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Eating your dead, flaking skin: Let's talk about it, shame-free!

i don't know about you but this compulsion to eat my dead, flaking skin has been a cornerstone of my AD experience. i find that it's one that people with AD rarely talk about. why do you think that is? while i'm aware that this habit may be connected to a nutrient deficiency, or may be considered a form of pika, or anxiety and emotional distress. i definitely pick and eat my skin more when there's an intense flare up and flaking to follow. even still, i find myself doing this on my healthiest days or feeling over patches that are healing just to see if there's a flake to pick. i'm sure i've got some brain-rewiring to do if i really want to kick this habit. it's just that there is so much stigma and shame around this eczema habit and I sense that many of us with chronic, long term eczema that features flaky lichenification (*raises hand*) do this more often than we openly share about. it's like the gross, shadow side of AD that nobody want to talk about because it's not 'pretty' or 'healthy' or 'cute'; it's just part of the weird, raw reality of having fussy, flaky, anxious skin for some.

I'm here to say that if that's you, it's okay! it's time to release our shame and focus on healing our skin despite all the complex habits we have picked up as a result of this condition. i have areas of my body that have healed from AD and therefore have nothing to pick at and so the urge and habit slowly falls away as my skin heals. while this is not a habit i want to protect or encourage, it is one that i want to release shame and self-judgment around. even as i struggle with this in private, i still find myself judging others who i notice compulsively picking and eating their eczema. i recognize that i project my own shame onto them when this happens and i am working on releasing that. we are all navigating this condition the best we can.

what's your story? do you eat your skin? if you used to but don't anymore, what helped? what's been the most supportive thing to help you transform this habit?

  1. Sorry to hear that it hasn't been helpful in regards to this. For me it was actually not a topic we got into, but I learned a lot about my own shame and feeling of stigma - and how those add to my discomfort. A big thing for me was learning to stop and count to 10. I know you must have heard this before - but it was honestly the one thing that really helped me stop the habits that were inhabiting my recovery.

    1. ah that makes sense actually. I still have a lot of work to do with shame in general, to be honest, that goes back to even childhood trauma, not just eczema. But I have been slowly but surely working on it, so perhaps that will end up helping with this too! I have heard the count to 10 thing or the other cognitive tip of putting it off until later. But to be honest I don't practice it nearly as much as I should, so I'm going to start now that you reminded me. Thank you for sharing! -Nina ( Team Member)

  2. Wow, you learn something new every day with this condition. I have never before heard about eating your dead skin, so all power to you both and for sharing this with the community. I do get what you mean about peeling off the dry skin, however. I can't stop myself from doing it. Thanks again for making this a talking point! Pete ( Team Member)

    1. thank you so much for being vulnerable with me! i would also love to hear what CBT strategies have worked for you. I love that you have a therapist who can relate to this.

      1. thank you so much for posting this and vulnerably sharing your experience. I know it isn't easy to share some of the not so "cute" things about this condition, like you mentioned.

        I personally have never dealt with the eating part, but I do have a ridiculous obsession and compulsion with picking and flaking in general. I agree this isn't talked about nearly enough and there is too much shame around it. I know it still makes me feel quite gross. For me personally, since going through Topical Steroid Withdrawal, it got much worse, and now I am trying to break the habit of constantly looking at a handheld mirror to find skin to pick off - and boy, it sure is hard to break. The parts of my body that don't really flare up much anymore, I don't have an issue with, but where I do flare (usually my face and neck), it's still a huge issue.

        I've talked about it in therapy and tried the CBT approach and that didn't really help much for me personally, so I'm still finding ways to lessen it at least. I know people say distraction and keeping your hands busy helps, but to be honest, even when I try that at times, the urge is far too overwhelming and consuming and takes over me, and then I can't focus on whatever I was doing. So, it's definitely still a daily battle for me, but I appreciate you bringing it up so we can all share, and I hope others have some more tips! -Nina ( Team Member)

        1. and thank you for being vulnerable here as well.

          i'm curious if this would be classified as a find of AD-related pica and what getting healing support with it from that lens would make possible. bc i wonder if when this urge comes up, my body is deficient in some nutrient and that's what i can focus on reaching for instead. there's another dimension of subconsciously wanting smooth even skin and that picking the 'flakes' helps my skin appear smoother even though it actually prolongs the healing in some cases. i'm learning how to look this compulsion in the face when it arises and then pause. this helps me at least slow down the compulsion so that it's not in cruise control and have more agency in the choice i make. this is a slow slow walk though lol.

        2. omg yes, the second part you mentioned is huge for me! For some reason I feel like I look "better" when I'm not all flaky, and even feel better, so I end up wanting to pick it all off. Especially in the morning when I wake up all dry and crusty LOL. It's such a strange thing. And I have been doing the same thing, slowly just working on it when it arises, although it's still extremely difficult and like you said - a slow process.

          I think it's almost like an addiction in a way as you get so used to it, and scratching and picking also just feels good and releases good chemicals in the brain. So, it's no surprise really it takes a lot of time and effort to try to get past it. But cheers to us for trying! Keep me posted on how it goes for you and if you find out any more useful tips! -Nina ( Team Member)

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