Everybody picks their skin sometimes, right? If you tell your friends or family that you pick your skin, many of them might say “Oh, I do that, too”. So, how do you know if your skin picking is severe enough to warrant a diagnosis of Dermatillomania, also known as Skin Picking Disorder or Excoriation?
There are a variety of ways in which assessment of skin picking occurs. Self-assessment might occur by the person doing the skin picking when an individual realizes that he or she is causing scabs, scars, and/or infections. A person with Dermatillomania may also be aware that he or she is avoiding social situations, including work, school, and/or social functions such as weddings and parties. After all, those who have picked to the point of bleeding and scabbing may be too embarrassed to be seen by others who might judge them or ask questions about their skin.
An assessment of Dermatillomania might also come from a dermatologist, aesthetician or family member who sees the physical and emotional consequences of the person’s skin picking. This person may recommend that the skin picker seek professional assistance for the picking.
Generally, most people do pick their skin, pimples, nails, or cuticles at some point. So, what makes the difference between someone who has Skin Picking Disorder and someone who does not?
I heard a great classification of skin picking in a workshop by Dr. Charles Mansueto at the Trichotillomania Learning Center’s (TLC) 2006 Conference. I was inspired to create my own version of his classification system. I use it with all of my skin picking clients, and I call it the ABC’s of Skin Picking.
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 Skin Picking Disorder classify at least 50% of their picking as “B’s”.
“C” stands for “Create”, meaning the individual with Dermatillomania is not picking at anything objectively “real”, but in the process of picking at his / her skin, the person “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 individual’s skin, but the picker starts picking or scratching, and in the process creates a wound.
Treatment for Dermatillomania / Skin Picking Disorder
The recommended treatment for Skin Picking Disorder is with a trained psychotherapist who specializes in treating this misunderstood and often misdiagnosed condition. Effective treatment focuses on Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT), with an emphasis on Habit-Reversal Training (HRT) and Mindfulness Based CBT.
In Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for the treatment of Dermatillomania, the first behavioral goal is to stop picking any “C’s” – in other words, to stop creating new skin problems where none previously existed. Usually, a skin picker can learn to do this relatively easily by becoming more aware of their picking patterns. Building awareness is generally done by keeping a skin picking log, and with the assistance of a habit-blocker such as wearing gloves.
Gloves provide a barrier to unconscious picking, and help in two ways. First, the skin picker cannot easily pick at existing scabs, blemishes, etc. Second, the gloves prevent identification of new places to pick that would otherwise be felt by random, unconscious, mindless “investigation” (touching) of the skin. If you are a skin picker, the previous sentence may resonate with you, and you may say, “I do that!” That would make sense as the two main triggers for skin pickers are touching and looking at their skin.
Removing the opportunity to touch your skin by wearing gloves is a good first step to becoming more aware of your unconscious “scanning”, and reducing the impulse to pick. After you get used to using a “habit blocker” like gloves, the focus of treatment turns to reducing your picking of “B’s.”
So, what are the two most important factors to address in successfully reducing picking of “B’s”? You can read about that in part 2 of this series on Dermatillomania.
To take our free online test for Skin Picking Disorder / Dermatillomania, click here.
To read part two in our series of articles on Dermatillomania / Skin Picking Disorder, click here.
To read an excerpt of from our free special report “Skin Picking Disorder: Top Twelve Roadblocks to Recovery”, click here.
You can also click here to read our article “Excoriation (Skin Picking) Disorder, aka Dermatillomania”.
•The OCD Center of Los Angeles, a private, outpatient clinic specializing in Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for the treatment of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and related conditions, including Dermatillomania / Skin Picking Disorder. In addition to individual therapy, the center offers six weekly therapy groups, as well as online therapy, telephone therapy, and intensive outpatient treatment. To contact the OCD Center of Los Angeles, click here.
I was wondering if maybe you could tell me if I have dermatillomania I understand you cannot give me a formal diagnosis but maybe some strategies to help reduce my picking. As of right now the area where I pick the most is the back of my scalp it started as a small patch of dandruff however over this past year my picking has gotten worse and that one patch has spread to most of my lower scalp. I pick every single day and for most of the time during the day it usually starts off as an itch, sometimes I try to avoid to scratch but it becomes overwhelmingly itchy and I cant resist. I also have the idea that the more I pick the dry skin the better it will be , but then my scalp becomes raw and it stings when I wash my hair . I have had some other episodes with picking, when I was younger I used to take toe nail clippers and clip the dead skin off the bottom of my feet, thinking that it would make my feet softer but I would often do it to excess where the bottom of my feet would be pink raw skin, sometimes with blood and it would hurt when I walked . I’ve also had problems with picking my face, popping pimples/blackheads thinking it would improve my skin but I would go overboard with that as well I once burned a part of my face by laying close to a space heater because I read that heat would make pimples go away. I have also been diagnosed with OCD by 6 different doctors and I know this disorder is part of the OCD spectrum I just want some advice if it is worth it to treat it . I am not distressed or anxious because of my scalp picking but I am a little embarrassed because I do it in public especially in class and I feel like people are watching me pulling dead skin off of my scalp. any feedback would be helpful
I’m the same way! I love picking dandruff with a comb and even think about it before I go to sleep and it relaxes me. When my kids were babies I would go to town on their cradle cap. Recently I’ve tried squeezing blackheads but end up causing a scab. And because there’s a scab I don’t like it on my face. I don’t really dig at my head anymore because the flaking is disapointing there’s not much.
I dont think its ocd for me, I’m not obsessed, I just really enjoy it! Plus who needs dandruff! It’s like a really bad itch from a bug bite, itching intensely feels amazing.
Your comments point to the single biggest inhibitor to effective treatment of Skin Picking Disorder – namely, that many people find the the sensation of picking to be gratifying on some level (or as you described it, “amazing”). But it is the consequences of picking that are the problem. If people could pick with no blood or scabs or scars, then Dermatillomania would not be an issue. Unfortunately, like many behavioral issues (i.e., smoking, drinking, drugs, overeating, gambling, hair pulling, nail biting, etc.), the consequences far outweigh the benefits. Only you can decide if your consequences are important enough to you to warrant treatment.
Gaby: in my experience, When the bad outweighs the good, there’s def. a problem. I’ve done it since 8-10 yrs old. My once long, thick & curly hair is now weak, thin, life-less & sore riddled. It’s a horrible existence all created because I liked the sensation of flaking the itch & later, used it for diverting my feelings from life occurences. Now im 34 & feel hopeless w/my situation. So,by all means resist the urge if the action is giving you those results. Scalp soreness, bleeding & hair loss are not pleasurable nor fun. If only those facts were enough to make the itch go away & the fingers stop. Partner in pain, ash
Yes!! When the bad out weighs the good, there is generally a problem. If someone is doing behaviors that cause bleeding and scabbing and hair loss and infections, there is a problem.
I’m sorry you feel “hopeless”. Please know that there is hope. That said, the problem is unlikely to go away without expert help.
My scab/skin picking started later in life. It’s gotten worse over the past year. The scary thing is that i do it while driving. I kinda get lost in the picking and can become distracted. My primary doctor told me to wear a hat. So much for getting to the root.i haven’t seen my therapist since last year due to health issues but i see her in 2 weeks. I want to stop but can’t. I need help with this.
I’m sorry to hear that your health issues have prevented you from seeing your therapist for the past year. Hopefully you will be able to attend therapy on a regular basis and get the help you need. Take care.
Thank you so much for your comments and questions. While we can’t provide a diagnosis or treatment via this blog, the symptoms you describe sound consistent with those of Dermatillomania. I suggest you seek consultation with a CBT therapist in your area. You can find a list of therapists specializing in the treatment of Dermatillomania on the website of the Trichotillomania Learning Center at http://www.trich.org. If you haven’t already done so, you might also consider consulting a dermatologist as the itching on your scalp may be a symptom of a skin condition.
Hi,just wondered when part 2 of this will be coming?
Thank you for your interest. Here is the a link to: part two 2 of our series on Skin Picking Disorder.
Thank you for sharing some fairly simple steps (notice I didn’t say “easy”?) for those who don’t currently have access to a therapist, medical insurance, etc.
The A, B, C concept resonates deeply for me. It all starts with those A blemishes – even without my picking issues, I’m not blessed with gorgeous skin – the A blemishes are always going to be there, so it helps greatly not to hear a blanket “just don’t pick” response. Of course, I spend hours of my life on the B blemishes and then I’ve spent many, many other wasted, shameful (and painful) hours on the C blemishes which are of my own making. Imperfections that are real to me, but no “normal” person would ever detect or bother mutilating themselves over.
I really think having this mental reference will help me to check myself and take that challenging step backward from the mirror before I get lost in the numbing/soothing sea of pores where the world is suspended…until I finally stop and the reality of my actions crashes down.
I will begin my journaling process today and follow the advice you’ve given. I have been somewhat aware of my worst triggers for some time, but that doesn’t meant of done much with that knowledge. I’m 40, tired of failing myself and I do NOT want to model this behavior for my children anymore than I (sadly) already have.
Thank you again,
Thank you for your comment. It’s good to hear that the ABC model was helpful to you. We’d love to hear how you are doing using it as a reference and also how your journalling is going.
I have a habit of picking at my elbows. It started when one was dry and i just started picking it and then it felt good so i picked the other. Now whenever im stressed or even just bored i pick them, as a relief. Sometime’s they bleed and it’s really embarrasing but i cant stop.
Your experience is one we hear very often — picking starts when something is on the skin, then picking continues because it feels pleasurable. Being either stressed or bored are the most active times for skin pickers.
First, it is a good idea to visit your medical doctor or dermatologist, if you have not done so already,to see if there is an underlying condition or any infection present, and to have anything present addressed.
The fact that you are aware of the “triggers” to your picking (being stressed or bored) is very important because you can prepare a habit-blocker to prevent you from picking at times when you are feeling stressed or bored. For instance, you might wrap your elbows in cloth bandages or wear light cotton gloves. These habit-blockers will provide a physical barrier to prevent automatic, unconscious picking because you won’t be able to directly access the skin on your elbows to pick.
Next, you can use mindfulness to be present and notice that the urges to pick intensify and then fade away. When you learn by your own experience that the urge to pick will fade – no matter how strong it feels at any time – you will then have the power to make the choice not to pick but to ride out the urge.
Remember, anytime you do not pick is time in the bank which can never be erased even if you pick again. The less you pick, the less intense the urge to pick will be; therefore, the less difficult it will be to stop.
This kind of change doesn’t happen over night. If you are committed to stop picking, taking it one day or one hour or one minute at a time is the way to reach your goal.
I know you cant say much through here but i dont know if i need the doctors help or not also im embarrased to talk about it. I pick the skin under my feet sometimes i do it without meaning to do so. They look awfull broken and it hurts so much to walk because i come to bleed and take big pieces of skin. I been doing this for over year and i been trying to stop but i cant do it. Even when my feet are nice and smooth i start picking on them until i getomething and after that it wont stop. My mom is really worried about this and has been asking me to atop but i cant it has become a bigger part in me. Please tell me if i should eek help or thi will leave slowly while i grow up. Im 19 years oldand this thing is just getting more nd more embarrasing but i still wont stop.
Hi my name is Kelly I pick at my feet bad its so bad I use toenail clippers to get skin when theres nothing to pick and whats really sick is that I eat it its been 3 years or so when it started befor that I picked at my scalp and bit my nails. until I started getting acrylic nails so picking at my scalp and bighting nails became impossible I think there is something wrong with Me should I get help I dont know what to do
Thanks for sharing about your skin picking on your feet. It sounds like you are experiencing dermatillomania. When a person mentions that areas they are picking bleed, there is always the concern about the possibility of infection.
So, we encourage you to do two things. The first is to see a medical doctor to check for infection and get treatment if appropriate.
The second is to seek out a good therapist who specializes in Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for Dermatillomania and other body-focused repetitive behaviors. Here at the OCD Center of Los Angeles, we offer such treatment in person and with online therapy (via webcam).
Please get help no matter how embarrassed you feel. You are not alone and don’t have to suffer alone.
You are not alone and help is available. Dermatillomania can be effectively treated by a good therapist who is experienced with Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for skin picking. Feel free to contact us regarding treatment. Another great resource is the Trichotillomania Learning Center at http://www.trich.org.
