I remember exactly where I was when I began picking the skin on my left thumb nine years ago. I was standing in the shoebox-sized bedroom of my study-abroad homestay in Barcelona, Spain.
I remember the trance I fell into as I stood there, mindlessly picking the skin surrounding my nail until it bled and I had to cover it with a Band-Aid. I'm still not sure why it began in that bedroom in Barcelona—perhaps I was homesick and anxious. But from that moment forward, scanning for rough skin in that one particular area and picking until it bled became something I did, compulsively.
When, years after sticking to just that one thumb, I graduated to picking the other thumb, then my chin, and then my lips, I knew it was time for me to make conquering the compulsion a priority. If you have ever struggled with obsessive skin picking, keep reading for the strategies that helped me kick my habit after so many years.