Ritual is an important part of life. Rituals exist in interpersonal relations, religion, politics, sex — whether in the workplace, at home or in the public sphere. Rituals serve a rational purpose in society. But the kind of ritualistic habits that impulsive skin pickers have are anything but rational.
Classic OCD rituals include repetitive counting, blinking, checking (i.e. checking that “things are OK”) and hand washing. For an OCD sufferer, ritual means a repetitive, systematic behavior performed to neutralize or prevent anxiety. But compulsive finger picking can be just as ritualistic as the more classic OCD rituals.
Finger-picking rituals you might recognize
- Its 6:30 am, the baby wakes you up to play. You take her downstairs, and after 20 minutes of utterly boring kiddie games (playing blocks, reading kiddie books, etc.) , you decide its time for your morning picking ritual. Dig in!
- After a nice nighttime shower or bath, you relax in your room. Perhaps you watch some TV, while you intently pick at the callused skin around your toenails. The skin peels off ever-so-easily after being softened from exposure to water.
- 90% of your workday is spent in one high-stress meeting or conference call after another. Though some people blow off nerves by playing a game of video solitaire or IM-ing their friends, you quietly concentrate on your cuticles, picking strips of skin from them.
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