A mother of two is wrestling with a skin condition so serious that she believes her only hope is to be placed into a medically-induced coma so that her wounds can heal.
Linda Smith, from Pennsylvania, says the disorder has taken over her life, causing her to rip apart her own face in ‘picking marathons’ that can last eight hours.
The 50-year-old has suffered from dermatillomania, which compels somebody to pick at their skin causing visible wounds, ever since she was a child but isn’t sure what triggered it.
Condition: Linda Smith (pictured), from Pennsylvania, suffers from dermatillomania, which compels somebody to pick at their skin causing visible wounds
Struggles: The 50-year-old says the disorder has taken over her life, causing her to rip apart her own face in ‘picking marathons’ that can last eight hours
Her body is now covered with wounds and scars, causing Smith to feel so hopeless that she believes the only way this can be controlled is if she is ‘unconscious or in a straitjacket’.
Steroid creams intended to get rid of some of the spots have caused facial hair to grow, according to Smith, leaving her having to shave her face daily.
‘It is very hard to deal with all of the time. This might sound extreme but I feel like I want to be dead already because it is just never going to stop,’ Smith said.
‘I feel completely hopeless and helpless about ever being able to control, much less stop, picking. I honestly believe that the only way my skin is ever going to completely heal is if I am unable to touch it all.’
The only way this could ever happen, she said, is if she is unconscious or in a coma, even though she doubts it can be done.
Remedies: Steroid creams intended to get rid of some of the spots have caused facial hair to grow, according to Smith, leaving her having to shave her face daily
Desperate: The only way this could ever happen, Smith (pictured in 2014) said, is if she is unconscious or in a coma, even though she doubts it can be done
Trying everything: Smith (pictured left with band-aids all over her face and right using a green bean remedy on her wounds) wishes someone would watch her at all times
‘I don’t think they would ever put you in a coma so you skin could heal but I definitely would do it if it was an option,’ she said.
‘I think the only thing that would help me is to either be put in a straitjacket or have somebody watch me 24 hours a day and stop me the second I started picking.’
For now, Smith wears make-up at all times, and even her sons rarely see the true appearance of her skin.
‘I will never forget when my son came over one day my face was really bad after one of my picking marathons and he looked at me and shuddered,’ she said.
‘I would not leave the house without make-up so this was the first time he had seen me like that.’
Some people sometimes assume that the appearance of her skin is due to drug use, which leaves Smith feeling frustrated.
‘I have had it ever since I was a child,’ she said of the condition. ‘I have been picking for as long as I can remember. I’ve always liked the feeling of picking things like the picking paint feeling. I do know that stress aggravates it.
‘If I got a mosquito bite and there was a scab, I would be picking at it. I don’t know why, I guess maybe boredom. If I’m watching TV my hands would be moving around feeling for something bumpy.’
Past: The mother (pictured as a teenager) has been wrestling with the condition since her younger years and knows its origins have to do with mental health
Concealing: For now, Smith wears make-up at all times, and even her sons rarely see the true appearance of her skin. She is pictured after covering her wounds
Taking over her life: The condition has limited Smith’s social interactions and has even kept her from dating for more than four years
The mother, whose self-esteem has plummeted due to her condition, has been advised to stop wearing make-up to encourage her to stop picking at her skin, since any damage will be visible.
She has also decided to get tattoos to cover some of her scars.
‘I will be less likely to pick if I don’t wear make-up because I don’t want my face to look like this. The only place that I don’t pick is my chest and stomach because they don’t break out,’ she said.
‘I’ve stopped caring about what the rest of me looks like because my face is so hideous. I have gained 30 pounds. I feel like I’m letting myself go. I think not wearing make-up is a bad thing for me. My self-esteem goes.’
The condition has limited her social interactions and has even kept her from dating for more than four years.
Solution: Smith has been advised to stop wearing make-up to encourage her to stop picking at her skin and has decided to get tattoos to cover some of her scars
Effect: The condition has left Smith with scars and wounds all over her body (pictured)
‘I avoid going out. I wouldn’t go out of the house unless I have to. I wait until after dark to put my garbage out and I don’t date,’ Smith added.
‘It is taking over my life. It affects everything. It is like the older I get the worse it gets. Now I’m lucky if I can go a few hours without picking at something.’
The origins of the skin-picking disorder, she explained, have to do with her mental health.
‘It is definitely a mental thing. It is a form of OCD and mixed with addiction. There is no logic to it. That is the number one thing,’ Smith said.
‘Your brain is thinking, “I will tear whatever this imperfection off my skin and then my skin will be perfect” but it doesn’t work that way.
‘It works the opposite way. My skin is never going to be good enough to please me. It is like you’re arguing with yourself.’