Since I can remember I’ve been biting or picking my nails and every time I try to stop I can’t. I’ll get a random urge to do it even if there’s not enough there to get off. Sometimes I’ve started bleeding because of it. The second thing is I bite my lower lip constantly. My lip has gone all red because of it but hasn’t bled yet and it really stings sometimes and I just can’t stop even after putting on chap-stick. The third thing, and the worse, is my scalp. I’d say roughly 70% of my scalp is dry, scabby skin from my constant picking at it. My parents say it’s from my family? They say it’s something to do with my ultra-sensitive skin. It’s really weird. So far it’s been proven that my face heals from spots within 1 day of applying cream nearly, but my scalp won’t stop randomly flaring up for months on end. And when it does flare up with scabs and cuts with bumps, I’m 24/7 picking at it. It feels like a de-stresser, if you could say that? I really don’t know how to stop it but I’m afraid if I keep doing them, I’ll end up with some skin marks that are permanent. I also pick at my athlete’s foot. It’s really hard not to. Even if there’s nothing there I’ll just scratch and it turns into a scab or something..? I just want to know how to stop all this.
Thank you for your post. First, we recommend that you be evaluated by a dermatologist, if you haven’t already. It sounds like part of what you are picking at may be a skin condition that could be treated. If so, that might help reduce the overall amount of picking you are doing. Secondly, we encourage you to seek treatment for skin picking with a qualified therapist.
I am picking my scalp as I read this. I find myself picking at work and home. It is soothing for me but i am picking or making scabs to pick in my scalp. Sometimes it burns when I wash my hair. My favorite time to pick is when I am relaxed in the evenings. I get satisfaction finding scabs to pick. I do have GAD but this has become a coping skill for me.
It’s a common theme for skin pickers like yourself – that skin picking temporarily relieves anxiety, if only because you are focused on picking rather than on the discomfort of the anxiety. We encourage you to see a dermatologist if you haven’t already to see if you have a skin condition and if there is any infection that can be treated.
Secondly, what other ways might you cope with the GAD? Do you exercise, journal, do yoga or meditate? These are all wonderful ways to reduce physical, mental and emotional stress.
Practicing mindfulness is another excellent tool. Mindfulness involves accepting your anxiety and noticing it without running away or trying to avoid it. Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is a behavioral therapy we use with skin picking clients. The book The Happiness Trap by Russ Harris outlines in a clear way how to use ACT to help yourself.
Hi. Like many others, I realize you can’t give me a diagnosis, but I was looking for some advice. I have read a lot about dermatillomania and my behaviors don’t exactly match up with it, but I would like a second opinion. I think it started when I was younger and I would love peeling off sunburns. I would get disappointed if my mom didn’t let me peel off hers and oddly frustrated when I saw someone else who was peeling that i couldn’t peel their skin because it would be extremely weird if I went up and pulled off their skin. But quite recently (within maybe the last year) I began to get a little dandruff. I scratched it, but because I enjoyed it, not because my scalp was itchy. I loved looking at the flakes. I began almost always having a piece of black clothing somewhere in my bathroom so I could sit and scratch at my head and watch the flakes fall onto the surface. Sometimes this takes a while. It used to be just in my bathroom, but recently I have done it a couple times in public, like in public restroom stalls or in dressing rooms. Also, over this past winter, I noticed one night that the skin on my breasts was quite dry (it’s weird, I know) and I scratched at them for a while. Now, whenever I see my breasts, I feel that I must scratch them. I have drawn blood a few times, but it has never been bad. Any advice would be more than welcomed and thank you for reading this long message!
Thank you so much for posting this important and taboo topic. I have dermatillomania for sure, have tried every single acne lotion and dermatologist. Now i went to a spa center where they do facials and peelings, they say it helps, i already did my first peeling and they told me try not to pick on your face, but offcourse the more my parents, boyfriend and others say dont do it, my response is to do it more.
SO my face is really bad, i have to wear makeup to cover sometimes and when i don’t, i feel very bad but i dont wear it all the time like before because i know that is not good for the skin.
Anyways, i have a therapist but havent talked about this issue, but reasing all these posts, you recommend going to a dermatologist, my insurance doesnt cover, and i always fail going to a dermatologist because no matter what, the skin picking always messes up everything. The spa treatment (facials and peeling) seems to help since i saw pictures of women who got better with that but it is expensive, so i am not sure what path should i take? im very discouraged but i really want to do the right thing.
I actually am a MA student of psychology and have actually tried cbt on me, it helped for some time but then i say “oh whatever and the urge to pick becomes more stronger than the thought stopping and changing activity… i tried gloves, cutting my nails, writing things in the mirror, but i always find a way to pick. I know i pick when im bored or have anxiety. But it is the need to clean my face and get rid of them… theni cant focus when i know the B is still there… Im just really tired of this, i would love any suggestions! Thank you so much!
Thanks for posting your question. There are many ways that skin picking disorder can show up. Your scratching may be one of those ways, in which case you might benefit from reading the page of our website related to Dermatillomania treatment, as well as part 2 of this series on Dermatillomania for suggestions on helping yourself. I also encourage you to seek treatment from a therapist who specializes in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for skin picking disorder. Feel free to contact us regarding in-person and online treatment options at our center. You can also find specialized Dermatillomania treatment providers at http://www.trich.org, as well as on the “Links” page of our website at https://ocdla.com/.
However, I strongly encourage you to first see a dermatologist (if you haven’t already done so) to see if any of your symptoms may be caused by a skin condition that could be treated medically.
I bite my nails, the inside of my cheeks and i’m a B at scab picking. I have been able to stop biting my nails several times but when they get damaged I bite them again. I try to be positive and keep trying to stop. I have also been able to reduce biting my cheeks, hopefully I will stop. I have scars on my legs because of scab picking. I mostly pick the ones caused by acne on my face but have been controlling that as well. Not sure if I do it less because I have less acne or I’m really getting better. I also creak my teeth in my sleep (my dentist made me a plastic thingy to wear at night). I don’t really think I have anxiety issues, I am actually so cheerful it annoys people. I am teen but I don’t think I’m that moody. I have a short fuse though, like my dad, but mom is helping me calm down and it’s sort of working. I know you can’t give me a diagnosis but I was hoping you could tell me how to speed up the fading of scars caused by scab picking (I prefer natural medication, I’ve heard honey and sandalwood oil help, is that true?). Also, do you think I can deal with this myself? I think I’m improving and I know it will take a lot of effort but I’m ready to try. I really don’t want to see a doctor, it’s sort of embarrassing, I’ve heard yoga helps, so what do you think? Hope you can help
Okay I have the same issue I’ll pick my head and eat the scabs yes for hours no matter where I am or who I with on different spots around my head my family knows about iit they tell me to stop picking my head 🙁 they know it’s a nervous habit but they think I hit my head on a bunk bed because that was my excuse when I was younger so now I’m 20 so I have been doing this for at least 5-7 years on and off sometimes they heel and I can stop for a period of time but then it gets really bad and I’m constantly picking my head and can’t stop no matter what I do.. I could never telll Anyone I eat the scabs on my head I get so much SHIT as it already is jusrfof picking I think it’s my anexity and depression / Bad childhood that made me this way Idk I’m not normal I hate it I look like I have bugs that’s how often I pick it I do it everywhere anywhere like most days illl stay in my rooom for hours picking away I’m doing it right now and my heads bleeding it’s werid when the scab hardens the next day I love that so much those huge skin chunks that are easy to pick and eat! Is this a serious issue? Can it create heath issuers serious ones in the future ?
Yes, picking can definitely lead to serious health issues such as chronic infections at the site of the picking. I strongly encourage you to seek treatment with a therapist who specializes in treating Dermatillomania.
Thank you for posting. It sounds like you are handling your skin picking and biting and your emotions very well. As for healing scars, we suggest you speak to your dermatologist.
Additionally, yoga and any other stress-reducing and self-nurturing activities you can do (for example, meditating, deep breathing and exercise) are excellent adjuncts to therapy.
It sounds like you’re on the right track. Keep going!
I don’t remember how long ago I started picking my scalp but I can’t stop. It started off as dandruff on my hairline so I scratched it off. My nails were sharp and I cut my head. Since then I’ve been picking at the scab on my head. I now have two bald spots on my head and one doesn’t seem to be healing. I cut my nails every time I’m able to pick at it. I also wear hats while I’m sleeping as I tend to wake up with my nails caked with blood and a scab on my pillow. Is this normal? I really want to stop as its affecting my life. I feel like I’m going crazy and I can’t afford therapy or fancy treatments. I’m a C picker and it makes me feel horrible yet it calms me. I have done this before and stopped after about three months. Why can’t I stop now?
I am the same exact way. Going to my psyc tomorrow and going to finally,admit it and show him the scabs and scars.
I am almost positive I have this chronic picking disorder. I pick all the time, make sores, draw blood etc.. I also have a habit of wanting to pick at my husbands scabs and bumps, he has to make me stop, gross right? Is this part of this disorder?
I tend to pick at my husbands skin as well and he moves his arm to stop me or will shrug to get my hand away from an area….The thing is I want to pick the area to make it smooth!! I do feel bad when I hurt him; but i keep going back to the areas to get the spot off.
I am constantly picking at my skin; any bump i can find but am more aggressive in the trunk area causing scabbing and sores. Once i took a fingernail file to my neck to get rid of one spot. I have been this way over 30 years; not sure if CBT is really going to help me after this long
I don’t know if CBT is going to help you either, but I do know two things:
1) CBT has been shown to help many people with Dermatillomania.
2) Not trying CBT and just continuing to do Dermatillomania behaviors is unlikely to result in this problem being reduced or eliminated.
It’s clear how distressing your picking is for you. As a first step, we strongly encourage you to have your scalp checked by a dermatologist since one area doesn’t seem to be healing. Many skin pickers say that they are too ashamed to go to doctors, but if one or more of your areas is infected, you may end up with a much bigger issue than feeling embarrassed.
Significantly reducing skin picking usually takes time. Skin pickers often go through many cycles of picking and not picking before they make noticeable progress towards stopping their picking. The question to ask is: what can I learn about myself right now as a result of my picking? It may be that you could nurture yourself more often, journal to express your feelings, or wear gloves to bed to help stop skin picking while you’re asleep. Everything you learn and use is something that helps you toward your goal of stopping your skin picking.
You have our support.
Thanks for bringing this subject up in your post. Picking the skin of others is not unusual as part of skin picking disorder. The same tools you use to help yourself resist giving in to the urge to pick your own skin will work for not picking the skin of others.
I’ve always been a picker, but fairly mildly throughout my whole life. In the past 6 months or so, I’ve started getting the bottoms of my feet with nail clippers. It hurts quite a bit, but I can’t seem to stop at all. If there is loose skin, I have to pick it off. My feet haven’t bled yet, but they hurt to walk on and are quite unsightly. I’ve mentioned it to my father and brought up dermatillomania, but he refuses to take me to the doctor because he thinks that dermatillomania is silly & isn’t a real condition. I just want to stop picking my feet so I can feel okay going barefoot.
Skin Picking Disorder will be a new diagnostic category in the DSM-V due out this month. Hopefully, more people will then accept it as a “real” condition. In the meantime, have your feet checked for infection by a doctor or dermatologist. Then, freeze your nail clippers!
“Freeze my nail clippers?” you might ask. Yes! Put them in a plastic container of water and put the container in the freezer. That way, you still have your nail clippers if you really want to use them, but you’ll have to wait until they thaw. While waiting, your urge may disappear. And you could also use that time to consider things that you could do that would be more helpful to you than picking, like doing relaxation breathing, journaling or putting soothing lotion and socks on your feet. You don’t have to pick the skin even if you think that you do. It is just a thought and you can learn not to let it have power over you.
I have picked since childhood. Its like a dark secret. The ABC ‘s erre very on the point. I think mine started with chicken pox scabs in my head. Ingrown toe nails too. Id perform self surgery. The secret part was i ate or saved and hid what i plucked out of my skin. Eating blavkheads, pus, skin, it is euphoric. If someone catches me i bevome so iratated. I am always examining any lump bump or mark. Lately Ive noticed a nee tic, pulling on my esrlobes. Ive also created a bald spot at the crown of my head. Its a love hate relationship.
I have been wondering if I have a problem, so I researched online and came upon this through Google. Anyway I have always bit my lips and the inside of my cheeks, but I got piercings on my dimples so I can’t bite my inside of my cheeks anymore. My poor lips though I I bite and pulled the skin till I can’t find a piece of skin to pull off or bleed, but even then if I feel the skin, I must keep at it. Also my hair.. I’ve had dandruff problems and chemical burn due to bleaching my hair, so from there I would run my fingers through my hair feeling my scalp for any bump or flake and take it out by scratching then pinching it through my hair till I absolutely feel nothing on my scalp, then comb my hair to get whatever I missed. I don’t draw blood from my scalp, just search for anything to take out, this has continued for yrs now, and its to the point that I do see thinning in my hair as when I constantly comb through my hair with my fingers I pull the hair too, but not painfully, more like it falls out in my hands. My husband brings it to my attention all the time for both my lip biting and hair searching, I didn’t think about maybe having a problem, but with my husband bringing to my attention the constant issue, maybe I do. Maybe its normal… idk.
