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Posts Tagged ‘picking ears’

I have talked about a lot of uncomfortable topics on this blog, and I will be continuing that trend today. I would like to focus upon the topic of picking. This is not a topic that I hear many adult survivors of child abuse talking about openly. However, adoptive and foster parents of abused children report that their abused children frequently “pick” at their bodies, including their noses, scalps, scabs, and pretty much anything else they can pick.

Here is an excerpt from a blog written by a woman named FosterMommy. As you can tell by her name, she is a foster parent who has fostered multiple children that have been removed from abusive homes:

Anxiety can cause picking the nose, ears, scalp, or any other orifice even to the point of bleeding and including self-mutilation. ~ FosterMommy from Attending Support Group Combined With Training

These behaviors do not just magically “go away” when the abused child becomes an adult, and these are children who have been removed from the abuse, placed into safe homes, and are receiving therapy. So, let’s face it – many adult survivors of child abuse struggle with picking as well. They are just too embarrassed to talk about it.

Why do child abuse survivors “pick”? As FosterMommy stated, picking is a way to manage anxiety. As the child abuse survivor picks at his or her body, it gives the anxiety a temporary outlet.

I have always picked at my scabs. I never realized that was abnormal until other people would comment about how long it would take for my wounds to heal. I then read in a book about self-injury that picking at scabs was a form of self-injury. That was news to me!

The thing is, when I pick at a scab, I am not consciously aware that I am doing it. I always chalked it up to being a “bad habit” like biting your nails. (Now, biting my nails is not a behavior I struggle with. I am too freaked out about my teeth to do it.) I would look down, notice that I was bleeding again, and be truly surprised by it.

Regardless of the form of picking you use (and you might pick at a variety of areas of your body), there is nothing “wrong” with you. The picking is simply another normal aftereffect of the abuse. Functionally, the picking is no different than anything else you do to manage your anxiety. You have nothing to be embarrassed or ashamed of.

Related Topic:

“Picking” as a Way of Managing Anxiety

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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