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Danielle S. Sensations That Scare Us: Itchiness

Discussion in 'General Discussion Subforum' started by Eager Erin, Sep 19, 2017.

  1. Eager Erin

    Eager Erin Newcomer

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    Question
    Hello! I have had a number of TMS issues in the past (tendonitis from running, varied lengths of severe back and neck pain, random pains in arms/legs) however the current one I am dealing with (for over a year now) is itchy skin on lower legs mostly and sometimes groin/armpits. Ive seen doctors who recommend steroids; ive changed detergents and eating habits; there's no rash or physical symptoms present so Im sure its TMS. It isnt always itchy and moves to different areas. Just reading Day 15's post on emotional repression made the itch much worse. For the life of me i cannot make it go away. It has improved since ive determined its TMS, but i can't make it disappear like I do with TMS pain. Is there any special strategies for itchy skin? I read Skin Deep by Dr Grossbart and thought I figured out the psychological issue behind it, but I also felt like I was going a bit crazy. Any advice?
     
  2. Danielle Szasz LMFT

    Danielle Szasz LMFT TMS Therapist

    Answer
    Hi Erin,

    I am so sorry you’re dealing with this. There really is nothing quite like itching to make you feel like you’re losing it a little!

    First things, first. Clearly you’ve done a great job compiling evidence that this itchiness is, indeed, TMS: it’s inconsistent; it appears to move around the body; it got worse when you read the post on emotional repression; it hasn’t responded to treatment to which something that was structural would have responded.

    The one thing that really comes through in your question, though, is how much you’re trying with all your TMS tools to make the itching stop. That’s completely understandable, but the tricky thing about symptoms is that often the more invested you are in trying to make them go away, they longer they persist.

    Have you ever been around a young child with chicken pox? It’s less likely for young children to contract it now because we have a vaccine, but when they do, if you don’t watch them closely, they will scratch and scratch and scratch until they are bleeding because that’s really just how we as humans are hard-wired to respond to an itch. The problem is that the itch doesn’t diminish each time we scratch. In fact, it usually gets worse.

    Victor Frankl, the famed Holocaust survivor once wrote, “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” When I hear about your itchiness, to me it represents a really amazing opportunity to fundamentally transform your relationship to pain and discomfort.

    As I said, we as humans are just hard-wired to avoid discomfort so when there’s an itch (the stimulus), we immediately scratch it (the response). After we do this over and over again, it becomes habitual. And it can be with an itch, but this same pattern can happen a million different ways in our lives. We are in pain or uncomfortable, we habitually reach for something to take the edge off or make it go away.

    But this itch is something you can use as a mindfulness practice for learning to be with things as they are, having the wisdom to see that the scratching or trying to make it go away actually seems to make it worse over time. The goal isn’t to make it go away; it’s to create a greater space between the stimulus and the response.

    When I’m working with itchiness, one of the things that I like to gently say to myself is, “Let me see what’s on the other side of this itch,” and then try to be curious about noticing how my body tenses up because it wants the relief scratching, but reminding myself that I’m okay and that I’m training myself to be with this discomfort and be curious about it.

    I think that the more you are able to shift your focus from getting rid of this itchiness to changing your relationship to it, the more likely the itching is to go away on its own!


    Any advice or information provided here does not and is not intended to be and should not be taken to constitute specific professional or psychological advice given to any group or individual. This general advice is provided with the guidance that any person who believes that they may be suffering from any medical, psychological, or mindbody condition should seek professional advice from a qualified, registered/licensed physician and/or psychotherapist who has the opportunity to meet with the patient, take a history, possibly examine the patient, review medical and/or mental health records, and provide specific advice and/or treatment based on their experience diagnosing and treating that condition or range of conditions. No general advice provided here should be taken to replace or in any way contradict advice provided by a qualified, registered/licensed physician and/or psychotherapist who has the opportunity to meet with the patient, take a history, possibly examine the patient, review medical and/or mental health records, and provide specific advice and/or treatment based on their experience diagnosing and treating that condition or range of conditions.

    The general advice and information provided in this format is for informational purposes only and cannot serve as a way to screen for, identify, or diagnose depression, anxiety, or other psychological conditions. If you feel you may be suffering from any of these conditions please contact a licensed mental health practitioner for an in-person consultation.

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