You describe the dance of skin picking very well: a love-hate relationship. Your goal should be to move to a place of acceptance of your thoughts, feelings and urges so that you can move your relationship with skin picking to a more neutral space. From there, you will be less activated and more likely to ask yourself “What action can I take right now that will support my long-term goals?” If stopping skin picking is one of those goals, you will be more likely to decide not to pick. And the less you pick, the weaker the urges to pick get, so it does get easier not to pick over time.
I’ve picked my acne since I went through puberty and I squeeze and pinch it until it bleeds or stuff comes out, which I then eat, I also eat my scabs and eat what I pick from my shoulders and back where I also have acne. I’m 19 and this is very embarrassing and shameful, and my skin hurts and is painful and I have lots of acne because I can’t stop touching my face and picking it. I pick until I bleed. I can’t resist the urge once I know there is something to pick, and I try to squeeze the ones under the skin until it hurts and I get frustrated when I can’t pop it. I use small sharp items to pop my acne and I don’t know how to stop and I just want my skin to be OK. I also scratch bug bites until they bleed and scab, and I eat the scab. The eating part is very gross to me and embarrassing because I can’t help it. I also eat what I pick from my nose and I hate that I do the things I do because they’re gross and unsanitary.
I am sorry to hear that you are struggling so much. It seems clear that you are not able to manage your symptoms on your own, so I strongly encourage you to seek treatment with a therapist who specializes in treating Dermatillomania using Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT).
From your description, it sounds like you are experiencing Skin Picking Disorder / Dermatillomania. It may be best not to use the word “normal” as it is difficult to say what “normal” is. The question to ask yourself is “Do I want to continue doing these behaviors or do I want to learn the skills and tools to stop?” If you decide you want to continue the behaviors, that’s okay. But it sounds like you are concerned about thinning hair and the biting of your lip, so if you’d like support in learning how to stop the touching, biting and picking, you might want to find a therapist who specializes in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for Dermatillomania.
Hi I think I have skin picking disorder because I pick my face 24/7 and I can’t stop picking even if I already picked there I keep on picking there my family tries helping me telling me what I’m doing too my face but I just can’t stop my face is getting worse and no one could help me would you please help me I really try too stop thank you very much
Okay I’m not sure if I have OCD or not. I love peeling skin. Especially dandruff, I will look on my scalp for peeling spots and I will use like a comb or bobby pin to flake it off more. I love to see it on my fingers or watching it fall or seeing it fall on something black. Same thing with sunburns. I will rub the peeling spots and look at the skin. I have to look at it. I do feel a sense of relief when I do this. Also notice I do it if I’m bored or stressed. ?????
I think I have a problem with picking my skin and I don’t know what to do to stop it. It’s not major (I guess), but I pick at one specific finger A LOT. I don’t even realize when I do it. It is sort of like an impulsive thing. I do it when I’m bored, etc. I put bandaids on it when I’m in public because I’m really embarrassed by it. People who do it get really disgusted and it’s just embarrassing because nobody understand why I do it (I don’t either actually.) I’m starting to pick at the skin on another one of my fingers but I’m trying not to so it doesn’t get as bad as the original finger. I pick so much I get scabs and it’s even painful but I can’t stop. What should I do?
Thank you for reaching out to us. Skin picking is challenging because there is both enjoyment/relief and shame/scabbing. You can stop – just know it is a process.
Also, we just published a free ebook entitled “Skin Picking and Trichotillomania: Top Twelve Roadblocks to Recovery“ which you may want to read.
What you are describing sounds like one of the many variants of Skin Picking Disorder. People who engage in Skin Picking notice that they are more likely to pick when experiencing either boredom or anxiety. You may also be interested in a free ebook we just published called “Skin Picking and Trichotillomania: Top Twelve Roadblocks to Recovery”.
Thank you for writing. Step one is to have your finger examined by a doctor to make sure it is not infected. Next, I encourage you to seek treatment with a therapist who specializes in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for Skin Picking Disorder. Feel free to contact us regarding treatment face-to-face and online treatment options at our center. Another good resource for treatment providers can be found at http://www.trich.org. You can search their database by location.
You may also be interested in a special report we just published called “Skin Picking and Trichotillomania: Top Twelve Roadblocks to Recovery”. You can click here for a free download of the report.
Thank you so much for this site!!! My parents and my siblings are “pickers.” Could some of my problem be hereditary or learned? Also what is an effective otc lotion or cream to apply to reduce the redness and scarring? Thank you again! Sonra
I’m so glad I found this! When I was a child, I bit my nails and cuticles for a year or two. Then I moved into biting the loose skin inside my cheeks, creating little bits to bite off. It’s rare for me to draw blood, but when I do I stop. A few years ago I had a bump on the back of my arm that I can’t stop picking. Not the skin is thick, dark and rough. I compulsively pick at it … just can’t leave the rough edges alone. I’m wondering if a dermatologist can do anything to smooth it out so it (1) looks normal again and (2) won’t have the rough bits that I pick at. Thank you for sharing this information. I’m feeling better already :o)
You are so welcome! Glad our site is helpful to you and your family.
It is likely that there is a genetic predisposition for skin picking disorder, although research has yet to confirm this. Learning the behavior is also a possibility. However, a person would likely not continue to pick their skin if it was not pleasurable or urge-driven.
We suggest you consult a dermatologist with your question about lotions and creams.
Thanks for writing and for letting us know that you are finding our information helpful. We love that!
Yes – talk to a dermatologist. That said, many of our clients who have consulted a dermatologist have been told the same thing: you have to stop picking at the bump and let it heal or they won’t be able to do any procedures.
I am almost 13 and I’ve been picking at my scalp for at least 5 months. I think I started picking because I thought I had dandruff because I saw white flakes in my hair. So I began picking the flakes out. I went online and I saw something that said that something about it being dry dead skin, so I looked at my scalp and I guess I must have seen dry skin and tried to pick it off but it kept scabbing over and now I can’t stop picking at it. I pick the skin off most of the day and it normally bleeds when I do pick at it. I really want to stop because the hair there isn’t getting a chance to even grow back. I jut can’t stop and I don’t wanna have to talk to my doctor about it. I just need some advice to keep me from doing it. I don’t really wanna have to wear gloves all the time.
First, it’s great that you recognize and are seeking help for Skin Picking Disorder. Secondly, please have a doctor check your scalp since there has been bleeding and scabbing. If there are any signs of infection, you’d want to have treatment right away.
As far as advice to help yourself stop, our free ebook on Dermatillomania and Trichotillomania is a good start. Wearing gloves is one option and a good one. You don’t have to wear them all the time but if you wear them when you are likely to pick, you will be taking an excellent first step in preventing yourself from touching and feeling things to pick on your scalp.
Do all you can to stop the picking now. The more years you do it before you stop, the harder it can be to stop and the more potential damage you may do to your scalp and hair.
Hello my name is Kayla. I have a fiancé named Andrew that will be watching television or on the computer and he will start picking at anything scabs, pimples, and bumps. The bumps he is picking at he say could some how in the future become a pimple so he wants to go ahead and get rid of it. Now keep in mind this bump is the size of a Beebe or smaller, not that big right, But the thing is he will pick at it until it is the size of a quarter. They bleed like crazy and then scab over. When I ask him to stop he gets irritated and fidgety like it is killing him to not pick at it. Then he will go behind my back and pick at it again and again. He will hide in the bathroom. Its really starting to scare me because it has gotten to the point to where he is lying to me about it. Would this be considered Dermatillomania. Thanks for your time.
It is impossible to say for sure since we have not assessed your fiancé, but what you describe sounds like a description of someone with Skin Picking Disorder.
It sounds like you care about your fiancé, and the best way to help him is to support him and to understand that he may have Skin Picking Disorder, and that someone with this condition usually can’t “just stop” even though he might really want to stop.
The great way to support your fiancé is to read about Skin Picking Disorder yourself (there is a lot of good information here on our website), and then share the information with your fiancé without pressuring him to change. Hopefully, he will want to seek treatment with a qualified professional.
I feel so much better knowing that im not the only one.i also pick at my skin when there is nothing there to pick at.ive scarred my skin over the years but its improved over the last 10.the scars wont do away though.i simpathise with anyone going through this.regards Nicky
Thanks for posting to offer your experience and your support to others. We are glad you are part of our community.
I do it on my head, I get what I think is probably a ‘B’ piece of skin and dig my nail under it to pick it off, then usually pull it through my hair or sometimes just leave it when I can’t be bothered. I’ve done it so many times in different places on my scalp until they literally bleed and they do heal but then I just pick them again. It’s just so SATISFYING! It stings when I wash my hair, and every time I promise myself I will not do it but I just automatically do when I’m stressed or bored or trying to get to sleep. Recently I’ve had a scab on my arm which I pick too and quite a few on my back. Does it sound like it could be a skin picking disorder?
I’m 31 years old, and I have been picking at skin since I was a little girl. In general I’m not a nervous or high-anxiety person,and I’m not really even that bored! I just see dead skin and want it ‘gone.’ The only twist to my story that I have not read in other’s accounts is that I tend to do it to other people more than to myself. Mainly close family, but I also do massage therapy and if I’m working on someone and come across any kind of skin issue I find myself going over it gently until it’s gone. I would never and have not ever caused discomfort or bleeding, this is not desirable. I simply just want the dead skin-whatever ‘gone.’ My family jokes at me about it, and I really don’t mind actually. After all, it is a bizarre thing I do! But I am getting tired of it being such a thing for me. I mean, the urge to pick at dead skin, or dry skin of any kind is nearly unavoidable! Do I have true dermatillomania, or just a bad habit? And why? I just wish I knew what caused me to start doing this and why I still do it. I want to stop, but I don’t. I feel a weird sense of satisfaction in removing the dead/dry skin issues. Ugh! So weird!!
The behavior of picking and getting pleasure from it fits the criteria for Skin Picking Disorder. If you are interested in help for controlling skin picking, you can call or email us via the “Contact Us” page of our website, or find other resources on the “Links” page of our site at https://ocdla.com/
Since you also mention bleeding, it would be best to be examined by a dermatologist (if you haven’t already done so) to be treated for a possible skin condition or infection.
What you describe isn’t so weird. It sounds like you have a strong urge regarding removing dead or dried skin, on yourself or others. This appears to cause you both pleasure and distress, and sounds very much like Skin Picking Disorder.
It might be helpful to view what you are doing as a behavioral addiction. You’ve done it for so long, it’s hard to resist the urge. Once you start, it’s hard to stop.
There are ways to get help in dealing with this. You can call or email us via our website at https://ocdla.com/, or find other resources on the “Links” page of our site.
I have a family member that severely scraped his hands while working outside several years ago. This left numerous small splinters in his hands for a few weeks and the backs of his hands were cut and scabbed over. But he has continued to pick at his hands for the past few years since the injury. He claims there are still tiny slivers of wood that cause irritation under his skin. He routinely spends hours in the bathroom with a magnifying glass picking at his scabbed hands and it seems like this routine has only gotten worse. His hands have become severely scarred and he often wears bandages or gloves. As a family member I at first wanted to believe that this was indeed a rational response to remove splinters from his skin. But after years later and no sign of healing I doubt that there are really any splinters left in his hands. It seems that this has become a calming or meditative habit that he can’t stop. Can a skin picking disorder start with a real injury like this? I really want to help him stop but he won’t admit that this is a sign of a psychological or behavioral problem. How do I help him acknowledge this or even initiate a productive discussion without making him feel like he’s “crazy”?
What I am wondering is if someone has been picking at her scalp for at least 6 months and is getting bald spots, will the hair ever grow back? Thanks.
It is possible that the severe scraping your family member experienced triggered his skin picking disorder. There may have been some other skin picking going on previously, such as nail biting or other picking. It is not unusual for someone who repetitively focuses on a part of their skin (we call this “over-attending”) to “see” things that are either not there or are so minimal that another person would not notice them.
You are correct in that many people with Skin Picking Disorder experience the picking as calming or having a meditative quality. Hence, one of the reasons it is challenging for a person to “give up” their skin picking routines.
Nevertheless, help is available if your family member is willing to seek it and wants to stop picking his skin. If your family member would like to discuss treatment options at our center, they can reach us through our website at https://ocdla.com/.
Thank you for writing on behalf of your family member. He is fortunate to have a caring person on his side!
It sounds like you may be dealing with Trichotillomania (hair pulling) or Skin Picking Disorder or both.
We are psychotherapists, not hair growth specialists, but there are two resources that we recommend. The first is the website of the Trichotillomania Learning Center at http://www.trich.org, and the second is a book called “The Hair Pulling Problem” by Fred Penzel in which he discusses the hair growth cycle.
