding for the world to see what someone with her affliction truly looks like — and constantly lives through.
Smith found the courage to expose her bare skin, without makeup, for a reason.
She’s urging others not to stare at a person with imperfections, to look past the scabs and scars. She reminds others: “It’s what’s inside that matters.”
Watch Smith describe her long-term suffering from her disorder here: