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PiroskaCicu
April 12th, 2011, 08:12 AM
I have a very serious problem that I have been struggling with since childhood. It's called scalp picking. It's similar to trichotillomania, however I do not pull out my hair. I compulsively scratch/pick at the skin on my head. It is disgusting, I know, but it's actually an extremely compulsive/addictive habit that I have done as far back as I can remember.

It's actually a vicious cycle, because if I scratch my head, it will leave a mark or cut, which leads me to scratch that spot again even if I'm trying to let it heal, it may get itchy/sore. It's so horrible.

The compulsion to do it is so strong that even though I DON'T WANT TO DO IT, I still do.

Sorry this may seem disgusting. :( I'm very ashamed about it.

I really want to stop NOW because I know if I don't, my hair will be very thin in the future. Right now it's still thick and healthy!!! But I need to stop scratching/picking my scalp!!!

Any tips/advice/suggestions welcome!

The only thing that I have found that stops me from doing it is wearing a bandanna, or hat. However hats are way too warm to be wearing and make my head get too hot.

However, I don't know how to tie a bandanna/head scarf.

1. Can anyone help me/ teach me how to tie one? It needs to be very snug so that I will refrain from pulling it off.

2. What can I use to heal the spots I have scratched? There are lots of tiny little scratches on my head. They aren't noticeable thankfully because my hair is relatively thick. I know that if I could just heal my scalp, there would be no more scabs or itchy sore spots to be picking. It would help to end the vicious cycle.

Thanks in advance!

Aniah
April 12th, 2011, 08:21 AM
I suggest going to the doctor! Maybe he can prescribe medication to control the urge or control the itching. It might help with the healing as well. :)

littlenvy
April 12th, 2011, 08:23 AM
I'm so sorry to hear that you have to deal with this. And you have nothing to be ashamed of.

I don't know anything about scarfs or bandannas so I can't help you there.
But I'm lending you my support in beating this.

I know you must have tried about everything but have you cut your nails really short?? I did that for my son when he was scratching his eye. While it didn't stop it, it minimized the damage.
And kids polysporin (sp?) works great on those. It does not sting and is not greasy, but heals wounds fast.

vanillabones
April 12th, 2011, 08:24 AM
I wish you the best of luck because I know what you mean by these impulses. I quit picking my nails for the first time in my life out of sheer willpower and I used to pull my hair out of the stress my life had a couple of years ago. Now that I do neither I've been picking my scalp when just sitting at the computer or watching TV.

I have a few sores right now but as soon as I notice I'm doing it I stop. They hurt and for some reason it feels really good to do it and it's so tempting I'm going by willpower though and knowing that I want pretty long hair and it's so bad for your head.

I feel that if I wash my hair often I won't want to do it because my head feels so nice. When my hair gets greasy I run my fingers over my scalp to do it more. Try washing daily/ every other day maybe just to kill the temptation?

jackiesjottings
April 12th, 2011, 08:26 AM
Support and good wishes from me too. I empathise as I get excema in my ears and I keep fiddling with them because of that, you do it unconsciously in the end don't you?

PiroskaCicu
April 12th, 2011, 08:27 AM
I wish you the best of luck because I know what you mean by these impulses. I quit picking my nails for the first time in my life out of sheer willpower and I used to pull my hair out of the stress my life had a couple of years ago. Now that I do neither I've been picking my scalp when just sitting at the computer or watching TV.

I have a few sores right now but as soon as I notice I'm doing it I stop. They hurt and for some reason it feels really good to do it and it's so tempting I'm going by willpower though and knowing that I want pretty long hair and it's so bad for your head.

I feel that if I wash my hair often I won't want to do it because my head feels so nice. When my hair gets greasy I run my fingers over my scalp to do it more. Try washing daily/ every other day maybe just to kill the temptation?

Washing daily does help me too, but usually by the end of the day (towards the night) I go right back to picking. washing daily does reduce the amount that I do it though.

Misti
April 12th, 2011, 08:38 AM
This nothing to be embarrased about and it's not gross. Unfortunate, yes. Gross, no. (I have the same habit, but instead of my scalp, I pick at my cuticles and my mouth.)

