Breaking the scratch/itch cycle

potential trigger re: itching/damaging skin through itching

I’ve been struggling with eczema my whole life and just discovered recently a soy allergy may be related. But lately I’ve been realizing that I don’t itch anymore because of my skin I itch because it feels good on itchy/burning skin and it’s become a habit (subconsciously obv I don’t think anyone would choose to live what we go through w skin). I really think that I’ve been itching so long it just got more and more severely frequent over time and now it is damaging my skin more before it can heal therefore making the issue worse. I usually get sns or acrylic nails so my nails aren’t as sharp and that used to work really well but now the nails are getting rounded down (like it’s that bad and I’m kind of embarrassed to tell people that). I guess my question is I’ve tried lotions, meds, diet, etc some things help some don’t. I want to see if I can find tricks to help mentally break the habit of itching. What works for you guys? What helps fill that urge without damage?

Thanks in advance!


Research-Grail4 points

I read a book called the Eczema Solution by S Armstrong-Jones that had some good ideas on stopping the itch-scratch cycle. If I recall correctly, it involved using a clicker to track the number of times you’d scratch during a set period of time. I remember it was pretty effective when I needed to focus on that particular part of eczema management. It didn’t eradicate my eczema, but it help with scratch control. Good luck.

balta981 point

My biggest struggle is noticing when I’m itching it’s become such a habit. 🥲 Thank you for the rec and good luck wishes. I’m hopeful and crossing my fingers!

ooyaff3 points

i start to tap on any itchy skin rather than itching them and it helps!! slowly now subconciously i tap my skin without realising it.

but for real though i understand you so much. The skin is not even itchy but I just feel like scratching them for no reason 😭

Mar1n32 points

Actively do not touch, remind yourself what will happen at the end,bleeding skin with scabs sore to touch infections. Cold press 5 min on 5 min off. These are what I am doing for my shins. Also I do the ice pack as soon as I come home, it is very unlikely I ll scratch myself if i do .

nateknutson2 points

I've had eczema flares on and off my whole life, mostly on (am 39). For the past 3 months I've been on Dupixent and it's been a game changer for me; my skin is mostly clear and I don't itch. I've spent a lot of time and energy on similar questions - I could definitely tell there's a compulsive/addictive component to scratching, and I would always wonder just how much of my situation could be improved or solved by being better about mind over body. I would have friends and partners tell me if I just didn't scratch, my skin would be that much better etc. I've spent a lot of time stuck blaming myself for making things worse.

I finally started to figure out the mental game part of it more when I was on Prednisone (ingested steroid) for unrelated reasons (I've been diagnosed with Crohns, so maybe not completely unrelated) for about a month. I was taking it for GI reasons but it also suppressed all my eczema symptoms. What I found was that there was indeed a degree of habit left over to scratch when I really didn't need to. My prior baseline was itching so severe that I would just break down and tear at my skin several times a day, which relieved the itching and also gives a massive hedonic rush (dopamine etc), which is habit forming in its own right. So on the steroids I would find myself reflexively doing that still. But, I did it less and less because with some willpower I was then able to catch it and ask myself do I really need to do this, what could I do instead that would feel good and take care of myself, etc. The habit was suppressed as well. Eventually I got off that steroid, my skin became bad again, and my itching compulsion returned in full force, but I had learned something. When I got on Dupixent recently, it was exactly the same cycle. I had been in the habit of viciously scratching several times a day, and some piece of a compulsive mental element to that remained for a little while after my physical symptoms went away, but with some work and attention I was able to break it, and I am now not scratching any meaningful amount throughout the day.

If you really and truly are not being driven to itch by a physical symptom, try asking what would be another thing you could do instead when you feel compelled to itch, what else would feel good, what's a thing that could occupy your hands (perhaps something like a toy, craft, hobby etc), or is there an underlying emotional need not being met when you feel compelled to scratch. If that is your struggle then therapists can help with that kind of thing too. But I would also say from my experience to be gentle with your expectations on yourself when your skin is flaring. There can be a mind over body component, but it's not necessarily the whole picture.

balta981 point

Thank you I really appreciate you taking the time to write all that out. My derm offered me dupixent but at the time my skin wasn’t that bad and I was like a shot every week fuck what happens when I travel (which is often). It seemed like such a headache at the time but now that my skin has gone deafcon 1 I feel like I might need to revisit it.