By Hannah Stevens @hannahshewans

A TEENAGER who has an impulse to constantly pick her skin is trying to raise awareness of the condition

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Videographer / director: Adam Gray
Producer: Hannah Stevens
Editor: Marcus Cooper / Ruby Coote

Emma Faith O’Heeron from Houston, Texas has dermatillomania - a disorder causing an uncontrollable urge to pick at your skin.

The 19-year-old writer can’t remember a time when she didn’t pick at her skin and still has a blood stained blanket she used as a young child.

Emma told Barcroft TV: “It’s related to OCD, it’s a body focused repetitive behaviour.

“Skin picking becomes a disorder when it affects your day to day, it takes hours out of your day, takes months off of your life.

“Dermatillomania isn’t self harm, it isn’t a bad habit - it’s more than that.

"I remember symptoms from when I was a child and I was in my bed sleeping and I remember to scratching at mosquito bites. I’ve had a blanket since I was little and there are blood spots all over it, it’s like polka dotted with blood."

Emma’s dermatillomania affects her life daily, to the point where she spends hours picking at the skin mainly on her face, chest and arms.

She explained: “When I pick I’m looking for imperfections my skin, anything that could be a bump, possibly a pimple that needs to be popped. It’s a kind of search in the mirror for anything that needs to be picked.

"There are some days where I don’t pick. There are some days where I only pick at two things, like two pimples. And then there are some days where I will spend two to three hours in the bathroom.

"I don’t keep track of how long I’ve done it. I know the most I have probably done is maybe about five hours. But some people pick for like eight hours."

Whilst Emma’s condition worsened, doctors struggled to understand it.

She said: "When I was 12 years old, I got an infection on my forehead and I went to the emergency room. He said 'just stop picking', like it was easy as that, and it isn’t.

“He gave me antibiotics like most of them do, they give antibiotics and send you out of the door. I’ve been to about 15 different doctors for infections.

“When you pick, you feel ashamed of what you have done and you have to look at the redness on your skin, the blood off your fingertips and the blood on your face and you have to acknowledge that you did that to yourself.

“You cant just stop, there isn’t one thing that can fix it.”

Emma turned to the internet for answers and self-diagnosed herself with the condition.

She also suffers from bipolar and anxiety, which she takes medication for, and has luckily found support in an online community.

She said: "Anyone who has dermatillomania probably takes anxiety medication. Because we don’t want to go outside. Because whenever our skin is bad, we don’t want to go to the grocery store, we don’t want to see friends, we don’t want to see anyone. This helps me with having to deal with that.

"I went to my psychiatrist after I had found out about dermatillomania. I found a dermatillomania support group on Facebook and I have talked about it there and I felt less alone because when I had this, I didn’t know what it was and I was having infections probably about four times a year, throughout junior high and I had no idea that there was a name for it.

"I felt like it was crazy, I felt like I was alone, I felt like no one could understand what other is going through.”

And she now has her own ways to try and manage the amount she picks at her skin.

“`Every time I get the urge to pick I set a timer for 30 minutes. I try to limit myself,” she said.

“My cat stops me from picking sometimes by just distracting me."

The teen now makes a point of showing off her scars and her journey online - to highlight the condition and spread awareness.

Emma said: "I was called a 'crater face' in high school because all of the indentions on my forehead.

“It’s a challenge to be comfortable in your own skin, it’s a challenge to look at yourself in the mirror and be okay with what you’ve done.

"I would never get laser removal because this is my whole life, this is my problem, this is my vulnerability. These are everything I have been through. And its on my skin, I would compare it to a tattoo in a way that it is my own.

“My scars are a part of who I am and I wouldn’t get rid of them. There are times when I like them and I love them. And I accept them as a part of myself.”