First, I agree that seeing a doctor could help, because sometimes the problem stems from mild OCD. If that's the case, medicine may help.

I wonder whether what works for me would work for you...when my hands or lips get really sore, I put thick oil or aloe gel over the picking target areas and leave it until bedtime. It helps the healing sme, but its real value is in making a mess if I start to pick without thinking about it. Getsa my attention right away.

It seems that this could work even better with scalp troubles...and could benefit your hair to boot. ;)

Anje
April 12th, 2011, 08:48 AM
I've got some similar trichotillomania-like tendencies. If you catch me when I'm stressed out, chances are good that I'll be missing at least part of an eyebrow.

First, try to reduce stress if you can. For me at least, stress makes it much worse.

Cover your hair, especially at the end of the day. Honestly, I think it's less that the covering needs to be snug than that it needs to stay on. Use it to remind yourself not to touch your scalp. When you get home in the evening, headcover goes on. Period.

Another option is to get some gloves, like those winter stretch gloves. Wear those -- it'll make it hard to pick. (It also makes it hard to pull hairs....)

If all else fails, talk to a mental health professional. I'm pretty sure this is related to OCD, and it can probably be partially treated with SSRIs. However, even if drugs help to reduce the compulsion, you still have a habit you need to break.

selderon
April 12th, 2011, 08:49 AM
Here are some resources on scarf tying:
http://thegloss.com/fashion/how-to-wear-a-summer-headscarf/
http://www.ziamoda.com/How-to-Tie-a-Head-Scarf-Long-Urban_p_655.html
http://www.ziamoda.com/How-to-Tie-a-Head-Scarf-Soft-Urban_p_640.html
http://www.ziamoda.com/How-to-Tie-a-Bandana-Urban-Chic_p_639.html
http://www.brooksbrothers.com/scarfknots/headscarf.tem
http://silk-scarf.blogspot.com/2008/08/how-to-tie-silk-scarf-with-colorful.html
http://blackngoldalamode.blogspot.com/2010/06/how-to-tie-head-scarf.html

That should keep you busy for a bit. ;)

PiroskaCicu
April 12th, 2011, 08:49 AM
This nothing to be embarrased about and it's not gross. Unfortunate, yes. Gross, no. (I have the same habit, but instead of my scalp, I pick at my cuticles and my mouth.)

First, I agree that seeing a doctor could help, because sometimes the problem stems from mild OCD. If that's the case, medicine may help.

I wonder whether what works for me would work for you...when my hands or lips get really sore, I put thick oil or aloe gel over the picking target areas and leave it until bedtime. It helps the healing sme, but its real value is in making a mess if I start to pick without thinking about it. Getsa my attention right away.

It seems that this could work even better with scalp troubles...and could benefit your hair to boot. ;)

Great idea! I think I will have to try this right now. Since I tend to do the picking when I'm at home and alone (not in public ever), this sounds like a good idea. Plus it will benefit my hair!

I'm going to slick my head in oil :p and try not to touch it all day. I think that will help to heal the spots.

Thanks!

paleogirl
April 12th, 2011, 08:49 AM
OCD can be hard to deal with. I am slightly OCD with certain things. I don't believe it is your scalp picking that is the issue, just the symptom.

Have you thought about therapy then maybe prozac if therapy doesn't work. Prozac helps many things - depression, anxiety, and OCD.

I don't mean any of the above in a negative way, especially if you are anti meds - just that it is what has helped me.

Good Luck!

PiroskaCicu
April 12th, 2011, 08:50 AM
I've got some similar trichotillomania-like tendencies. If you catch me when I'm stressed out, chances are good that I'll be missing at least part of an eyebrow.

First, try to reduce stress if you can. For me at least, stress makes it much worse.

Cover your hair, especially at the end of the day. Honestly, I think it's less that the covering needs to be snug than that it needs to stay on. Use it to remind yourself not to touch your scalp. When you get home in the evening, headcover goes on. Period.

Another option is to get some gloves, like those winter stretch gloves. Wear those -- it'll make it hard to pick. (It also makes it hard to pull hairs....)

