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I had hypnotherapy for skin picking - here's how it went

We all have habits that annoy us or we're embarrassed about. For as long as I can remember, my seemingly insurmountable habit has been skin picking.


If you're reading this, I presume you or someone you know has an issue with skin picking, too. Like me, you may also have tried everything to suppress this often unconscious habit - fidget rings, hairbands, even gloves! I know some of these things really work for some people but they just didn't cut it for me. I needed something else.


I've always been curious about hypnotherapy, and not just because I've grown up with Derren Brown on the tele. In fact, I think people often view hypnotherapy as a bit of joke because of the way it is portrayed on TV or in movies. But hypnotherapy can be a really effective treatment for stress and anxiety, phobias and managing unwanted habits.


For context, this was the level of skin picking on my hands that I was dealing with. And yes, it was as painful as it looks...


A hand showing lots of cuts around the nails from skin picking

A thumb with lots of cuts around the nail from skin picking

It's been a few months since I had the sessions and now felt like the right time to share how it went and whether it's had a lasting impact.


How I prepared for the sessions

There were a few things I did before the session to make sure it went as well as planned:

  • If I was feeling tired that day, I'd have a nap about 2 hours before to reduce the chances of me falling asleep in the session

  • I avoided alcohol completely because, well, therapy of any kind and alcohol don't mix

  • I made sure I was wearing something comfortable because who can concentrate when they're wearing something uncomfortable?

  • I made sure I had something to eat and drink beforehand so I wouldn't get distracted by a rumbling tummy or feeling thirsty

  • It's important you're not startled by sudden loud noises. So I made sure Liam was aware I was having a session and didn't decide to start blasting out his favourite genre of music: heavy metal. I don't want to listen to it at the best of times let alone when I'm in a hypnotherapy session.

What happened during the session

I should start by saying that Lisa and I had a conversation about a week before our first session so we could discuss what I hoped to achieve from hypnotherapy. She also asked me a few questions to understand how best to help me reach a relaxed state.


Now let's talk about the sessions themselves. At the start of every session, Lisa would use imagery to talk me through 'my happy place' - which for anyone who cares is an authentic Greek villa with a beautiful pool and a stunning landscape view in the background. A lovely image, right? We would then move on to talking about skin picking, how it affects people, and reasons why I wouldn't want to do it anymore. This often involved repeating phrases - but not in the Little Britain 'look into my eyes, not around the eyes' kind of way - to really hammer home the point.


I know some people worry hypnosis is like being trapped in your own body while the hypnotherapist has complete control. This was certainly not the case for me. Being completely transparent - because when am I not - I had a couple of sessions where I pretty much remember everything and then there are a couple where I don't remember what must have been about 10-15 minutes worth of conversation. It was strange not to remember what Lisa said for that period of time but having done my research afterwards, it seems that this can happen to people who are very susceptible to hypnosis. I certainly didn't feel uncomfortable or vulnerable after, let's put it that way. And the way I see it is, I don't need to remember if I get good results, which we will come on to.


I've found it quite hard to explain what hypnotherapy feels like to people who've never had a session before. Although I know this isn't an original description, it really is like being in a trance. I was consumed by that heavy feeling you get when you're truly relaxed - similar to that feeling you get when you're about to drop off to sleep. I could hear everything Lisa was saying but was almost dreaming at the same time.


The results

Let's get to the part you've wanted to read the most : the results.


After just one session, there was a notable difference in how much I was picking my skin on my hands. I had three more sessions, undergoing over 2 hours of hypnotherapy in total.


As you can see from the images below, hypnotherapy has been the most effective treatment for skin picking I've ever explored. Although I wouldn't say I am completely free from my habit - I get the odd moment of picking now and then - it has significantly reduced since doing hypnotherapy. Like any kind of therapy, Lisa did explain that I may need a top up session in the future, but I'm really pleased with the results after just four sessions.


A hand with rings on showing no signs of damage from skin picking

A hand with rings on showing no signs of damage from skin picking

If you're open to hypnotherapy and have something you really want to change, I'd recommend it. If you're going to go in all skeptical, I probably wouldn't bother. As it says on the NHS website: 'Hypnosis does not work if you do not want to be hypnotised'. You need to go in with an open mind.


If you're interested in trying hypnotherapy, you can find a qualified hypnotherapist on the Professional Standards authority website here.


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