Skin Picking Disorder

Compulsive Skin Picking/ Chronic Skin Picking (CSP), Dermatillomania, Skin Picking Disorder, Acne Excoriee, Neurotic Excoriation, Pathological Skin Picking (PSP), Self Injurious Skin Picking (SISP) and Psychogenic Excoriation are all terms used to describe a psychological disorder that manifests by an overwhelming urge to pick at one’s own skin to the extent that damage is caused. It falls under the umbrella term of body-focused repetitive behaviors (BRFBs) which includes hair pulling and nail biting.

When the DSM 5 was published in May of 2013 it included compulsive skin picking in the “Obsessive- Compulsive and Related Disorders” category under the new name “Excoriation Disorder”. Diagnostic Criteria for Excoriation Disorder includes:

  1. Recurrent skin picking that results in skin lesions
  2. Repeated attempts to stop the behavior
  3. The symptoms cause clinically significant distress or impairment
  4. The symptoms are not caused by a substance or medical, or dermatological condition
  5. The symptoms are not better explained by another psychiatric disorder

Sufferers often go into a “trance-like” state where they become preoccupied by a real, imagined, or exaggerated imperfection which makes time appear to pass quickly. They can pick at pre- existing spots on their skin or create new lesions often leaving more visible scabbing than what was originally there. Often times, sufferers also use “tools” such as tweezers, nail clippers, and pins to pick at their skin to reach the goal of clearing the face of the imperfection. The need to pick at one’s skin creates anxiety that is alleviated when the picking has finished, but creates distress when the after effects become visible- thus creating a vicious cycle. The behavior can become so ingrained that sufferers do not even know that they are picking while taking part in another activity (ie, watching tv, reading) until someone tells them or they can feel the blood on their fingers.

One of the many psychological effects from having this disorder is low self-esteem, often associated with being shunned by peers and the fear of socializing due to appearance and negative attention sufferers may receive. This leads to embarrassment, which can spiral into social isolation as the sufferer may avoid situations where scars become visible to the public. It can affect the work place, school, and socializing with family and friends, especially if the disorder is kept a secret because it is a time consuming behavior and a lot of time is spent trying to hide the damage with clothing and/ or makeup.

Quite often, Dermatillomania can share a dual diagnosis with either Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), depression, anxiety disorders, personality disorders, ADHD, or Body Dysmorphic Disorder. Most sufferers with this disorder believe that they are the only ones suffering with it as it is not widely known to the public or even the medical field; this is the reason that many people seeking treatment become discouraged.

  • candyce

    can u tell me what the statistics are for each race? how does this affect african americans?( thier skin is darker) Asians? Latinos? Native Americans? Caucasions?
    what age group is affected the most? 10-18? 19-25? 26-30? 31- and above?
    Is there any group support besides web? 12 step support?
    what about medication?
    Hypnosis?

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