If all else fails, talk to a mental health professional. I'm pretty sure this is related to OCD, and it can probably be partially treated with SSRIs. However, even if drugs help to reduce the compulsion, you still have a habit you need to break.

Thanks, this is also a good idea. To cover my head as SOON as I get home would be a great reminder not to pick.
I also believe it is related to OCD.

Thanks for your advice!

PiroskaCicu
April 12th, 2011, 08:51 AM
Here are some resources on scarf tying:
http://thegloss.com/fashion/how-to-wear-a-summer-headscarf/
http://www.ziamoda.com/How-to-Tie-a-Head-Scarf-Long-Urban_p_655.html
http://www.ziamoda.com/How-to-Tie-a-Head-Scarf-Soft-Urban_p_640.html
http://www.ziamoda.com/How-to-Tie-a-Bandana-Urban-Chic_p_639.html
http://www.brooksbrothers.com/scarfknots/headscarf.tem
http://silk-scarf.blogspot.com/2008/08/how-to-tie-silk-scarf-with-colorful.html
http://blackngoldalamode.blogspot.com/2010/06/how-to-tie-head-scarf.html

That should keep you busy for a bit. ;)

Thank you for the links!!! :D

Anje
April 12th, 2011, 08:59 AM
Oh, I just wanted to mention, make sure the headcovering covers all your hair, especially in the zones you like to pick at. We can't have you scratching at the bits at the edges because they're not covered and therefore fair game.

Firefox7275
April 12th, 2011, 09:00 AM
I think you are very brave to talk about something that makes you feel so uncomfortable. :grouphug: Do you think you can speak with your doctor about this? As others have said there are prescription medications that can help, or counselling or behavioural therapy. Lots of people here have habits they are trying to break, mine is twirling my hair, but I'm also working on getting my eczema to heal because I have 'stroked' or picked that. :o

Silk scarves are supposed to be very gentle on the hair, the fabric may be thin enough to wear year round and, being, natural, the fabric is breathable. You might even find chiffon provides enough of a physical barrier. I am sure there are tutorials on YouTube. You might try wearing thin gloves such as lace/ crochet/ fishnet ones - this is used to stop children scratching their eczema overnight. Cutting and filing your nails seems like a good idea as that will limit the risk of infection.

There are a couple of things that *may* help the skin heal quicker - unrefined shea butter or aloe vera gel. Shea butter worked on my eczema from the first application and as I type you would barely know the patch is there! It is quite greasy but I found that a benefit, as each time I went to touch my elbow the stickiness reminds me to stop. :cool: Lastly do you know when your trigger times are - when you are tired, bored, stressed, concentrating, asleep? If so you could match a solution to each situation.

lapushka
April 12th, 2011, 09:15 AM
It's actually a vicious cycle, because if I scratch my head, it will leave a mark or cut, which leads me to scratch that spot again even if I'm trying to let it heal, it may get itchy/sore. It's so horrible.

If you scratch until there's a cut, and so break the skin, doesn't it give you problems as far as washing goes? Shampoo would sting terribly. If it's so bad that you break the skin often, maybe making yourself wash every day would help you with the worst of it - do make it a positive, pampering, stress relieving ritual, and set a fixed time for it in the evening, thereby effectively making time for yourself. It would give you something to look forward to everyday, something positive, some "hair pampering time". It would be a reason not to scratch and pick until you break the skin. Kind of like a positive ritual, routine, and also something to hold yourself to.

Anyway... Just a thought.

PiroskaCicu
April 12th, 2011, 09:21 AM
If you scratch until there's a cut, and so break the skin, doesn't it give you problems as far as washing goes? Shampoo would sting terribly. If it's so bad that you break the skin often, maybe making yourself wash every day would help you with the worst of it - do make it a positive, pampering, stress relieving ritual, and set a fixed time for it in the evening, thereby effectively making time for yourself. It would give you something to look forward to everyday, something positive, some "hair pampering time". It would be a reason not to scratch and pick until you break the skin. Kind of like a positive ritual, routine, and also something to hold yourself to.

