Tuesday, February 7, 2012

First day of the habit-reversal regimen

This is the first day of the self-training phase of my habit-reversal project.

It's gone pretty well so far, probably helps that I'm not having a flare-up or a stressful day.

Yesterday by 7 pm I'd logged 503 separate scratching events, by making marks on business cards--a convenient, inconspicuous data storage medium. Roughly half of the events occurred before lunch and half afterward. As I mentioned yesterday, a surprising number of the events involved nervous touching of the face, to quell tiny itches or crawling-ant-like sensations.

Making marks on business cards is a tedious way to enter data. (Really, you need a clicker or some kind of smartphone app.) I lost interest in doing it toward the end of the day and probably under-reported my scratching. And then, at 7 pm, bedtime for the kids started and I gave up entirely. But the point is that I expect habit-reversal to have a significant effect, and after two weeks I'll repeat the measurement--I hope to see the scratching drop down to less than 100, possibly 50, events.

Today I've had some luck intercepting scratch attempts before my nails hit skin. I've been clenching my fist on whatever side is affected. If I feel a more intense itch, I've been pressing a nail hard into the itchy spot, which does seem to reduce the itch, sometimes to the point where I forget about it.

One problem is that many of the itches originate on my face, and poking your fingernail into your skin leaves a dent and sometimes a blanched spot. I am not sure this is more socially acceptable than scratching. But, so I understand, habit reversal breaks the itch-scratch cycle, and eventually I'll feel fewer itchy sensations on my face.

Often after I wash my hair, my scalp is particularly dry and I tend to pick at it. Then I get scabs or dandruff. Eww! This behavior is largely nervous and compulsive and I hope to eliminate it by habit reversal.

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