Emotional Freedom Techniques for Trichotillomania and Dermatillomania

Emotional Freedom Techniques, EFT, is now evidenced based. I have been teaching EFT to control urges to pull hair and pick skin since 1996.  One of my students on Udemy sent me this testimonial.  She is certified in EFT so she knows how to tap when she gets an urge or better yet, when she feels stress. This is her story.  Her name is not included to protect her privacy.  If you would like to browse the course that is helping her click here. 

On 29/12/18 I completed Joan Kaylor’s Udemy short course, ‘EFT for Hair Pulling and Skin Picking.’ I ‘accidentally’ found this course while looking for something else and realized that it related to me. I had been picking the skin on my lips, face, arms and legs for around 30 years.

I don’t remember when it started but think it may have been in my teenage years when I started getting pimples and realized that picking them was quite fun. I also imagine picking pimples would have been soothing as it would have brought me into the present moment where there was peace that I couldn’t access in my everyday state of mind. My everyday state of mind was feeling guilty about the past and afraid of the future. My mother reinforced this by swinging wildly between being very loving and very angry – my father didn’t step in and ‘rescue’ me from her aggression. My mother also suffers from anxiety – I remember her picking her lips and the skin around her fingernails so perhaps there was also some learning through observation that occurred, and maybe trying to be more like her so she’d go easier on me.

I had always hated that I picked my skin – the skin on my lips was always unevenly colored and rough due to picking, I have scars from picking pimples, I was embarrassed that people would see me pick, and I knew it was unhygienic especially when using shared keyboards at work and touching other public surfaces. But I was powerless to stop it. I had tried to use willpower countless times but it never worked. I hated that it had control over me.

It had never occurred to me to search out a solution because I had no idea that it was a diagnosable disorder that other people also suffered from. I had heard of hair pulling before but didn’t know that skin picking was something similar. I just thought it was this weird habit I had randomly acquired and was now powerless to break, a personality quirk. Funnily, I studied EFT to Level 3 in 2012 and have been using it on and off for myself and others ever since but it had never occurred to me to tap for skin picking. So I was excited when I saw Joan’s course.

I did the course in one sitting. I was amazed to discover what skin picking is all about – an impulse control disorder that is primarily designed to soothe. All my life I had suffered from anxiety, that is until recently due to my practicing of A Course in Miracles and applying The Work of Byron Katie and using EFT with a counsellor. I believe that had I previously consulted a psychologist for my anxiety I would have been diagnosed with Generalised Anxiety Disorder.

I did all the tapping in the course along with Joan and regularly paused the videos to tap on specific events. I tapped on watching my Mum pick her lips as this was a strong recurring image during the general tapping. I tapped on times that Mum made me feel unsafe with her anger. I tapped on the embarrassment of other people seeing me pick. I tapped on nobody within my extended family doing anything to stop my Mum even though they all saw her aggression towards my brother and I. I also tapped on the need to soothe, drawing on A Course in Miracles to affirm that I don’t need to soothe myself as I am permanently wrapped in the loving embrace of God so I am never anything but safe and loved without conditions; (my mother’s love was conditional on me behaving myself, but even my being perfect was not enough to stop her anger as it was internal to her and had nothing to do with me – as a child I couldn’t have known this).

After tapping, I was amazed at having an almost instantaneous reduction in the urge to pick. I also felt very calm. It’s now 24 hours later and I can report that:

    • I estimate that my urge to pick has dropped 90%.
    • When I do pick, I only pick for a couple of seconds (much shorter than before).
    • Most of the time, the urge to pick makes me bring my hands to my face but I only feel the skin on my lips for a couple of seconds then remove my hands, I don’t actually pick.
    • The time gap between the urges to pick is much longer than before.
    • I am finding the Habit Reversal Technique Joan discussed helpful.
    • I’ve noticed something interesting in that whenever I pick I am having a stressful thought*. So my urge to pick has actually now become a tool in my toolkit to help me identify my stressful thoughts – once identified, I use EFT to release the stressful thought (I could also use Byron Katie’s inquiry). This has allowed me to clear a bunch of stuff in the last 24 hours.
  • I am sitting typing this case study in a café where I’ve been for about 45 minutes and have not touched my face once or even had the urge to touch it – amazing!

I’m so grateful to Joan for producing this course and so grateful that I was guided to it. I will provide an update of my progress in 3 months’ time.