Do You Have Dermatillomania?

Do You Have Dermatillomania?

When reading about the condition Dermatillomania, many people begin to worry that they too have this disorder. So how do you know if you suffer with it? At what point does picking at your skin become equivalent to having a disorder? The following questions were ones I created for everyone to assess if picking at their skin is problematic.

  • Do you pick at your skin enough to cause you emotional distress?
  • Does your skin picking prevent you from engaging in social activities?
  • Do you feel that you are being held back in life because of your skin picking?
  • Do you keep your obsessive skin picking a secret for fear of judgment?
  • Do you feel ashamed that you are unable to stop picking at your skin?
  • Does this make you feel alone?

While these are questions are not official diagnostic tools, they can help determine if skin picking is a problem in your life. The DSM-5 will have criteria to diagnose the disorder, although I’m not convinced from proposals that the criteria is specific enough yet, but it’s a start! The OCD Center of LA provides an online assessment to test if your skin picking is an issue to be worried about.

Also from the OCD Center of LA comes a GREAT article outlining the “ABC’s of Dermatillomania” by Karen Pickett, MFT. Please read the article for an in-depth look at this concept but in short, here’s what A, B, and C stand for:

“An “A” is something that almost “Anyone” would pick. This could be a piece of dry skin hanging off your arm, a pus-filled whitehead on your chin that pops at your mere touch, or a scab that’s barely hanging on which you easily detach.

A “B” is a “Bump”, pimple, scab, etc. that only a skin picker would pick. This is something that would either become an “A” over time or go away on its own if left alone. But, a skin picker will frequently start picking at it and make it significantly worse. It may then bleed, ooze, scab, and possibly become infected.  This in turn will cause two additional problems – it will cause the picker significant distress, and it will give him or her something new to pick at later. In my experience, I have found that clients with CSP classify at least 50% of their picking as “B’s”.

C” stands for “Create”, meaning the individual with CSP is not picking at anything objectively “real”, but in the process of picking at her skin, he or she “creates” something such as a blemish, scratch or scab.  A “C” is something that only someone with Dermatillomania would pick. There is often nothing apparent on the skin, but the picker starts picking or scratching, and in the process creates a wound.”

Karen Pickett, MFT

As always, please see a trained practitioner if you believe your skin picking is interfering with your day-to-day activities and causing you emotional distress. Other tests may need to be taken to determine if your skin picking is the root of a skin disorder or psychological affliction. Having Dermatillomania isn’t cut and dry because there are many reasons and triggers, so many types that I believe will become unraveled once more research uncovers the details.

Check out the five- star documentary Scars of Shame and Angela’s ground- breaking memoir FOREVER MARKED: A Dermatillomania Diary. Like Angela on Facebook, follow her on Twitter, and join her on Tumblr.
Learn about Angela’s surprising recovery from Dermatillomania here!
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