I have been dealing with more serious skin picking issues since I was about 16. I am now a graduate student and this remains an issue.I had eczema as a child, so I have probably always picked but by the age of 16 most of the picking belongs to the C category, on my feet and legs. It has gotten to the point where I pick until I bleed, and then just keep picking as different area until I can only walk on my toes. This is really interfering with my life. I havent worn sandals or short sleeves in years and I often have a hard time moving around excavation sites. I have tried to stop, but I find that I do it when I am not paying attention (typically obsessing about my interactions with other people, but even when I a, watching television or studying) and don’t notice that I am doing it until my hand is wet with blood. I have seen my GP for a referral to psych services (I live in Canada) but she told me dermatillomania is an addiction and I should just stop picking. Long story short, I was wondering if you had any tips to help increase awareness of the action of picking before the blood starts?
Thank-you very much for your advice and time,
Yes, use what are called “Habit Blockers.” They are things that you wear or put on your fingers so that you can’t pick when your fingers wander to your skin (when you might not even be aware of it until you are bleeding). Habit blockers include cotton or latex gloves, bandages, and tape. They also include wearing clothing over areas you pick to prevent you from picking without removing the clothing.
Habit blockers can be very useful because they reduce picking and increase your awareness of when your hands or fingers are going to your skin to pick. Once your awareness increases, you may be able to stop yourself from picking without using the habit blockers. However, habit blockers are always good to have available to prevent picking. Habit blockers are by no means the only step in treatment for Skin Picking Disorder, but for many people, using them is an important step in the recovery process. Experiment and find the habit blockers that work for you.
I have skin I’ve been picking at between my pinky toe and my ring toe(like ring finger) and it’s been itching really bad. It bothers me alot and I often scratch and it comes back in a couple hours. Could this be signs of Skin Picking Disorder?
Thanks for your question. What you describe could be Skin Picking Disorder. However, it could also be a skin condition. If you haven’t yet seen a dermatologist, we recommend doing so as the itching may be due to another condition treatable by a doctor.
I’ve been picking since sixth grade. It started with a scab on my knee and I was bored and I picked it then ate it and its gross but i kept doing this and then it went to my scalp. and I would dig my fingers into my scalp and gather all the black heads and puss and everything then eat that. and I’ve been picking my face a lot the past two or three years (im in 10th grade now) and i’m scarring my face and the back of my neck and my chest and I HATE going out in public with huge scabs on my face and I feel so self-conscious. But a year ago, I stopped the eating part, thinking I would start the process with that and end with not picking at all, but I’m still having trouble controling it. and I’m so sick and tired of failing. Do you think I could have Dermatillomania?
From your description, it sounds like you may have Skin Picking Disorder. It’s good to hear that you have stopped part of the behavior (eating what you pick). Perhaps you can apply similar strategies to help yourself stop picking?
We recommend seeking a therapist who specializes in Skin Picking Disorder to assess your situation and assist you with appropriate treatment. If you would like to discuss online therapy or face-to-face treatment options with one our staff therapists, we can be reached via our website.
I am writing you because my daughter is 7 yrs old and cannot stop picking her scabs. At first I didn’t think anything of it but I told her if she keeps doing it she will get in trouble and I watched her. She couldn’t stop doing it. She has scars all down her legs and now starting on her arms. Please help me I don’t know what to do to help her stop!
Hi Worried Mom,
It sounds like your daughter could have Skin Picking Disorder. However, it is advisable that you take her to a dermatologist to rule out other conditions.
Skin Picking Disorder can start at any age, and as you have noticed, telling your daughter to stop or punishing her for picking is not effective and may make her picking worse. A better approach would be to find a trained professional in your area to assess your daughter and to help her (and you) if she has Skin Picking Disorder. You can find links to resources on the “Links” page of our website at https://ocdla.com/links/.
Several years ago my husband started picking at blemishes on his face after his dad suddenly died. He suddenly stopped and started picking on his legs. He then started picking splinters out of his hand that he maintained he got working with wood products. At first I wasn’t concerned because I could see the splinters, but it’s been 4 years since the wood working incident and he’s just stopped picking and has now moved on to his face where he swears there are in grown hairs under his skin that he must get out. He’s made huge gashes in his face that I’m sure have caused permanent damage. I’ve tried talking to him about it but he gets really angry and insists that he has in grown hairs. I can’t stand to look at his face because it’s so disturbing for me to see what he’s doing to his handsome face. I know that I can’t make him get help if he doesn’t want to. How can I support him? Right now I’m angry and frustrated with him.
Dear Worried Wife,
It’s clear how challenging this is for you. Your husband likely feels challenged, ashamed, and upset, too. Most likely one of the reasons he picks is to self-soothe in the moment, even though after picking he may feel bad for having caused damage to his skin. It’s a vicious cycle.
It is very common for skin pickers to have picking episodes triggered by the thought that one must get rid of something on their skin. In your husband’s case, this has been blemishes, splinters and ingrown hairs. When viewed as a behavioral addiction, the issue in skin picking is that “you can’t just stop at one.” In other words, once your husband starts picking at something that may actually be on or under his skin, it is likely to be very difficult for him not to “find” additional things to pick.
Even if your husband is not ready to seek assessment and treatment, you can educate yourself. Our website at https://ocdla.com/ has resources, including a free ebook, a free 52-week e-lesson series, numerous articles, and links to other great resources. There are also many resources for skin pickers and their loved ones available at http://www.trich.org.
As hard as it might be, the less angry you are with your husband, and the more compassion you can extend to him, the greater the chances are that he will feel less stressed about his picking. He may then recognize you as an important ally if he decides to seek help for his skin picking.
Thank you for writing in support of your husband.
Hi i pick my scabs and eat them and i have since i was 2 im am now 16 and still do it what should i do thanks lacey?x
The first step is to visit a doctor to see if you have any infection or skin condition that could be treated medically. You can also read through our blogs and postings which have a lot of good information and ideas. Additionally, there are other resources on our website at https://ocdla.com/ including a free ebook, a 52-week e-lesson series, and links to other great resources. There are also many wonderful resources for skin pickers at http://www.trich.org.
Hi, I have this scab on my ankle that I constantly pick at . It’s gotten to the point where if I try to stop for a few days I start to pick at it again because it itches. I’ve been picking this scab I think for over a year or maybe a year but it’s been really long I don’t even know how it got there I know I just kept picking and picking at it and I’ve made it worse it’s so big now that around the specific area I constantly pick at my skin is darker around the scab and it’s really disgusting to look at I knew if I kept picking at it it was just going to get worse but I can’t stop I pick at when I’m bored I pick at it while I’m watching tv I pick at it during class and sometimes I don’t even notice when I’m picking at it! Just about three days ago I put a huge bandaid on it so I can stop and just last night I had to take the bandaid off because it was really itchy and I scratched at it and picked at it and I’ve must now made it worse and it was starting to clear up a little I don’t know what I should do?!
Now that I’ve picked at it so long when I do pick at it it doesn’t even bleed or ooze what does that mean is the skin just dead from where I just keep constantly picking at it? Or is it infected when I pick at it it’s just a flesh color
Should I go to a doctor or therapist? And I even pick at new scabs but then there’s nothing to pick because they clear up and I go back to picking that one. I just don’t know what to do anymore it’s an obsession .
I have a bump underneath my arm that I have scratched and when it gets a scab i continue to scratch it through out the day. I’m not sure if I am a skin picker but I do feel relief when I pick at it watch it bleed or see the redness and the tender places. I don’t know if this is a growing behavior problem but i do this a lot and then snap a picture of it to see where the tender places or the painful and possibly bleeding places are.
Step one is to see a dermatologist. While it sounds like you are exhibiting Dermatillomania, it also sounds like there may be an infection or skin condition causing the itching that a dermatologist can help you with.
Putting a bandage over the scab is a good example of a “habit blocker” – something that physically prevents a person from touching her skin, scabs or bumps. That is a small part of the therapy for Skin Picking Disorder!
After you see a dermatologist, if you continue to pick at the same scab or other parts of your skin, it would be a good idea to seek treatment with a therapist who specializes in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for Skin Picking Disorder. Feel free to contact us via our website at http://www.ocdla.com if you would like to discuss treatment at our center. You can also find resources on the “Links” page of our web site.
From what you describe, it sounds like you may have Skin Picking Disorder. Your emotional reaction (feeling relief) in particular is a key diagnostic feature in skin picking. It sounds like you are catching your behavior in the early stages, and we recommend that you seek out a therapist who specializes in treatment for Dermatillomania.
My husband seems to be suffering from this disorder. It started with ingrown hairs on his face that he said were very painful. He spends hours in the bathroom picking at his face and often asks me to hide the tweezers, scissors, etc from him. I’ve also found some pliers and others strange tools in the bathroom. I tried to help him with the problem by getting him laser hair removal for the ingrown hairs…which seemed to help at first . However it requires seven treatments and now that he only has 2 left he seems to be avoiding going… He’s told me he doesn’t look at me anymore because he’s embarrassed by his appearance. I feel it’s affecting our relationship but he is dead set against counseling. Knowing this about him I’m not sure how to help him. He is extremely sensitive about the topic and I know he will be bothered /angry by me bringing it up. I’m not sure how to approach the topic with him or how to help him realize that he needs a professionals help. Any advice you could give me?
I had this for years. I still get tempted and fall back into it but I have to force myself to stop.
My biggest thing was an obsession with dandruff or anything on my scalp. The bigger or thicker the flake, the better. Scabs too. I’d even eat them.
Its so hard to even type because I knew if anyone found out….I dont know what I’d do.
I’m not sure if this is something that can ever 100% go away, but I definetley have stopped CREATING things on my head to pick and it can be very easy usually for me to resist. finally.
I had a tummy tuck In Oct 2012 and I let most of my incision close up and no picking. Then there was a small spot that didn’t heal as quickly (scab)that was under my belly button but down further that was left and was healing much slower. I kept picking it and everytime it would scab over I would pick again and again. I did this for over a entire year. Then Nov 2013 I had a umbilical hernia removal and so I finally let the tummy tuck scar heal up but then started picking the scab around my belly button instead. Now it is July 2014 and I am still doing this, so now this scab is 8 months old. I can’t stop picking the scab from my belly button and i pick it till its bleeding evertime.I do this daily. I tried putting oil on it so it won’t scab over and heal with no scab but eventually it turns to a scab and I pick. I have put bandaids over it to try to keep my fingers off it but I still pick. I can’t stop. First it was the scab from the tummy tuck then led to the umbilical hernia scab, and there’s no stopping. I don’t know what else to do. I haven’t seeked help yet but know it’s not normal behavior.
Do you have advise for me on my condition and what I should do?
It’s tough when you watch a loved one suffer, especially if they’re not be ready for professional help. That being said, let your husband know that you love and accept him exactly as he is and that you are also available to support him should he decide to seek counseling. Until that time, educate yourself on Skin Picking Disorder by reading about skin picking on our website and also at http://www.trich.org.
Way to go! Thank you for sharing your progress. Keep going!
First, we encourage you to eliminate the phrase “I can’t stop” from your vocabulary. Each time you say that, you tell yourself a lie and reinforce helplessness. You can stop; you just haven’t stopped yet.
Secondly, see a doctor to check the area for infection. Then, seek professional help with a therapist who specializes in treatment for Skin Picking Disorder.
Ever since I was little I would pick at the dead skin that woud appear on my hands and mostly my feet. It gross looking and I would want to pick it off. Only rarely and unintintionaly it would bleed and it scare me straight for a week but then I would be right to it. I don’t seem to like it untill the dead skin is gone. If I read this article right I would be a B or am I a C? I seem beyond an A.
It sounds like there is something on your skin but you pick until you bleed, so that sounds like you are doing “B”‘s. That is, if you left the dead skin alone until it fell off or gently trimmed the part that is loose with a small scissors, it would come off and you would not cause bleeding; that would be an “A”.
Have you been to a dermatologist to see if there is a condition causing the dry skin? If not, that would be a good foist step.
Otherwise, perhaps using soothing lotions on your hands and feet would be a good alternative behavior to picking.
I have very itchy skin and scalp.Past few years,i scratch til it bleeds.Than i pick and pick the scabs,until i get deep underneath the skin from picking scabs.I have a ritual of squishing the scabs and sometimes burning them.Why do i do this.It’s not for anxiety..at least it doesn’t help mentaly soothe me in anyway.I just want the scabs off,and don’t like the unevenness when i run my fingers over my head or skin..weird.maybe u could help shed some light..I once thought tiny bugs were in the scabs..weird i know..but,baffles me.plz help.i know u can’t diagnose,but maybe shed some light….
