- Angela Hartlin, 29, spent up to 8 hours a day picking her face and body
- Suffered from dermatillomania – a rare impulse control disorder
- It left her depressed, suicidal and she became a prisoner in her own home
- Has been cured after having therapy to help her understand why she picks
A woman left suicidal after battling a compulsive skin-picking disorder that left her body covered in scars has made a remarkable recovery thanks to therapy.
Angela Hartlin would spend up to eight hours a day picking her face, arms and chest due to dermatillomania, an impulse control disorder where a person is unable to stop themselves scratching.
Doctors were baffled by her condition and told the 29-year-old she would never recover. As a result, she fell into depression – and even tried to take her own life.
She eventually dropped out of university and refused to be seen in public, becoming a prisoner in her own home.
But now, thanks to life-changing therapy earlier this year, she has made a remarkable recovery – and her skin has completely healed.
Ms Hartlin suffered from dermatillomania – an impulse control disorder where a person is unable to stop themselves carrying out a particular action. She is pictured with husband Jason on their wedding day
To spread awareness she penned a memoir, Forever Marked, and featured in a documentary on skin picking.
Ms Hartlin, from Nova Scotia, Canada, said: ‘I was picking for up to eight hours a day. I hated the way I looked but there’s a sense of relief when you do it.
‘It was very automatic but I didn’t understand why I did it or what was fuelling it at the time. I told myself I was a freak.
‘During my teens it was extremely rough; I didn’t tell a soul and just pretended the marks were acne.
‘In gym class I would change in the bathroom, I never showed my legs and it kept me from dating.
Ms Hartlin hit an ultimate low point when she went away to study.
She added: ‘At 18 I tried to take my own life – I was at university and I felt very isolated living with this disorder and I couldn’t stand the way I looked.
‘Doctors told me I would never recover and I would have to live with it forever.’
Desperate Ms Hartlin sought therapy and in 2014, she created a candid documentary, Scars of Shame, to raise awareness to dermatillomania.
Her life changed that year, when the film was seen by an expert psychotherapist, who contacted her.
Ms Hartlin would spend up to eight hours a day picking her face, arms and chest due to dermatillomania, and was left with scars that meant she refused to be seen in public. She is pictured before and after being cured
Through 12 weeks of counselling Ms Hartlin and her therapist were able to tackle some of the underlying issues that caused the picking.
She said: ‘I use different techniques to block the habit. My therapist provided me the tools to be able to talk myself out of the urge and identify different triggers.
‘I noticed an overall difference in how I experienced the world.
‘I’ve experienced an emotional wakening, because all this years of picking my skin were to hide my emotion that had been oppressed.’
Her psychotherapist helped her realise she had been oppressing her feelings every since her father suffered a brain aneurysm when she was young.
She said: ‘When I was 10 years old my father had a brain aneurysm and even though he lived it completely changed him.
‘It was hard to grieve as he was still alive so I suppressed these feelings.’
Ms Hartlin’s beautiful wedding photos of her marriage to husband Jason show her incredible transformation.
She added: ‘I’m still not pick free – I do have urges every single day and it’s a long process but I want people to know they aren’t alone, there is resources out there to help them.
‘Coming out in public has taken a burden off my shoulders. I don’t have to hide this other part of me.’