We all know at least one person who loves popping pimples or blackheads, who watches the videos on YouTube or can’t tear their eyes away from Dr. Pimple Popper on TLC.
If you’ve been (un?)lucky enough to date or marry someone obsessed with popping pimples – theirs and yours – then your experiences might be a bit more intimate.
The urge and practice is pretty common, but what drives a person to want to do such a thing?
Matt Traube, a child and family psychotherapist, is weighing in on what experts call “body-focused repetitive behaviors” like skin picking and pimple popping.
“For many people, there is a wonderful satisfaction that comes from popping a pimple – it’s almost euphoric. You not only relieve the physical pressure of the blockage, there’s a pleasant mental effect as well from the release of dopamine.”
Dopamine, of course, makes your brain happy. And, it turns out, we get the same rush from popping other people’s pimples as we do from popping our own.
No surprise given that Dr. Pimple Popper had over 3 million YouTube followers even before she made the jump to cable television.
There are a few reasons, says Traube, why a spouse or romantic partner would want to squeeze their significant other’s zits, but only a few of them are really healthy.
“As disgusting as it might sound to some, that you would pick your partner’s pimples, that does show a certain closeness, a bond, an attachment between you and your partner. If someone is on a first or second date, I don’t think you’re going in for a pimple pop.”
That said, it could mean your partner feels the need to “fix” you, which is never a good thing. That the pimple represents an irritation or imperfection – “things that you somehow think that need to be cleaned up, or organized or otherwise taken care of.”
Even worse, it could mean your partner is super stressed out and searching for a way to relieve internal pressure. Experts see skin-picking issues in kids who are stressed at school or at home as a way to regain control over something, even if it’s just their own body.
“When we feel like we have ostensive control, we can find temporary relief from whatever we’re experiencing.”
So keep an eye out – your partner might try to convince you they’re picking at your skin to do you a favor, but actually, it’s probably more about them and their own issues.
“If the partner’s feedback is ‘Yes, this is good. I want more of this.’ Ok, great, that’s a healthy response. But if the partner’s feedback is a little more hesitant or ‘I don’t know how much I like this,’ and yet the other partner is still going for it, I don’t think it’s, at least on a psychological level, helping their partner. It’s helping themselves. It’s a need. It’s an urge.”
Altering the behavior can be difficult since, like any habit acquired over time, it requires time and reprogramming.
That said, watching the videos seems to help some people achieve the same emotional response as doing it themselves, so maybe stop giving your partner a hard time for binging them when they’re feeling stressed.
The bottom line is that it’s an odd habit, but not one that’s going to be a dealbreaker for most people. Just make sure that, like every relationship issue, you’re open and honest with one another about what you like and when.
And hey, maybe just grab a glass of wine and enjoy the attention.