Hello, I know you cant diagnose me with anything on here but im wondering if I have signs that point to OCD. Ever since I was a kid I would scratch at my dandruff. I would scratch till it bled. To this day I still do that. I get a weird enjoyment out of it. Its relaxing to me. I used to bite my nails but recently stopped. I still mess with them though. Bend them, file them and clean them constantly. Then I pick at my toe nails when I get out the shower. Ill sit there and pick at them till I rip the top part of the nail off. Or ill pick at the dead skin on my feet and peel it off. I also pick at my face. Ill sit there and stare at myself in the mirror looking for something wrong. Ill pop pimples that were no where near ready and pick at black heads that are deed down in my face so I end up ripping off layers of skin while trying to get the black head out. What’s wrong with me?
I was wondering if this could possibly be somewhat genetic. My little sister was recently diagnosed with trichotillomania, and my mom is the one who always drew attention to my pimples.
As a teenager, she would take me into the bathroom and poke at the pimples around my forehead, taking a sick delight in getting the pus out. She did this to my dad’s back before I was born.
I scratch at mosquito bites until they bleed and scab and then I pick at the scab. I always carry a pack of tissues in case I pick myself to the point of bleeding. As a child I used to get really bad dry skin rashes on the backs of my hands by my thumbs.
Now I’m living on my own, and to my horror, I find the same sick satisfaction in getting pus out of my skin. I now am looking on my arms and thighs, between my boobs, on the back of my neck, trying to find pimples under the skin.
It’s not even that I’ve ever had an issue with my skin. I’ve always been pretty comfortable in it. Is this unusual?
I have a brother that has mental issues and about 3 years ago he started picking and making sores that bled. I took him to every doctor and also had biopsies made of the areas he was picking. They can find nothing wrong medically. However, he continues to pick the same sore on a daily basis and also has created at least 6 other sores on his arms and legs. I have tried wrappings and bandages. He will pull the bandages off and pick the area that is healing or almost well. Since he is a diabetic, this is very concerning.. What needs to be done? I am at the end of the rope and do not know what to do. Please help. Thanks
Hi, I’ve been picking since I was very young around 7 – 8. I started picking my arms and then my face, really bad scars. I am now 48. I still pick face, arms legs and bottom of feet. I have bad scars on legs and arms. I don’t even realize I’m picking till after the fact. What to do. I also bite my nails and pick at my hands and fingers. I can’t stop. Help
Thanks for the post replies. I think it’s important for all of us to read stories so we know we’re not alone.
For as long as I remember I had bitten my nails terribly. Sometimes they will grow back to almost finger length but usually they are practically nonexistent. They rarely bleed because they are so used to this punishment. I’ve also always been a scab picker.
Recently I have switched positions to something I was very excited for. It looks amazing on a resume and its good experience. Unfortunately this position is a new one and as it turns out for about 70% of my time there is literally no work for me to do. This has lead to a lot of anxiety for me. I hate doing nothing. I hate wasting this time. I noticed my scalp was dry and I’ve begun scraping my scalp with the top of a pen hoping to scrape “all the white off”? I don’t really understand myself. On the worst day I also pulled hair – lots of it from behind my ears.
The most embarrassing thing for me are my nails since they are very visible but the scalp scraping is very concerning. Today my scalp is throbbing.
The only reason my scalp isn’t worse is that my nails don’t exist so I require a tool in order to scrape. Of course I don’t always have pen caps around. I’m sure hubby will question why there are pen caps all over the house eventually so we will talk tonight. At any rate this is why I need to work on both those habits. I Fear of my nails grow out it will mean further scalp damage.
I’m trying to kill a bad habit by adding a good habit I should be doing more anyway. Anytime I want to bite my nails or scrape I’m going to drink 10 sips of water. I will always have a water bottle on hand. We will see if this works!
I am so relieved to finally put a name to a habit I acquired at the age of three. When I was three I had an intussusception where the bowel kinks up and does not release itself causing part of the bowel to die. The surgeons cut out a large piece of the bowel leaving a six inch scar right next to my belly button. It wasn’t until recently that I felt this had to do with a terrible and embarrassing habit I have acquired. I pick my belly button. I have been obsessed with this. I cant stand anything in my belly button but because of depth of the concave shape and the texture of the skin, it drives me crazy and so when I am in a position to do something about it, I make sure that all moisture and lint are out of it. Sometimes I feel like I have to scratch it until it wears the outer skin off, and then pick it out. Sometimes the feeling of peeling out the skin brings me relief. Sometimes I do this until the skin is bleeding and hurts so bad that I stop. Other times it does not bother me at all. But, I haven’t been able to stop in the long term. I have tried many times to just stop. It is easier said than done. I don’t know if this is because of the surgery or I have other issues, but I wanted to thank you because I feel this is such an embarrassing and stupid habit to have, I have been afraid to talk to anyone about it. It is very liberating just to be able to post this and not feel like I will be mocked for doing so.
Some people with Skin Picking Disorder have urges to make their skin “perfect,” and it sounds like the “unevenness” you describe could fall into this category.
It could be helpful to identify the specific thoughts you have about “needing” to get the scabs off. For instance, one thought might be “I must get these scabs off or I won’t be able to tolerate the unevenness.” Thoughts like this one can be thought of as unhelpful “Permission-Giving Statements” – statements that allow you to go ahead and dig in to your scalp.
Once you identify the thoughts that you have before you pick, you can challenge the validity of those thoughts because they are usually distorted in some way – that is, not the truth. For instance, you could tolerate the unevenness but you may be choosing not to do so because it would feel very uncomfortable. No one likes feeling uncomfortable, but you have to ask yourself: “Am I willing to tolerate some discomfort to stop creating scabs and let my scalp heal?” Identifying things that are more important to you than picking will provide a great reference point to check in with before you pick.
You are correct – we cannot provide a diagnosis on a blog. That said, the symptoms you describe do not sound like OCD – they sound characteristic of Skin Picking Disorder. I encourage you to read our article on treatment for Skin Picking, as well as the discussions under these articles. If you would like to discuss in-person and online treatment options available at our center, we can be reached via our website at https://ocdla.com/.
Researchers found a genetic link for Trichotillomania (hair pulling) several years ago. It seems likely that, given time and research, a similar genetic link may be identified for Skin Picking Disorder. People are also affected by their environments, so you may also have a tendency to pick your skin because you grew up around it.
In any event, even though the “why” of it can be interesting, it is even more important for you to focus on doing something to help yourself. Access every resource you can find to help yourself stop skin picking. There is more information about Skin Picking Disorder on our website, and on many other sites, including http://www.trich.org.
It is clear how challenging the situation with your brother feels to you. Without knowing more about the “mental issues” it’s hard to say what might help. Is he able to connect with a therapist who specializes in treating skin picking disorder? A list of trained therapists is available at http://www.trich.org.
It’s important to know that you can stop. You just haven’t found the right tools or help yet, and we are happy to direct you to some resources.
First, I encourage you to read our article about therapy for Dermatillomania and the numerous replies to it. You will see that you are definitely not alone.
We also provide in-person treatment, intensive treatment, and online treatment for skin picking. You can learn more at https://ocdla.com/compulsiveskinpicking/.
Another great resource is the website http://www.trich.org which is for an organization specifically for those with skin picking and hair pulling. There are links to trained therapists and support groups that may be in your area. I encourage you to take advantage of all the help that is available.
I think I may have this disorder. I have been picking at my bellybutton for some years now and I am a C picker. I start sores their just to feel picking at them later I even try to pick/play with my girlfriends bellybutton I have been a B picker since a child though. What I’m really wondering is can this be dangerous and what usually causes one to do this.
Hi, due to some internet research, I seem to have stumbled upon this website. A lot of the symptoms described here seem to fit me quite accurately. I’m not too sure I may have this disorder ( since my picking is fairly new ), but I have a few questions. I had an abusive childhood and only until recently child services has stepped in. For certain reasons, I developed a self harm addiction, as well as bulimia, anorexia nervosa, depression, social anxiety as I went about my childhood. I have now just turned 15 and have gotten into the bad habit of picking and scratching my skin until it bleeds, then repeatedly pick the scabs over and over again. Sometimes I do it out of anxiety and don’t even know I’m doing it. Other times I do it because it gives me the same feelings as self harm does. Is this a form of self harm or can it be considered self harm? I only ask because a large quantity is the symptoms listed seem to copy the feelings of self harm. I would like to recognize what this is so I can decide if whether or not it’s another safety issue to look out for. Thank you very much, this article is very informative.
I AM NEARLY 70. NEVER HAD A PROBLEM BEFORE BUT NOW I PICK MY LEGS AND TORSO UNTIL SCABS BLEED AND OF COURSE INCREASE IN SIZE. I THINK MY HEART MEDICATIONS CAUSED THE ITCHY DRY SKIN IN THE FIRST PLACE BUT NOW I ALSO REALISE THAT STRESS AND BOREDOM ALSO PLAY A PART. I THINK YOUR ADVICE IS ENOUGH AND HOPEFULLY I CAN CONQUER IT NOW BY MYSELF, WITHOUT THERAPY BUT THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR THIS ADVICE. BEST WISHES. X
It may be possible that a side effect of your heart medication is dry, itchy skin. I encourage you to discuss this matter with your physician.
Hi can this condition be hereditary or genetic, because I pick the soles of my feet, as does one of my sisters and the other sister picks her scalp. And my mother also picked her feet. I am very resistant to picking other areas and can leave pimples and blemishes alone, it’s just the soles of my feet that are very dry, I don’t feel particularly anxious and I had a happy loving upbringing, but I can’t leave my feet alone it’s a subconscious habit, usually when I am watching TV and engrossed in something.
Could this be Dermatillomania??
Unfortunately, there hasn’t been a whole lot of research on the genetics of Dermatillomania. That said, there is good reason to believe that genes may play a role in its development. Researchers have found that a mutation in a gene named SLITKR1 is linked to Trichotillomania, a condition which is very similar to Dermatillomania. As research for Dermatillomania progresses, I would not be surprised if a genetic factor is discovered.
Oh man, I do this too. I remember doing it at about age five? I pick at my lips (sometimes till they bleed) and also at my cuticles, often until they bleed. Sometimes I get really upset because I’ve picked off all the skin and torn off all the healing scabs around my nails. It’s pretty gross-the only time I stop is when I start tearing the skin down onto my fingers because it’s just too painful. I remember my mom screaming at me as a little girl to ‘stop picking your lips!’ and that would just make me feel worse and go do it more. Lately I’ve also been having problems with picking at scabs on my body-I have bad eczema and right now it’s on my inner thighs. What do I do? Scratch at it till it bleeds. I also have a small scab on my arm that I’ve been picking at for weeks-it’s now just an area of rough skin that looks awful. My boyfriend absolutely hates when I pick at my nails. He thinks its disgusting and slaps my hands whenever he sees me do it.
I notice I tend to do this when I’m really anxious or angry. I’ve been doing this my entire life-maybe because my mom was so critical and always yelling at me? Now I know I’ve failed my parents (didn’t finish college) and it just makes me so upset so of course I just find more cuticles or places on my lips to pick at. This article is really helpful. I also have pretty bad thanatophobia that comes around whenever my grandparents are near me (which is pretty much every day) so around them it’s even worse.
I get some perverse satisfaction out of pulling out my own cuticles and making my fingers hurt. It’s very strange.
Thanks for your comment. Everything you write sounds like classic Dermatillomania /Skin Picking Disorder. This condition can be difficult to treat, as most sufferers (like yourself) get a certain amount of gratification from picking their skin. I encourage you to seek treatment with a therapist who specializes in treating Dermatillomania. Take care.
Literally I can’t stop and I pick at my scalp on the side of my head and now the hair won’t grow back.( My friend said it looks like a scar.)So every time I pull my hair up I have to try to cover it up. My mom said it’s from the medicine I’m taking but even when im off of it I still pick. Is there anything that will make it grow back??
Thanks for commenting.
We provide treatment for Dermatillomania, but we do not treat scarring caused by Dermatillomania. I encourage you to speak to your physician about what you can expect in terms of hair re-growth. take care.
I’m 21. I keep picking the cuticles around my nails since I was 15. Whenever I feel stressed or anxious, I pick more. My nailbeds are never healthy. They always bleed or sore. I know it’s not good since I’m a Med student who spends a lot of her time in hospital. There’s always a risk of infection. But I can’t help myself. Now, it’s getting worse. I start to pick my face since 2013. I constantly look in the magnifying mirror and find the tiniest bump under my skin (actually no one came see it) and pick it till it becomes permanent scarring. I pick at least twice a day after bath before putting any skincare on my face. Now my face is full of blemishes and scars which I made. (I never really had acne problem in my life, just some little clogged pores no one notices). I feel so terrible. I know I shouldn’t pick my skin. But I can’t help. I even pluck my hair when I’m stressed especially during exam seasons. I need some help.