Anyway... Just a thought.

Yes, washing does sting and hurt terribly. However I'm pretty used to it because I've had this problem since childhood. That is a very good idea , to make washing my hair a special time to pamper myself. It does have a positive ritual aspect to it.
Thank you for the advice

Delila
April 12th, 2011, 09:34 AM
Another issue entirely is that maybe there's an underlying skin problem or allergy that causes inflammation and itching??

If my haircare routine makes my scalp unhappy I wind up itching like crazy, and the problem persists until I switch routines and my scalp heals.

I've learned to be careful what I put on my scalp, just to avoid these issues.

Check with your doctor, they can examine your scalp to see if there's a skin problem like eczema or something. Treatment of issues like that will make you more comfortable.

motormuffin
April 12th, 2011, 09:42 AM
I do this too but I find its always worse when there is something to pick at. I find that washing my hair with a SA shampoo helps. It cuts down on the itching and the blemishes that make me want to touch my head. Another thing that helps is replacing the need to touch and pick with something else that isn't destructive. I have one of these that I leave on the couch next to me...http://www.officedepot.com/a/products/833448/IMAK-ergoBeads-Mouse-Support-575-Gray/ and I can play with the beads in it. Or I have a down pillow that I can play with the feathers, I can break them and it gives a picking sensation without hurting myself. I hope you find something that works for you.

Isabel
April 12th, 2011, 09:47 AM
You could also try to find a buff scarf for protecting your scalp. There's no need to tie one, since they're already in tubular format, and you could easily get your whole scalp protected with one. There are lots of sites that sell them online, and if you can't find a suitable one, I think it wouldn't be coplicated to make one with a snug fit.

Some scarves may be hot, but if you pick the right materials, they'll breathe and even protect your head from sunlight.

I really hope you find a solution. I have a fairly dry skin on my scalp, and it's really difficult to keep from picking sore spots.

brunette
April 12th, 2011, 10:04 AM
I had this problem as a child and growing up, still to this day I have a tendency to 'search' my scalp for bumps and the urge to pick is very strong. I tend to do this more if my hair is in need of washing. When I was about 12 my mum showed the doctor a crater on my scalp where I had been picking and he said it was seborrheic dermatitis but it definitely wasn't (I am certain it was simply that I had picked until it bled) and he gave me an antibiotic powder to puff onto the areas.
It made me more careful not to pick till it bleeds after that.

I think everyone has given excellent suggestions already, but I agree if the evenings in front of the tv are the worst, finding something else to do like knitting, sewing, painting your nails, etc will keep you from wanting to do things with your fingers. Also when you find yourself doing it, stop and congratulate yourself on stopping. There's no shame in it.
I hope you manage to find a good way to stop, good luck!

ETA I wanted to add that Lavender Essential Oil is good for fast skin healing. I personally am allergic to tea tree oil but others have recommended this diluted in a rinse. Lavender can be used neat, dabbed on with a cotton bud.

pepperminttea
April 12th, 2011, 10:06 AM
:grouphug: It's really brave of you to post this. I do it too, but it's just a bad habit for me; I have scalp cysts, completely benign, but very tempting to scratch and pick until they bleed.

I hope things get easier for you soon. I've no idea on what would be available where you are for healing, but here's some more scarf tying instructions:

Tznius (from Google cache) (http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:TKaBDhgvwoEJ:www.tznius.com/cgi-bin/tying.pl+tznius+scarf+tying+instructions&cd=1&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=uk&source=www.google.co.uk) - My favourite is 'The Bun'
TheStyleUnderground on Youtube (http://www.youtube.com/user/TheStyleUnderground)

Jimothea
April 12th, 2011, 10:24 AM
I'm so glad you've posted this, even though it means you're suffering, because I'm going to try and incorporate some of these suggestions myself. I deal with SD issues, so it's not quite the same as your problem, but when the flare-ups get bad it's sooooo hard not to itch till I'm bleeding.

