Skin Picking Disorder

Skin picking disorder is also known as dermatillomania. People suffering from this disorder will always have the urge to pick their own skin in order to remove irregularities like moles and freckles. This disorder falls under the category of impulsive control disorders. It typically leads to skin damage, scarring and possibly infection. People with this disorder will have many problems in maintaining their relationships and they may fall out with the family and friends.

People with skin picking disorder will use instruments like tweezers and pins in order to pick their skin off places like the face, scalp, neck and back. Picking will generally happen if there are any blemishes, imperfections, insect bites and scabs. Before starting with the activity the person will generally have an urge to do it. After completing the activity the person will feel relief and satisfaction. However, this bliss is short lived. The person will start feeling ashamed of what they have done after they realize the consequences of their action. The feelings of shame and embarrassment may even lead to depression.


Some of the symptoms which are common for the skin picking disorder are:

  • An urge to pick the skin
  • Mounting tension before the activity
  • Relaxation while picking the skin
  • Loss of skin and notable scars and scabs on the skin
  • Distress
  • Adverse changes in the daily life
About 3 % of the world’s population is affected with this disorder. It is more common in women than in men. This disorder can start at any time and at any age. It is often related to skin conditions. The onset can be triggered by the appearance of stubborn acne, psoriasis and eczema. This disorder seems to be more common in people having obsessive compulsive disorder.


The most common treatment for the skin picking disorder is the psychotherapy. There are two psychological treatments which are carried over. These are cognitive behavioral therapy and habit reversal therapy. These are the therapies which are most helpful. They help to educate sufferers about the skin picking disorder and its causes. By doing so, the therapist will also help the person overcome their self-destructive habit.

There will usually be many sessions conducted. This is important for the people with skin picking disorder. It takes time for them to learn how to overcome the urge to pick their skin and how to eliminate this urge from their life altogether.

Apart from these psychological treatments there are treatments which based on medication. The most commonly prescribed medicine will be an anti-depressant, which has an SSRI in it. The SSRI in the anti-depressant will help the skin picker stay away from the activity by making them experience a feeling of satisfaction and wellbeing. It also helps for the treatment of depression and other accompanying disorders. Other than this there are anti-anxiety medications which can be prescribed too. The common anti-anxiety medications are Xanax, Klonopin, and Ativan.

There are many people who get improvement with any form of treatment. There are also people who are getting excellent results when both forms of treatment are combined. The treatment plan should be decided only by the doctor.

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