Med school at any age is difficult, and the fact that you are in med school at 21 suggests that you are a smart, ambitious woman. Unfortunately, that is a common description of lots of our clients with Dermatillomania, many of whom are overachievers who put lots of pressure on themselves. You would likely benefit from treatment with a therapist who specializes in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for Dermatillomania. I would also encourage you to actively seek out ways to reduce the stress in your life. Take care.
I’ve always sort of picked at my cuticles, off and on over the years. However, over the past year it’s gotten significantly worse. I often pick at my fingers absent-mindedly until they bleed and leave scabs. Whenever I try to think about why I pick, it seems to be an impulse similar to when one might pick at a scab or a hanging nail: it feels like it doesn’t belong. It almost feels as though the skin around my nails shouldn’t be there. Whenever I would go any amount of time without picking and my cuticles would grow back, it would feel unnatural and wrong, so as soon as I recognize the feeling of my cuticles, I’d subconsciously start picking at them. I was wondering if this is more characteristic of OCD or some kind of skin picking disorder.
Thanks for commenting. Everything you write sounds quite typical of Dermatillomania (aka Skin Picking Disorder). Our clients with this condition frequently report that they pick at things on their skin that “just don’t feel right” to them.
It is worth noting that, while Dermatillomania is not the same as OCD, it is considered to be an “OCD-related” condition. I encourage you to read our follow-up article about treatment of Skin Picking Disorder.
I was a chronic nail bitter from age 6-21. I picked my skin from age 16-51 present . For the last 4 years I have been creating a very bad black scab between and in my my eyebrows. When I try to stop picking and scratching at it with one hand I unconsciencly start picking with the other hand as though it is being controlled by someone. When I get this under control for a while I then turn to my inner thumbs which I have chewed or scraped and picked the dead skin off using my index fingers. I have scratched sores into my thighs above both knees and I am constantly chewing my lips. I check doors and the stove constantly. I like for things to stay near and orderly and I panic if I can’t locate something that is missing or out of place. I was late for work every day for years because I could not stop straightening up at home. It would take me 30 mins to make up a full sized bed because something always seemed off. Help!
Thanks for your comment.
While I cannot provide a diagnosis via this blog, I can say that the symptoms you describe are consistent with OCD and Dermatillomania. This combination of conditions is not unusual. I encourage you to seek out treatment with a therapist who specializes in treating both of these conditions.
My daughter has shown signs of stress and anxiety ever since her mother and I divorced seven years ago. She started picking a few years ago, but has gotten quite a bit worse recently. She is now 12, and when I ask her about it, she shrugs it off. I try to be gentle, she is very shy to begin with, and then refocus her on something else. My now bigger concern is her mother has punished her for picking a specific spot on her nose; since it got worse, she cannot play on the computer. I don’t feel it’s productive to use negative reinforcement with any form of anxiety or O.C.D., and feel she may be doing more harm than good. Am I correct in my assumption? – Concerned Father
First, allow me to clarify that punishment is not the same thing as negative reinforcement. You can click here to get a better understanding of the difference between the two.
What your ex-wife is doing is punishment. She is probably well-intentioned, but the punishment is unlikely to have the desired result. Unfortunately, some parents think that punishment is an appropriate response to psychological suffering.
It is quite common for those with Skin Picking Disorder to see a spike in their symptoms when stressed. Being 12 is stressful enough for many kids, and your ex-wife’s response of punishing your daughter is just an additional stressor.
I encourage you and your ex-wife to discuss the matter with the initial goal of getting on the same page about the appropriate response to your daughter’s suffering. That said, the best response should include treatment with a therapist who specializes in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy specifically for Dermatillomania / Skin Picking Disorder.
Thanks for the clarification; It will help me discuss it with her mother more accurately. My first goal is to get her and I on the same page as how to handle it, then we will look into therapy for our daughter.
Edward – that sounds like a good plan. Take care.
I’m 25 and I have been biting the inside of my cheeks since I was very little, around 6 years old I think. Through the years somehow it grew to not only just biting the inside of my cheeks but also my lips. I’d often bite my lips and pick them with my nails. Then for the past few years I’ve also been picking my scalp and the skin under my feet. For the scalp it started as a dry scalp or dandruff problem and now I have 2 spots on my scalp with constant scabs because of it. For the feet, it started as a hardened skin but now I pick it off every time my hands are idle or when I’m bored. Not sure if it’s related but for background info, I am diagnosed with depression and have been taking anti-depressants for about 2 years now. I think I have skin picking disorder. Does it sound like it? Also, skin picking disorder is a type of OCD?
Skin picking, hair pulling, cheek biting and lip biting are all considered to be Body Focused Repetitive Behaviors (BFRBs). In other words, they are quite similar, and there is no real difference in the role that they play in your life. And while they are not the same as OCD, they all have certain similarities with OCD, and are considered part of the Obsessive Compulsive Spectrum.
I am definitely a C! I know this and have knoenough it for years. I NEED help but I have no insurance and am unable to afford help. ANY IDEAS? ? TYIA!
Thank you for your comment.
I encourage you to contact the Trichotillomania Learning Center (TLC) at http://www.trich.org/. They are the largest advocacy organization in the world for Trichotillomania and Dermatillomania (Skin Picking Disorder), and they maintain a searchable database of therapists who specialize in the treatment of both conditions. They also list many low-fee groups specifically for people with Dermatillomania. Good luck.
I pick on occasion but found having gel nails put on prevents me from being able to really pick. They are much thicker than real finger nails and it makes it difficult to pick at nothing creating cabs or to really pick real scabs well. I rarely pick when I have gel nails because it’s too difficult. it’s like picking a scab with a spatula lol. Your nails look great and your skin heals.
Thanks for sharing your success. We often recommend gel nails and other artificial nails to clients struggling with Dermatillomania. This strategy is called a “habit blocker” for the exact reason you mention – the artificial nails block picking by simply making the behavior too difficult. This strategy doesn’t work for everybody, but for many it is incredibly helpful.
Is there no hope for this, I’ve had it for years and I got bald spots now, I’m sinking into the worst depressive state I ever been in, I can’t deal with this any longer.
Thanks for your comment.
The good news is that there is hope for Dermatillomania. That said, it is unlikely to spontaneously disappear without treatment. I encourage you to seek treatment with a therapist who specializes in treating Dermatillomania.
Hey. So I can’t really say how long I’ve been picking my scalp, i can’t really remember. It started off as I’d pick at ingrown hairs on my arms, on my nails if they had multiple layers. I’d pick at the imperfections on my legs. Then I somehow started picking at my scalp. There was nothing on my scalp to pick at, I just started picking. And now I have scabs all over. But I just pick and pick. I’ve just created them. This has been going on for a year minimum. Maybe two. I haven’t picked my arms or legs or toes for months. It’s just been my scalp. I usually pick at my scalp when I’m bored, or before I go to sleep. Usually right after a shower too. It’s odd though, because the bigger the scab, the more accomplished I feel. If it’s bigger, I’ll be happy and examine it. If it’s small I’m not as happy. There’s even been times where I’ve kept my scabs in a little container. I’ve even hidden in the bathroom for a straight hour and just picked away. Spots on the back of my head are raw or scabbed. And now little white flakes just sit in my hair and I’m only worried that people will see the flakes. I’ve never told anyone because it’s not a big deal but should I be concerned ?
Thanks for your comment.
Everything you write suggests you are dealing Dermatillomania, aka Skin Picking Disorder. The sense of “accomplishment” you experience is quite common, and is actually one of the more critical impediments to treatment. After all, most people do not want to get rid of something that provides them with a sense of accomplishment or gratification.
You say this is “not a big deal” for you, and wonder if you should be concerned. But the fact that you are writing in to this forum suggests that this matter is at least somewhat of a concern / big deal for you already. And if you need further encouragement to see this as a legitimate concern, you should know that this behavior often leads to permanent scarring and in some cases serious infections. I encourage you to seek treatment with a therapist who specializes in treating Dermatillomania with CBT.
I’m only 16 but I’ve picked at my lips since I can remember – and my family all know it’s a habit and try their best for me to stop; shouting at me, pulling my hand away, etc. I do it without realising half the time and almost always end up with a bloody lip, and maybe hands. I’ve tried cutting my nails short and I always have Vaseline with me – but it doesn’t help much because I end up doing it anyway despite several layers of lip salve. My lips always look split, or have multiple bumps or dips from where I’ve picked at the skin too much. Even my friends have noticed I do it and ask why. I don’t know what else I can do to stop myself from doing it. Any suggestions?
Thanks for commenting. My advice is two-fold:
First, show your family this comment, and tell them to stop doing what they are doing when they see you picking. Shouting at you and pulling your hands away are not likely to be effective in managing this issue.
Second, ask your parents to find a therapist who specializes in treatment for Dermatillomania, as this is the evidence-based way to learn how to manage your urges more effectively. You may want to look at the resources available at http://www.trich.org.
Hi there. So, recently (past few weeks) I have found myself constantly picking, chewing, sucking, biting my skin and nails. My knuckles are very dry, and yes I have lotion for that, but it doesn’t help. I have a lot of stress with school and such, so I find myself chewing or sucking the dry area around my knuckles. I also pick the skin until it peels on my knuckles too, which is painful but satisfying. Often I will spend thirty minutes picking my nails or peeling them, and biting them too. I have fingerless gloves that are a little big so really only the top portion of my finger is showing. Those prevent me from cracking my knuckles and bending my fingers constantly, too, but I still but my fingernails and skin. I live in Florida, and if you’ve been there it’s VERY humid. So, wearing gloves or anything extra isn’t very fun. Sweaty palms aren’t fun either.. So I can’t always wear them which leads to playing or messing with my skin and nails. Do you guys have any suggestions which could help with this glove problem..? Thanks!!
Thanks for commenting.
While wearing gloves is a helpful tool for many in managing their urges, it is not a complete treatment protocol. My best advice is to seek treatment with a therapist who specializes in treating body focused repetitive behaviors (BFRBs) such as hair pulling, skin picking, nail biting and cheek biting. If you are comfortable with online therapy, we can be reached via the contact page of our website at https://ocdla.com/.
I don’t know how to stop picking at my scalp. I’ve been doing this for over a year and my mom gets really mad at me for doing it. I pick at scabs everywhere on my scalp, and sometimes I pick at them so much they bleed, but I keep picking. What’s really hard for me to share is that I usually eat the dead skin or scabs I find. I think it’s damaging my hair follicles, because my hair also falls out a lot. I mostly do this during the day, but that means I do it in class and there usually is dandruff specks all over my shirt or jacket, and I feel embarrassed when I go to brush it off. My mom just gave me some skin cream but I don’t know if putting it on my scalp will help. I also have another skin disorder, keratosis pilaris, which causes hard bumps to show up on my arms and cheeks. This makes my picking worse, since I now have a new thing to pick at. I really want to stop, since picking has been making me break out, but I can’t. My mom believes me, but my dad didn’t believe me for a while. And then I showed him the inch-long scabs on my scalp and only then did he actually start worrying. I need help breaking this habit, and I need help now.
You say you can’t stop picking, but I think a more accurate statement would be what you said at the top of your comment, which is that you don’t yet know how to stop.
The good news is that you can learn to stop. Unfortunately, you are unlikely to learn how to do this on your own, and would be better served seeking out the services of a therapist who specializes in Dermatillomania treatment.
As for Keratosis Pilaris, many people have this condition without picking at it, so I wouldn’t get too caught up in this issue as it relates to picking (though I do encourage you to discuss the matter with your dermatologist).
Finally, it is worth noting that it is not particularly uncommon for those with Dermatillomania to eat the skin and scabs they pick.
Hi, my name is Tori and I have to say that this article helped me a lot. I am obsessed of picking my scalp and causing it to bleed. This is because of my obsession with dandruff please help. My scratching of the scalp looks really weird!
Thank you for your comment. There is not much we can do to help you via the comments section of a blog article. If you would like to discuss Dermatillomania treatment at our center, we can be reached via the contact page on our website at https://ocdla.com/.
I’ve been picking at my scalp for years now, and I don’t have any bald spots but I’m pretty sure my hair is thinning. If I stop, will it grow back/get thicker? I can usually stop if I trim my nails because then when i run my fingers through my hair they dont catch on anything. But then I grow my nails back out because I’m a girl and they just look better that way. I also pick at my face usually round the edges of my scalp. I also pick at my back or anywhere there is a bump that I find. Without nails to pick at anything, I usually resort to biting pieces off inside of my cheek which is bad too. If I dont do any of those then I usually rock myself and rub my legs but that makes me look like a weirdo even though that is probably the least damaging activity I do and I don’t do it often. Anyway, I would love to know if there is any chance for my hair or if I’ve damaged my scalp to much. As I have said, I dont have any bad spots or scars. Thank you!