One thing I've noticed helps me is that when I realize what I'm doing (gahhh!), I go dab some straight ACV on the trouble spot[s]. It stings like hell, but in a good way, similar to how it would feel after a good long scratch, lol, so my fingers are out of business for a while. I don't know if this will work for you, but it's worth a try. In my case it also helps heal my scalp but I think that's b/c of the SD.

I've also noticed I don't scratch on days when I've had long, hard physical labor, no matter how bad my scalp is...though perhaps that's just because I'm tired, lol.

HTH, and I wish you to feel better soon!

Latte Lady
April 12th, 2011, 10:44 AM
This is nothing to be ashamed of! I child a babysit has the same problem and her parents are were trying to help but not taking it far enough. They pointed out whenever she was picking/pulling but that made her hide to do it. They took her to a doctor and her and (praise be!) loath to medicate a child. He said to deal with the underlying problem and not medicate the symptoms. He suggested therapy. There are groups out there that will help you and they all have gone through the same thing and can give you their advice.
Stress was a big factor for this little girl as she was born way to soon and plagued with with health problems and always at the hospital or undergoing a surgery. They did in the end have to start giving her a mild relaxer to sooth her anxity. As an adult you may want to try meditation or yoga. Exercise is a great way to release stress!
They still needed to point out whenever she pick her scalp or pulled her hair out because she wasn't always aware she was doing it as she is only five years old. I know you don't really want to tell but maybe you should tell a few of you closest friend so they can make you aware of when you are picking your scalp. As for your scalp; medicated shampoos can be harsh so maybe one with tea tree oil as a top ingredient may help. If it is bad though go to doctor and use what he gives you.

Arianwen
April 12th, 2011, 11:12 AM
I pick at stuff too...always have. Wish I could stop!

paleogirl
April 13th, 2011, 05:18 AM
I also had another thought. Hypnosis can help too. If it is something you really want to change then it can work.

Mesmerise
April 13th, 2011, 05:42 AM
I have a very serious problem that I have been struggling with since childhood. It's called scalp picking. It's similar to trichotillomania, however I do not pull out my hair. I compulsively scratch/pick at the skin on my head. It is disgusting, I know, but it's actually an extremely compulsive/addictive habit that I have done as far back as I can remember.

It's actually a vicious cycle, because if I scratch my head, it will leave a mark or cut, which leads me to scratch that spot again even if I'm trying to let it heal, it may get itchy/sore. It's so horrible.

The compulsion to do it is so strong that even though I DON'T WANT TO DO IT, I still do.

Sorry this may seem disgusting. :( I'm very ashamed about it.

I really want to stop NOW because I know if I don't, my hair will be very thin in the future. Right now it's still thick and healthy!!! But I need to stop scratching/picking my scalp!!!

Any tips/advice/suggestions welcome!

The only thing that I have found that stops me from doing it is wearing a bandanna, or hat. However hats are way too warm to be wearing and make my head get too hot.

However, I don't know how to tie a bandanna/head scarf.

1. Can anyone help me/ teach me how to tie one? It needs to be very snug so that I will refrain from pulling it off.

2. What can I use to heal the spots I have scratched? There are lots of tiny little scratches on my head. They aren't noticeable thankfully because my hair is relatively thick. I know that if I could just heal my scalp, there would be no more scabs or itchy sore spots to be picking. It would help to end the vicious cycle.

Thanks in advance!

Well not sure I have constructive advice...but I do this too!!! It drives me nuts. I've actually been a lot better recently, but it's sooo sooo hard not to resume that picking! And yes, as soon as you've got a scab there...the compulsion to pick it is even stronger, and of course picking it leads to more bleeding...more scabbing etc. *sigh* I actually have this area at the side of my head I've noticed where the hair is quite thin, and I DO wonder if this is a consequence of the years of scalp picking!!

I agree it sounds gross... and it's not something I've ever really shared with anyone before, although I guess it's no different to compulsively biting nails or whatever.

For me, I find occupying my hands helps. I was able to break this addiction for awhile when I was doing cross stitch, because I needed BOTH hands to stitch, and I found I did it less and less. However, I started up again at some time.

I tend to do it less when I've got a nice updo that I don't want to ruin, although sometimes I find myself running my hands through my hair to feel if there's anything that needs picking at (any scabbing or whatever there in my scalp!!!).

