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Skin picking disorder

Skin Picking Disorder, also known as Dermatillomania or Excoriation Disorder, is a mental health condition characterized by the repetitive and compulsive picking of one's own skin, resulting in tissue damage and, in some cases, severe physical consequences. This behaviour can become distressing, time-consuming, and may lead to significant impairment in daily functioning. It falls under the category of Body-Focused Repetitive Behaviours (BFRBs).



The primary symptom of Skin Picking Disorder is the recurrent and compulsive picking of one's skin, often leading to tissue damage. Other characteristics may include:
Repetitive Behavior: Engaging in skin picking for extended periods of time, often without realizing it.
Focus on Imperfections: Preoccupation with perceived flaws or irregularities on the skin.
Use of Tools: Some individuals may use tools (such as tweezers or needles) to aid in picking.
Sense of Relief or Pleasure: Despite the negative consequences, individuals may experience a temporary sense of relief or satisfaction from picking.
Tissue Damage: Skin lesions, scarring, and open wounds due to the picking.
Distress or Impairment: Significant distress, embarrassment, or impairment in daily functioning due to the behaviour.
Attempts to Hide the Behaviour: Wearing clothing to cover affected areas or using makeup to conceal marks.


The exact cause of Skin Picking Disorder is not fully understood, but several factors may contribute:
Genetic Predisposition: Some individuals may have a genetic predisposition to developing BFRBs.
Neurobiological Factors: Imbalances in neurotransmitters, such as serotonin or dopamine, may play a role.
Stress and Anxiety: Skin picking can be a way to cope with stress, anxiety, or other emotional challenges.
Perceived Imperfections: A heightened focus on skin imperfections or a belief that picking will improve the appearance.
Sensory Gratification: Some individuals may find a sensory satisfaction in the act of picking.
History of Trauma: Past trauma or abuse may contribute to the development of skin picking as a coping mechanism.


A diagnosis of Skin Picking Disorder is typically made by a mental health professional, such as a psychiatrist or psychologist. The diagnosis is based on a thorough assessment that includes a detailed clinical interview, observation of behaviour, and, in some cases, the use of standardized assessment tools. It's important to rule out other conditions with similar symptoms, such as obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).


Treatment for Skin Picking Disorder often involves a combination of therapies:
Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy (CBT): This type of therapy helps individuals identify and challenge negative thought patterns and develop coping strategies to reduce or stop the picking behaviour.
Habit Reversal Training (HRT): A specific form of CBT that focuses on replacing the picking behaviour with alternative, healthier responses.
Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP): Gradual exposure to triggering situations or stimuli, allowing individuals to practice resisting the urge to pick.
Medication: In some cases, medications such as SSRIs (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors) may be prescribed to help manage symptoms, particularly if there are co-occurring anxiety or mood disorders.
Mindfulness and Relaxation Techniques: Practices like meditation and deep breathing can help manage stress and anxiety, which can be triggers for skin picking.
Support Groups: Joining a support group or seeking peer support can provide a sense of community and understanding.
Dermatological Care: Seeking the assistance of a dermatologist to address skin damage and receive guidance on wound care.
Early intervention and consistent, structured support are crucial for managing Skin Picking Disorder. The goal is to help individuals develop healthier coping mechanisms and reduce or eliminate the picking behaviour.

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