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Woman with rare skin picking condition reveals she nearly lost LEG due to infection from wounds

A woman with a rare skin picking condition revealed that she nearly lost her leg after catching a gruesome infection from the wounds left by her compulsive habit.

Lauren McKeaney, 35, from Chicago, suffers from dermatillomania – an obsessive-compulsive disorder characterized by repeated picking at one’s own skin, which could result in small lesions all over the body. 

At age five, Lauren began scratching herself until she would bleed, and she soon developed lacerations all over her face, arms, and legs.

Then, in 2014, she contracted Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) on her inner thigh – a life-threatening infection caused by bacteria that can enter the body through cuts. 

She was told that she might have to get her leg amputated, but thankfully, she made a full recovery in the end.

She had to have eight inches of her thigh removed, as well as a vacuum placed inside her which she carried ‘like a purse.’ 

A woman with a rare skin picking condition revealed that she nearly lost her leg after getting a gruesome infection from the wounds left by her compulsive habit

Lauren McKeaney, 35, from Chicago, suffers from dermatillomania - an obsessive-compulsive disorder characterized by repeated picking at one's own skin

Lauren McKeaney, 35, from Chicago, suffers from dermatillomania – an obsessive-compulsive disorder characterized by repeated picking at one’s own skin

At age five, Lauren began scratching herself until she would bleed, and she soon developed lacerations all over her face, arms, and legs

At age five, Lauren began scratching herself until she would bleed, and she soon developed lacerations all over her face, arms, and legs

At age five, Lauren began scratching herself until she would bleed, and she soon developed lacerations all over her face, arms, and legs

In 2014, she contracted Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) on her inner thigh - a life-threatening infection caused by bacteria that can enter the body through cuts

 In 2014, she contracted Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) on her inner thigh – a life-threatening infection caused by bacteria that can enter the body through cuts

Now, she has learned to live with the disease, but the 35-year-old has to keep all the mirrors in her house covered with a cloth, and she brushes her teeth in the kitchen rather than the bathroom. 

She began sharing her story online in 2018, and after speaking to others who were suffering from the same condition, she decided to start her own non-profit organization, called Picking Me. 

‘I used to be really ashamed and embarrassed to show them, but now, it’s really just punctuation marks punctuating my story,’ she told Truly during a recent interview, while discussing the marks on her body.

Lauren first began picking at herself when she was just a child, which resulted in her skin looking ‘polka-dotted.’

‘Dermatillomania falls under the umbrella of obsessive compulsive-related disorders,’ she explained. ‘Basically, it’s characterized by repetitive skin picking, causing tissue damage and often emotional and physical damage. 

‘My first memories of dealing with dermatillomania – I must have been around five years old. 

‘Seeing my skin kind of polka-dotted and seeing these sores all over, no one else looked like me.’

She was told that she might have to get her leg amputated, but thankfully, she made a full recovery in the end. The wounds are pictured all over her leg

She was told that she might have to get her leg amputated, but thankfully, she made a full recovery in the end. The wounds are pictured all over her leg

Lauren first began picking at herself when she was just a child, which resulted in her skin looking 'polka-dotted.' She is pictured as a teen

Lauren first began picking at herself when she was just a child, which resulted in her skin looking ‘polka-dotted.’ She is pictured as a teen

Lauren first began picking at herself when she was just a child, which resulted in her skin looking 'polka-dotted.' She is pictured as a teen

Lauren first began picking at herself when she was just a child, which resulted in her skin looking ‘polka-dotted.’ She is pictured as a teen

After catching MRSA, Lauren recalled feeling the 'lowest' she's ever felt. She is pictured with her fingers covered to avoid picking at herself

After catching MRSA, Lauren recalled feeling the ‘lowest’ she’s ever felt. She is pictured with her fingers covered to avoid picking at herself

Now, Lauren said she has 'learned to live with her condition.' She does daily skin treatments, but doesn't do them in the bathroom to avoid 'an environment that's triggering'

Now, Lauren said she has ‘learned to live with her condition.’ She does daily skin treatments, but doesn’t do them in the bathroom to avoid ‘an environment that’s triggering’

Things only got worse for Lauren once she entered into middle school, since going through ‘puberty’ and developing ‘acne’ gave her ‘more triggers.’

