Skin picking disorders, also known as dermatillomania or excoriation disorder, are a type of compulsive behavior characterized by recurrent and excessive picking, scratching, or rubbing of the skin. This behavior can cause significant damage to the skin, leading to infections, scarring, and other complications.
If you’re struggling with skin picking, it’s important to know that you’re not alone. Dr. Hockley and I see patients with this on almost a weekly basis or even more often.
What Causes Skin Picking Disorders?
Skin picking disorders can be caused by a combination of factors, including genetics, environmental factors, and mental health issues. Many people with skin picking disorders also struggle with anxiety, depression, or obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).
The urge to pick at your skin may also be triggered by stress, boredom, or other emotional states. Some people may use skin picking as a way to cope with negative emotions or to gain a sense of control over their lives.
Types of Skin Picking Disorders
There are two main types of skin picking disorders:
- Non-Specific Skin Picking Disorder: This type of skin picking disorder involves the picking of healthy skin, usually on the face, arms, or legs. People with non-specific skin picking disorder may spend hours at a time picking at their skin, causing significant damage and scarring.
- Excoriation Disorder: Excoriation disorder involves the picking of pre-existing skin lesions, such as pimples, scabs, or insect bites. People with excoriation disorder may experience intense urges to pick at their skin, often to the point of bleeding or infection.
Treatment for Skin Picking Disorders
The first step in treating skin picking disorders is to seek help from a healthcare professional, such as a dermatologist or a mental health provider. Treatment may involve a combination of medication, therapy, and self-help strategies.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) can be particularly effective in treating skin picking disorders. CBT helps people to identify the thoughts and feelings that trigger their skin picking behavior and to develop strategies to cope with these triggers.
Other self-help strategies for managing skin picking disorders may include:
- Keeping your hands busy with fidget toys or other objects
- Covering the affected skin with clothing or bandages
- Practicing relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing or meditation
- Finding alternative ways to cope with negative emotions, such as exercise or creative hobbies
Skin picking disorders can be a distressing and isolating condition, but with the right treatment and support, it is possible to manage and overcome this compulsion. If you or someone you know is struggling with skin picking, don’t hesitate to seek help from a healthcare professional. With the right treatment, you can take control of your skin and your life.