Thank you for your comment. I encourage you to speak with a dermatologist regarding your concerns about permanent hair loss.
Growing up I was a chronic nail biter, about 18 I finally outgrew the habit but now I pick my cuticles and fingers. I find a hangnail and just pick at until my fingers are covered in sores. I don’t stop when they bleed and they never get a real chance to heal.I do it unconsciously, I don’t even know I’m doing it, other times I do it when I’m stressed or nervous. It just makes me feel better when I do it. I don’t feel it’s a problem but my husband and friends say it is. I do it so often they’ve become used to and don’t notice it. My husband is constantly trying to stop me and I’ve noticed our 2 year old son is starting to pick because he sees me do it all the time.
Everything you write sounds like classic Dermatillomania – picking at your skin unconsciously, picking at your skin to relieve stress, feeling better when you pick. I’m not sure why you think having fingers “covered in sores” is not a problem. That sounds like a problem to me, as does modeling this behavior for your son, who nows copies your behavior because, as you note, he sees you doing it “all the time”. I encourage you to seek treatment with a therapist who specializes in treating Dermatillomania.
Hi, I’m not sure if what I have is truly a problem or if I’m just being paranoid, but I’ve been picking at the skin on and around my breasts for a while now. Even when there’s nothing there I can’t stop picking and squeezing until they’re bleeding and bruised. I haven’t been that worried about it until I realized that last night from about 3:20 am to 5:00 am, I was picking at my breasts. I didn’t even realize what I was doing and it seemed like I just lost 2 hours of my life, by the time I realized what I was doing multiple spots were bleeding and the majority of my breasts were bruised. While I do pick at my breasts the most, I do spend a large amount of time picking at my face and shoulders. Do I have a problem or am I just blowing it way out of proportion? Thanks. Also I’m a 17 year old girl.
Picking at your breasts for hours until they are covered with blood and bruises sounds like a pretty significant problem to me. I strongly encourage you to seek treatment with a therapist who specializes in treating Dermatillomania with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT).
I am quite young and I have two cats but they have fleas and were trying to treat them but nothing’s working and well I live at home with my dad brother and his girlfriend at the moment and I’m the only one getting bit which leaves me itching and scratching at the flea bite until it turns into a scab and even then I would still pick it. I do try to stop but I just do it without noticing sometimes , I get a lot of people staring at my legs when I do p.e (i moatly get bitten on my legs) everyone’s asking me “what’s Wrong with your legs” but I don’t want to tell them because I’m to embarrassed and now I’m looking more into it I’m getting scared what it might do to me ….
I am not sure if you have Dermatillomania – after all, you are picking and scratching at flea bites, which is a fairly common response to flea bites. Of course there is a simple solution to all of this – get rid of the cats. Yes, I know that you probably have a strong attachment to your pets, and I will probably receive hate mail for suggesting you get rid of the cats that are the source of the problem. But if you are unable to successfully manage the flea issue, then keeping the cats means you will essentially be agreeing to being in a state of near constant itching. I fail to see how even the most wonderful cats in the world are worth the misery of being covered in itchy flea bites.
I am so embarrassed. I am constantly feeling all over my back, arms, butt, legs, scalp, face…anywhere that I can feel any type of bump or scab or anything!! I have even missed 4 years of GYN appointments because I pick all over my breasts and I do not want my GYN to see what I have done. I do have GAD and I am on Lexapro and Klonopin daily for my anxiety. I sometimes will spend over an hour picking…only afterwards to realize what I have done to my body…then feel ashamed and upset…but I cannot help it!! Is it typical for a person with dermatillomania to disfigure their body over and over or is this something even worse?
Unfortunately, stories like yours are all too common. Many people with Dermatillomania cause repeated damage to their skin.
You say you “can’t help it”, to which I say, you just haven’t yet learned how. There is no reason to continue suffering when help is available. I encourage you to seek treatment wih a therapist who specializes in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for Dermatillomania.
I can’t figure out if I’m a B or a C
I pick at my skin (ranging from my face to my nails to the skin around my nails) but sometimes I “see” stuff there and pick at it vigorously until whatever was there is gone. Usually the aftermath is an abrasion, usually on my face.
I’m leaning towards C but I would like to confirm my suspicions before I act upon them.
There is no reason that you need to “know” or “confirm” whether you are a “B” or a “C” picker. Ths classification is just a way of helping people better understand their symptoms. All that really matters is that you learn to tolerate the urge to pick, without picking.
I just started scalp picking in January. Not really sure how it started. But I’ve been stuck in that cycle since. I have two areas on my scalp that have big scabs and I am stuck in the cycle of not wanting them there, so I pick them off. Therefore, they never really heal. I did stop for about 2 weeks but then started up again. It all sounds so silly but it is so hard to stop! Something about it, is so satisfying. I’ve always had anxiety and pick at my nails and skin frequently. Again, not really sure how/why I started scalp picking but I know I need to stop.
Picking a scab to get rid of it is like drinking to get rid of a hangover – it will work in the short term, but in the long term, you just end up perpetuating the problem. Your comment that “they never really heal” is evidence of how this vicious cycle gets worse and worse over time as picking continues.
Your picking doesn’t sound silly at all – Dermatillomania is a real problem with terrible results for many people. I encourage you to focus not on trying to figure out why you started, but rather on seeking treatment from a therapist who specializes in treating Dermatillomania.
I am picking and cutting with nail clippers or razor skin on my feet like toes or heels. It usually don’t bleed because it’s hard skin not soft. But I am extremely embarrassed by it and wouldn’t want my fiance think I’m crazy or disgusting. After I pick and cut the skin ,I chew on it and then spit it in a paper tissue and throw it away. I really want to stop it, always felt like I was the only weirdo in the world doing it. I’m hiding it from everyone, with socks and shoes. I want to stop before I get married and want to be normal about it.
Thanks for commenting. It is unlikely that this behavior will go away on its own. I encourage you to seek treatment with a therapist who specializes in the treatment of Dermatillomania.
Hello am 16 a teenager girl a have been so depressed over the years i suck my thumb and strach my hands all the time. I even do it at nights for comfort because i have insomnia trouble sleeping can u tell me how to stop sucking my thumb and straching my hand????
I can’t speak to your thumb sucking, but I can say that the best option for managing scratching and picking is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). Perhaps CBT could also help with your thumb sucking as well.
Hey I really need some help please? So since I was about 10 I picked at my bellybutton. The first time I did it i liked the pain and pressed further until i bled. Then a couple of months later my bellybutton was hard and sore and when I squeezed it it stung and bled but it stung but I liked it so I kept going. Now it’s hard and scabby and black. I do it so much that the fingers I used to squeeze and stab at it are blistered up from so much of it. Why can’t I stop?
If you are picking your belly button until it bleeds, scabs, turns hard, and turns black, you really need to see a dermatologist immediately. It sounds like you may potentially have an infection, and if so, step number one taking care of that infection. After that, I encourage you to seek treatment with a therapist who specializes in treating Dermatillomania. This problem is obviously out of control for you, and you will almost certainly need the assistance of a mental health professional to help you learn how to effectively manage your picking urges.
My feet I have dyshidrotic eczema which leaves scabs, open sores, and pus pockets. I keep pulling and sratching til it physically hurts ripping of chunks of affected and healthy skin alike. Even though it hurts I can’t stop. Also I eat my scabs, blackheads, skin, boogers, and finger and toenails(til they bleed and I must use utensils to pick all except my pinky nail which I coat in nail Polish to chew off so I don’t bit it is need it for scratching).
The fact that you are picking and eating your “scabs, blackheads, skin, boogers, and finger and toenails” and ripping off “chunks” of flesh, tells me that your problem is quite severe. It is just a matter of time before you develop a serious infection. I strongly encourage you to see a dermatologist immediately, and to follow that with a full course a of treatment with a therapist who specializes in treating Dermatillomania and other Body Focused Repetitive Behaviors (BFRBs).
Hi I was wondering if I have this disorder and how to stop it. I constantly spend 20 minutes in front of a mirror picking at pimples at my face it relaxes me. Whenever I have a short sleeved shirt I picked at my arms and now have huge scars. How do I stop this?
While I cannot provide a diagnosis via a blog comment, I can say that the symptoms you describe sound very much like Dermatillomania. You are spending an extended amount of time picking at your skin to such an extent that you have what you describe as “huge scars”. The best solution is to find a therapist who specializes in treating Dermatillomania with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT).
I run my scalp forcefully in order to find the small dry scaly pure of my scalp. The hairline of my forehead and neckline along with the part in my hair and the hairline around the ears all get the most attention at first. After I find the prime areas I continue going to town to run off dead skin and then it turns to more of a picking. My off time, like today I started when I got up and have been at it all day literally. My mind tells me I can get all the flaky, scab like properties off my scalp often causing it to bleed just to find it more so the next day. I will get both hands involved. This has been going on for close to 2 years, maybe more. Washing my hair becomes painful, burning and much discomfort. More than that it is making me almost crazy. I hope of getting my hair cut often or if I do get it cut I make stuff up like I scraped my head of our pets got a hold of my head. It’s horrible. I just touch my head of scalp and I get started all over again. Aargghh……
Everything you write sounds like textbook Dermatillomania. I encourage you to seek out treatment with a therapist who specializes in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for Dermatillomania.
I’m 16, but I began skin picking when I was 10 because I was obsessed with peeling off dangling skin near my fingernails. Usually, I use my teeth or my other fingernails to peel the skin as far back as I can. I have a stainless steel cuticle remover that I use most of the time when I get the urge to create new scabs to peel. I even manage to peel thin layers of skin up to my knuckles, as well as peel the thin layers of skin over my fingerprints (if that makes any sense). I peel until I bleed or until it hurts too much to continue, so I sometimes wait for the scabs to heal and start all over again. I have also been biting/peeling my lips until they bleed/feel raw. I have always wondered if I had this disorder (I tend to be a little bit of a hypochondriac!) but I am not really in a position to seek any possible aid or real-life advice.
You say you are “not really in a position to seek any possible aid or real-life advice.” Unfortunately, without seeking the assistance of professional who specializes in treating Dermatillomania, you are unlikely to get past this problem. I STRONGLY encourage you to discuss this matter with your parents and to seek treatment before you contract a serious infection.
I live with a woman who I think has this. Her face is full of scabs that she picks at constantly. Sitting on the couch, at her desk at the office, driving. Always. Thing is that she eats it afterward. Whether getting it with her tongue or wiping the pus on her lip. But then she doesn’t get her hands clean. Just puts them back on the remote or the phone or game controller or steering wheel. And a few minutes later, it’s back to the face. It’s unsanitary to say the least. Her mother sent her a text asking her to go to a dermatologist and she got angry. She said to me that it’s part of her psoriatic arthritis, which is legitimate, and there’s absolutely nothing she can do about it. I wanted to grab her and scream at her to stop picking at them, that you’re just putting the bad stuff right back in, but I figured that wouldn’t end well. I can only imagine how that would be. Is it embarrassing to have this brought to your attention? Short of dropping a slip of paper in her mother’s mailbox with “It’s Dermatillomania” on it so she can piece it together and confront her about it, I don’t know what to do without jeopardizing our friendship. Any advice?
Unfortunately, there is little you can do. Your girlfriend sounds like the living embodiment of the word “denial”. To the best of my knowledge, psoriatic arthritis has absolutely nothing to do with skin picking. Arthritis of any type generally results in sore joints, and I fail to see how that would lead one to pick. And it would have absolutely nothing to do with eating scabs and pus. My only advice is to compassionately address this issue with her repeatedly until such time that she is willing to admit this behavior requires treatment with a therapist who specializes in treating Dermatillomania.
I’m wondering as to if I have this condition.
Every since I could remember I’ve always picked at my thumbs; it has never been about my thumbs being imperfect or anything. I think this would be classified as “C”. Just recently I’ve started to pick at other places too like my lips, toes and other fingers too (not about beauty) and also I’m picking at my face (that is probably about the blemishes). Everything usually starts bleeding and it’s never really been something I enjoy, but I do it subconsciously and consciously.
My dad told me about 3 years ago that he did it when he was young too.
My question is whether its genetic and can you do the “ABC” thing out of order like I do?
Everything you write sounds like classic Dermatillomania. And while research on the genetics of skin picking is very limited, we have treated many people who have reported that other family members, including parents, also pick.