It's actually sort of reassuring to know it's not just ME who does this!! I always felt sort of weird and freaky having this scalp picking obsession :rolleyes:.

julliams
April 13th, 2011, 05:56 AM
I run my fingers down the length of my hair to feel for coarse hairs. I used to pull them out until I realised that that meant they would grow back in and be short ie. sticking up in the air instead. I had to make a decision not to pull them out and I have pretty much stopped doing it for ages now (years). I also used to plait and unplait my hair over and over. I always did this kind of thing when I was anxious about something.

A compulsion is just that - an urge. You can and will have control over it. It's all about recognising the behaviour, ie recognising that you want to pick your scalp, then making the decision not to go through with the action, and "distract" yourself by deciding to do something else. Perhaps if you changed the action from a pick, to a massage? You could try massaging some olive oil into your scalp which may aid in healing the sores that are already there. Massaging will only be good for you and will still give your hands contact with your scalp but in a different and more soothing and beneficial way.

Once you gain more control over your action, you may feel better about it and in turn the initial behaviour may not become so consuming for you.

All the best.

Finoriel
April 13th, 2011, 07:19 AM
I'm sorry you're having to deal with this :grouphug: and I'm with the others, it's not gross or something to be ashamed of. There are many people with habits like skin picking. As a kid I used to absentminded pick at irregularities on my lip when I was bored and it went that far that I literally skinned it without noticing. I think I just stopped because my grandma scared me from doing it by claiming that one day the skin would not grow back :wink: that broke the habit.
Years ago I read an interesting article about it that things like absentminded searching for irregularities of the skin or hair and picking at them would trigger age old comforting feelings. Like from way back then when it was a social thing to preen for lice or somesuch. Thinking about the tabooized urge many people have to attack pimples or pick their nose, that totally made sense to me, those things tend to feel weirdly satisfying and we just don't do them because society tells us not to do them. But even when modern society considers such things to be "weird" urges/impulses, some of them have interesting explanations. The comforting feelings would also explain why it is so hard to give up such habits and why they can get out of hand at times, especially when we're doing it absentminded. Not sure if that's really true or just an interesting theory, but I thought I'd mention it anyways in case you or others find it interesting :)

okiesarah
April 13th, 2011, 09:35 AM
I run my fingers down the length of my hair to feel for coarse hairs.


I do this too!! My hair is straight, but for some reason all over my head there are these single strands that are super kinky/curly and coarse. When I get bored I go searching for them to pull them out. Your pic looks like you have red hair too, maybe it's a redhead thing. I know I need to stop though.

Tapioca
April 13th, 2011, 05:32 PM
I used to be horrible about picking at my scalp, but now I'm pretty much down to just my cuticles and lips. If you're interested in doing some more research, it's called dermatophagia, and it is on the OCD spectrum. I'm on Paxil, and it seems to be helping.
What really helped me stop picking at my scalp was finally getting my scalp to a condition where it didn't itch in the first place. For me, that meant dandruff shampoo, no conditioner on the scalp, and no coconut oil.

DoubleCrowned
April 13th, 2011, 10:46 PM
Here's my two cents worth:

Calendula is incredibly healing to the skin. You could make a tea of the dried petals and dilute your shampoo with it. You can also get the tincture or succus, or probably the essence in a little dropper bottle to dilute and use on the scalp to heal it. I use the succus (alcohol-free tincture). I have also used tea tree (irritating to tender skin) and lavender, but neither will heal skin faster than calendula.

Second thought is that pet birds, dogs, and cats that destroy their skin have underlying health issues which are often very subtle. You could explore the possibility of an allergy or sensitivity. Learn how to do pulse testing and also keep a diary of foods, feelings, where you are and what you are doing to search for clues. You might learn that you are actually sensitive to shampoo or your favorite foods, fabric softener, perfumes, air fresheners, even certain fabrics, food additives, or sweeteners. This discovery process is tedious, but inexpensive; and you are the only person who can do it.

It's really wonderful that you've found a little support group here. Good luck to all of you.