‘In middle school, trying to deal with puberty and acne really gave me more triggers to pick at. I thought I was the only one to have this very shameful existence and I was super embarrassed by it,’ she shared.

What is dermatillomania? 

  • Dermatillomania (also known as Excoriation disorder) is a mental illness related to obsessive-compulsive disorder. It is characterized by repeated picking at one’s own skin which results in skin lesions and causes significant disruption in one’s life
  • Individuals may pick at healthy skin, minor skin irregularities (for example, pimples or calluses), lesions, or scabs
  • This disorder is usually chronic, with periods of remission alternating with periods of greater symptom intensity  
  • If untreated, skin-picking behaviors may come and go for weeks, months, or years at a time. It is common for individuals with this disorder to spend significant amounts of time, sometimes even several hours a day, on their picking behavior
  • It affects approximately 1.4 per cent of American adults, and is experienced by women more often than men
  • Source: MHANational.org 

 

She also wrote on her website, ‘I quit figure skating at a competitive level after I couldn’t pull my tights off without ripping scabs with them.

‘“Leper” and “Polka-dots” were nicknames from bullies, sleepovers only happened with friends who did not make fun of my all black sheets.

‘A high school nurse incorrectly reported me for self-harming, a college counselor thought I was using meth, a health club manager informed me members were uncomfortable in the locker room with me.

‘Dating and intimacy were more about hiding than opening up.

‘I’d leave for work only to see my arm had bled through my shirt and go back to change while thinking of a late excuse this time, and the list goes on.’

Throughout Lauren’s childhood, her mom, Lyn, recalled not knowing how to help her.

‘As a parent, without the knowledge or understanding of what was really going on it was shocking. It was like, OK, there’s something else going on here,’ Lyn said.

In 2014, she was hospitalized after catching MRSA, and that was when she was finally diagnosed with dermatillomania; and despite calling it the ‘lowest’ she had ever felt, she was relieved to finally have a name for her condition. 

‘My right leg was just so swollen and infected and the doctors had to come talk to me about potentially losing my leg,’ she recalled. 

‘I felt the lowest I had felt, but it was there that I actually heard someone say, “It looks like she has dermatillomania.”

‘Even though I had the episode of almost losing my leg, the outcome was really getting the name, the word dermatillomania.’ 

Unfortunately, there is no cure for dermatillomania but Lauren said she has ‘learned to live with her condition.’ 

She does daily skin treatments, but makes sure to do them on the couch and not in the bathroom, to avoid ‘an environment that’s triggering.’ 

She has to keep her mirrors covered with a cloth, and she brushes her teeth in the kitchen sink rather than the bathroom - where there is no mirror

She has to keep her mirrors covered with a cloth, and she brushes her teeth in the kitchen sink rather than the bathroom – where there is no mirror

She has covered her mirrors with stickers that remind her of self-love, so that when she does lift the 'drape' off of them to do her makeup, she is flooded with positivity

She has covered her mirrors with stickers that remind her of self-love, so that when she does lift the ‘drape’ off of them to do her makeup, she is flooded with positivity

She uses fidgets to help keep her 'restless fingers busy and off her body.' She has also learned how to sit in positions that won't inspire her to pick at herself

She uses fidgets to help keep her ‘restless fingers busy and off her body.’ She has also learned how to sit in positions that won’t inspire her to pick at herself

She said she 'used to be really ashamed and embarrassed' by her scars, but now, she thinks of them as 'punctuation marks punctuating her story'

She said she 'used to be really ashamed and embarrassed' by her scars, but now, she thinks of them as 'punctuation marks punctuating her story'

She said she ‘used to be really ashamed and embarrassed’ by her scars, but now, she thinks of them as ‘punctuation marks punctuating her story’

‘I use products that are touchless, very hands off,’ she added. ‘I also brush my teeth at the kitchen sink because when I was brushing my teeth in the mirror that would lead to hour-long picking sessions. Now, I come out here where there’s no mirror.’

