Dermatillomania

February 8, 2016 § Leave a comment

Over the last year or so I’ve endeavoured to share more about my mental health. I don’t really think anyone needs to hear my ‘truth’ but the idea of discussing mental illness and harmful feelings needs to become so mainstream that it’s frankly BORING and you’d go to your doctor at the smallest signals, just like flu.

So, here’s something I’ve never shared. I have something a doctor might tell me is dermatillomania. It means I find flaws in my skin that are basically not there or unnoticeable to another person, then scratch and pick at them until they become an actual problem – which I can then scratch and pick at.

I’m lucky enough to focus this mainly on my fingernails and scalp. Being blessed with reasonably good skin gives me less to pick at on my face (though Lord knows, I sure try) so I doubt anyone would guess who hasn’t noticed that one of my hands is nearly always at the back of my head, digging my nails into my scalp. It hurts – dying my hair with open cuts is a burning hell neither I nor Garnier would recommend – and it makes me ashamed. I loathe this about myself and wish I could stop.

When I went back to the doctor about my anxiety the year before last, I mentioned the scalp gouging but it got lumped in with the rest – filed under ‘Citalopram’. Yup, that shit works on the old palpitations and panic attacks. But the dermatillomania is still there. Worse than ever as I’m now back on the skin around my nails. As I type, my right forefinger is sore and red, bloody around the nail.

Having tried cognitive behavioural therapy, I’m afraid the NHS isn’t going to cut it for me, counselling-wise. I heard on the radio a while ago that thousands of children – some abused – are turned away without counselling each year. I can see why shoving pills at people like me is the easiest option. And I’m SO GRATEFUL for the pills. But I’m still bleeding and sore and ashamed, like any self-harmer.

Boyfriend says: “Just don’t do it!” Unfortunately, I often don’t know I’m doing it. And once I’ve started, it’s easy for me to write it off as a bad day and keep going. I’ll try again tomorrow. Every time I wash my hair, I feel like it’s a fresh start – today could be the day I manage not to hurt myself. It hasn’t worked out so far.

It’s not like I’m taking a razor blade to myself but the cycle is the same: release, guilt, anxiety, release, guilt, anxiety. Apart from my nervous cough, it’s the only physical remnant of my awful times, so things could be worse. I just wish they were this tiny bit better.

But hey – if a sore finger is the worst part of my day, that’s a good day.

Update: find out how it’s going with the old dermatillomania now.

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Inositol

April 26, 2015 § Leave a comment

I’ve been struggling for the first time since evening out after stopping my Citalopram. Panic attacks, feeling miserable, crying (something I found the Citalopram actually PREVENTED me from doing!). I quit coffee and that definitely helped with the generalised anxiety but not enough.

I found mention of inositol on a Citalopram support page and ordered some Swanson 100% Pure Inositol Powder from healthmonthly.com, which is the only UK place I could find to get it by itself, instead of combined with some other rubbish.

Inositol is a B vitamin, B8. It naturally occurs in our cells, and is found in melons, nuts and a few other good things. That’s what makes me favour taking it over Citalopram. There are few side effects recorded for inositol and I reckon it’s because our bodies KNOW WHAT TO DO WITH IT. Taken in large enough doses (and some people report a difference with just 2g a day), it has a very similar effect to SSRIs (Selective Serotonin Re-uptake Inhibitors): it regulates serotonin. Poor management of serotonin is what causes anxiety – we don’t keep a consistent level of OK-ness, so can’t live in the moment and find it hard to chuck negative thoughts out of our heads.

I’ve been taking inositol a week now and I know that the placebo effect can be convincing, but I feel like I’ve managed being around people much better, and it’s also been fairly easy to stop myself digging my nails into my scalp (the compulsive manifestation of my anxiety). So much of my anxiety is caused by worrying about being anxious and imagining that I’m going mad or having a heart attack. If taking this creates a placebo effect that convinces my brain I’m calmer, I’ll be calmer. Magic.

[It’s not like starting Citalopram – I was pretty much EUPHORIC a few weeks after starting that. Smiling as I walked down the road, giggling to myself. Tell me that’s not a bit too far in the other direction!]

Negative side effects thus far: super vivid dreams and feeling like there are snakes wriggling in my tummy. Both totally manageable if I get the other, bigger positives alongside. I’ve also heard that the side effects tend to subside after a few weeks of taking.

I’m having a 6g scoop in my (decaf) coffee in the morning, which has the added bonus of being a sugar replacement as inositol has about half the sweetness of sugar. I may increase this by another scoop in the evening after a bit but don’t want to up it too soon. The original studies with inositol against fluvoxamine (an SSRI) showed that 12-18g doses spread throughout the day had much more impact than the SSRI, with far fewer side effects.

It’s also been examined for use in cancer prevention and treatment as studies have shown it can inhibit the growth of cancer cells, and lots of people take it for dealing with the symptoms of polycystic ovaries. Miracle substance? Maybe, we’ll see.

For more information about inositol, read the thread on nomorepanic.com. It’s a labour of love, written by someone who has experience of many SSRIs and using inositol as a substitute.

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