She began sharing her story online in 2018, and after speaking to others who were suffering from the same condition, she decided to start her own non-profit, called Picking Me

She began sharing her story online in 2018, and after speaking to others who were suffering from the same condition, she decided to start her own non-profit, called Picking Me

She uses fidgets to help keep her ‘restless fingers busy and off her body.’ She has also learned how to sit in positions that won’t inspire her to pick at herself. 

She has covered her mirrors with stickers that remind her of self-love, so that when she does lift the ‘drape’ off of them to do her makeup, she is flooded with positivity. 

‘A lot of times it’s about knowing where your hands are,’ she said. ‘Knowing to shift my body weight or sit in a different way helps me not touch as much.

‘When I do take on putting on makeup, I lift my drape and the first things that I see are things that give me joy – some hearts reminding me about self love, that helps me first get into the mirror to really limit how much I’m taking in visually. 

‘It really does help me. Then I just get into my routine with utensils that are hands-off.’

After speaking out about the disease online, she was moved by the amount of people who reached out and said they could relate to her; and she decided she wanted to do more to show others that they’re not alone.

‘The first time I shared my story, I got the feeling of what happens when you share with others and I wanted all other skin pickers to have that experience,’ she gushed.

She was moved by the amount of people who reached out and said they could relate to her, and she decided she wanted to do more so that others could know that they're not alone

She was moved by the amount of people who reached out and said they could relate to her, and she decided she wanted to do more so that others could know that they’re not alone

Lauren's mom, Lyn, gushed: 'You're such a creative woman today, and I really love your energy and where you're going with your challenges that brought you here today'

Lauren’s mom, Lyn, gushed: ‘You’re such a creative woman today, and I really love your energy and where you’re going with your challenges that brought you here today’

The Picking Me foundation is the 'only non profit dedicated to dermatillomania founded by a skin picker for skin picking.' Lauren is pictured as a kid

The Picking Me foundation is the ‘only non profit dedicated to dermatillomania founded by a skin picker for skin picking.’ Lauren is pictured as a kid

‘I started using a hashtag, hashtag “picking me,” and sharing and encouraging others to do so and people did.

‘I knew that in that moment that there needs to be a voice for this community.’

Now, she runs the Picking Me foundation, which is the ‘only non profit dedicated to dermatillomania founded by a skin picker for skin picking.’

‘Picking Me is dedicated to raising awareness and inspiring acceptance about dermatillomania for sufferers, supporters, and educational communities alike!’ she wrote on her website.

‘We aim to change the connotation of the word “pick,” to help patients and parents understand these behaviors are not their fault and to educate the medical world on the dire advocacy this skin picking disorder needs as it affects 3 per cent of the global population.

‘[This disease is] misunderstood, underreported, and under-diagnosed, and it lacks medical studies, research and funding for treatment.’

‘This whole time we thought we were so alone, so we’re like, “Wow, there’s a community here,”‘ she also explained to Truly.

‘I was at a conference and this little girl came up to me and her arms were peppered in sores and her arms looked just like mine.

‘She hugged me and she said she didn’t want to be here anymore, until she met me. I was blown away by that.

‘I’m proud and excited to get up and do what I do. Getting to show up as a leader in this community has helped heal me in so many ways as well.’

Lauren’s mom concluded: ‘You’re such a creative woman today, and I really love your energy and where you’re going with your challenges that brought you here today.’

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Read more at DailyMail.co.uk