Don’t get too hung up on “the ABC thing”. This is just a simple tool for conceptualizing Dermatillomania so that people can see how there are different ways that people pick. Also, there is no right “order” in picking. You can in any order at all.
Hi. I like to pick at my scabs and eat them. I only pick and eat the scabs on my scalp that are formed after getting a chemical burn from using a “relaxer” in my hair. I highly enjoy picking the scabs and will spend hours at home doing so. If I can’t pick at the scabs with my fingernails I will use a comb and will comb my scalp hoping to find new scabs to pick that way. Do I need help??
Everything you write sounds like Dermatillomania to me. As for needing help, I suggest that writing to an online blog about your skin picking is a pretty good indicator that you are concerned about the problem. Also, it is just a matter of time before you get an infection on your scalp. So yes, I think you need to address this issue.
I’ve read many of these comments and I am trying to figure out if this could be my issue as well. I think the word picking is throwing me. I have never picked at my skin. I have always hated having skin that would come off my feet in the shower or bath. So I always used a pumice stone or foot file to get it all off. But a few months ago I started using cuticle clippers to get the extra skin around my toenails and the toes as well. It seems like there are always pieces of skin there i need to cut off. The skin on my toes and heals where I’ve scrapped with the clippers now comes back thicker and with a whiteish color. It looks so gross which makes me feel I have to cut it all off again. I don’t feel satisfaction at all. I just can’t stand the skin there the way it looks. I often spend an hour trying to fix the skin on my feet after a shower or bath. My husband tells me to stop, but I can’t until the ugly skin is gone. I have felt that i couldnt stop myself and i have had painful feet some days from cutting too deep. I feel like I have to get rid of the skin on my feet, but I don’t scratch or pick at anything else.
The preferred nomenclature for these types of conditions is Body-Focused Repetitive Behaviors (BFRBs). This term covers Dermatillomania, Trichotillomania, compulsive nail biting, cheek biting etc. The symptoms you describe strongly suggest a BFRB, regardless of you call it.
Hi I think I may have Dermatillomania, I haven’t really thought about it seriously. But after reading your information and others on the internet I definitely have the symptoms. I obsessively squeeze spots, blackheads and whiteheads on my face and neck even though I have very little. I brought 2 comedone extractors so I could continue to squeeze and pick. I do this several times a day, using the pointed end to poke pores if no significant spots or blackheads are there.
I also bite the inside of my cheeks and swallow the skin, this has lessened but is still a compulsion to some degree. I haven’t seen this particular behaviour before, and it’s embarrassing, but I squeeze the small bumps you get on your upper arms. I found one once that was slightly raised and had become a noticeable ‘bump’ so I squeezed it and became instantly addicted. I have ravaged my arms, covering them in scabs through squeezing the pores to get that little extraction. I also peel the dry skin on my heels, sometimes pulling huge plaques of skin and making them bleed and then not being able to walk due to the pain. I feel so ashamed.
What you write is a good description of a “B” picker. You target minor bumps, blemishes, etc. and make them much worse with your picking. The fact that you “ravaging” your skin and sometimes cannot walk due totes pain you cause yourself is a strong indicator that you should seek treatment with a therapist who specializes in the treatment of Skin Picking Disorder.
So, so happy to find that I am not alone. I am a 16 year old girl, and recently realized that my fascination with pimples is not normal, and that I should talk to someone. I go to my bathroom, turn on the bright, fluorescent light, and just start popping. Sometimes, I try to pop moles on accident because I get so into it, and freckles as well. Obviously, popping just makes my skin worse and leave the bathroom looking like a tomato. I tried to tell myself to stop for a week, starting today but its 7 pm and I just spent 15 min in front of the mirror popping things. I just don’t know what to do. I take Aderall, does that have something to do with it? How serious is this, and if I talk to people, will they take me seriously? I really really don’t want scarring, just thinking about it makes me tear up, but at the same time, keep popping. Thanks so much!
A few thoughts…
1) You are not even remotely alone – Dermatillomania is a very common problem.
2) Many people have reported to us that their Dermatillomania started or sharply increased when they began taking Adderall or similar stimulants that are used in treating ADHD. You should discuss this with the physician who prescribes your Adderall.
3) You write “I just don’t know what to do”. My suggestion is to speak to your parents about this problem and to ask them to help you find a therapist who specializes un treating Dermatillomania.
I am a definite seeker of blemishes and imperfections…. i will then try and make the skinbetter which makes it worse of course. A minor blackhead pimple will become a bigger issue as If it ‘wont go’ i have to help it with a tool of some sort be it pimple sqeezer or pin!!! Not only do I seek imperfections on myself but I cannot bear spots or pimples on my children….
Yep – sounds like classic Dermatillomania.
I am pretty sure I have Dermatillomania and was surprised and kind of relieved that other people are experiencing this too. I started out occasionally picking at my scalp as a teenager after I saw a kid doing during class. Once I started working at a job that caused dirt underneath my nails I started picking at the skin underneath my nails (very obsessively) they would bleed and now my nails are deformed and messed up. On top of picking the skin under my nails (I still do it even though I don’t have a dirty job anymore) I’m back to picking my scalp. This has been going on consistently for a few years now and now it’s causing hair loss. I’m so tired of doing this. I do have a lot of anxiety and take medication for it but this has become such a horrible habit. I used to wait until I got home to do it but now I do it in the car, at work, when talking to people, waiting in line. I just want to stop. I can’t take it anymore, my scalp and nails hurt.
This all sounds like classic Dermatillomania. It is unlikely to stop by itself. I encourage you to seek treatment with a therapist who specializes in treating Dermatillomania with Cognitive Behavioral therapy (CBT).
I think I may have Dermatillomania? I honestly have been struggling to figure out whether it is habitual or a disorder, though my girlfriend is concerned about my health. I only heard of the term (and this website) a few months ago, and since then I’ve been doing as much research as possible. I pick at my arms for the most part, and my face though it’s less noticeable I think. It started at least five years ago from what I remember, when I started middle school. People always asked me about my arms and why they looked like that, and I’ve been told I look and feel like a lizard with all the scars, though I never really thought the picking was an issue. But I noticed that when I’m anxious or in class, I’ll just pick and pick at my arms until they’re bloodied, and I’ll spend an extra hour in front of the mirror to take a shower picking at my face. Or in the bathroom an extra 30 minuted picking at my legs. I really do think I have it, and I want to be diagnosed because Lizard Arms isn’t a good nickname, but my parents are extremely reluctant to take me anywhere because they say it’s not severe enough to diagnose. Is it severe enough though?
You don’t need to spend any time at all trying to figure out if your skin picking is a “habit” or a “disorder”. Does it really matter what you call it? In fact, the evidence-based treatment for this “disorder” is called “Habit Reversal Training”, so the distinction between a “habit” and a “disorder” seems to me to be an arbitrary waste of time. The bottom line is that you are picking at your face and arms for great amounts of time, to the point of being bloody and having scars. That sounds like a problem no matter term you use to describe it.
That said, if you want a diagnosis and treatment, tell your parents you MUST see a therapist who specializes in treating Dermatillomania. If they resist, show them your scars and show them our articles on this topic, and tell them to pull their heads out of the sand.
I have picked since I was in my early teens. Sometimes I notice myself doing it but I can’t stop. In the back of my head I feel like it is solving something. If I can feel a bump, blemish or scab under my nail I have to remove it. I always thought it was because I was bored or uncomfortable. I also bite my cheeks when I am concentrating. How can I identify my triggers? At 32 I feel I should be over this.
For many people with Dermatillomania, the act of picking “solves” the urge or itch or sensation that precedes the picking. For others, picking helps to resolve feelings of boredom or anxiety. Perhaps it serves multiple purposes for you, depending on the situation. In any case, my best suggestion is that you seek treatment with a Dermatillomania specialist.
I’ve always had bad habits like picking at my nails and stuff like that, but its been getting worse over the years. once I stood in the bathroom for three hours picking at my hair without noticing the time going by, and ive also picked up a habit of tearing away the skin on my fingers until it bleeds. I am trying hard to stop but always find myself doing it. I’ve also been absent mindedly itching myself when there was no reason to itch, and then I’d feel itchy as a result and scratch even more. At night I often wake up because I compulsively scratch my head and I’m afraid it’ll get to a point where I do real damage. Should I seek help and what could I do about this?
This all sounds like Dermatillomania and Trichotillomania. As for what to do about it, the best answer is to seek treatment with a therapist who specializes in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for the treatment of these conditions.
I’m kind of relieved that this behavior has a name. I have been picking my skin for most of my life and I am now 63. It started when I was a child as scratching mosquito bites until they bled, which then formed a scab, which I would pick over and over again. In January of this year I was in the hospital for an abscess on my left leg which required surgery and IV antibiotics.. Currently I have large patches of dried skin on both lower legs which I pick every morning for about one hour. I also have areas of picked skin on my left heel, right big toe and left 4th toe. I have had depressive disorder for about 30 years and sometimes when I pick and it bleeds it reassures me that I’m still alive.My therapist and family tell me to just stop picking, but I just can’t.
Unfortunately, family and friends often take the stance of “just stop picking”. Of course, if it were that easy, nobody would have Dermatillomania.
Many people with Dermatillomania develop serious infections. I strongly encourage you to view this experience as a wake-up call that you need to get into treatment with a therapist who specializes in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for Dermatillomania. Otherwise, you are likely to continue picking and to experience more infections in the future.
I know that I have a problem but I dont know if Im a C or a B. My skin often itches without any good reason, especially my legs. I try to stop myself from itching but I just cant and then Im obsessively scratching my legs until they are bleeding and the skin was perfectly fine before. Then my legs are full of wounds I will scratch them open everyday, whenever I can. Right now its the worst it has ever been. It hurts so much to pick at the wounds but I cant stop. Im literally digging my nails into the flesh to get whatever skin is left off. Its bleeding so much and you can see raw flesh and Im sure I will have many scars. I already have scars all over my body but this time I think they will be really dark and visible. Im only 20 and I cant wear so many clothes because of it. I dont know what to do anymore cause Im not even sure if I want to stop. The relief Im getting from scrathing these wounds open is ridiculous but as written the bleeding, the scars and that it looks disgusting.. al of these things are horrible. I just dont know what to do anymore.
It is extraordinarily common for people with Dermatillomania to experience gratification or relief or even pleasure from picking at their skin. The best way to conceptualize the problem is that it is a behavioral addiction like compulsive gambling, sex, or substance use. Just as with these other behavioral addictions, people with Dermatillomania like their behavior, but they don’t like the consequences of that behavior.
As for what to do, the best answer is to get into treatment with a therapist who specializes in treating Dermatillomania with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). I also encourage you to subscribe to our free weekly series “Reflections on Skin Picking and Hair Pulling”.
This is absolutely what i have… dermatillomania. I thought it had to be close to trich…. i unfortunately do A, B, & C… I wake myself up doing it in my sleep. It starts as scratching my head, then i literally move my fingers over every inch of my body to scratch and pick. I do it to relax myself before bed. I do it when I’m watching tv. I do it non stop. My mom even says all the time “stop picking at yourself like a little monkey”. It’s hurtful but i just CANT stop…. o have scars all over my body. My scalp literally is raw 24/7. I also clean under my nails compulsively and clean my ears and belly button compulsively… i already am seeing a cbt and psychiatrist. I’m on Prozac and gabapentin for OTHER issues. I also take Ativan. I’ve actually been awake for 2.5 hours just picking at my skin. Starting at 3:37. I’m disgusted with myself. I also get so much joy out of it that i watch “pimple popping videos”. It’s just satisfying. I’ve been doing this for years. I know i will not look pretty in a wedding dress if that day ever comes. I’m sincerely worried about myself and the extent of this.
Unfortunately, what you describe is fairly common. Many people with Dermatillomania report that they get gratification from picking – even joy. However, they quite reasonably don’t like the consequences – i.e., scabs, scars, infections, etc. This is not unlike alcoholism, drug addiction, compulsive gambling and compulsive sex – the very thing that brings joy can also have incredibly negative consequences.
This similarity is exactly why we conceptualize Dermatillomania as a behavioral addiction. And like other addictions, you are unlikely to be able to easily stop it. I encourage you to continue with CBT, with one caveat. Traditional CBT is not geared towards Dermatillomania. For this reason, I want to emphasize that you want to make sure that your CBT therapist has training and experience with treating Dermatillomania.
Hi, I think I have a problem and I don’t know who I need to see for this issue. I am not so much into picking my own skin unless it’s an ingrown hair and constantly picking my ears even in company of others but I think that is only after my aesthetic surgery so I am always worried there’s still something behind my ears. My main problem is that I am obsessed with picking other people’s hair, blackheads, ears and clipping their nails. I only do this to people I strongly care about if they let me, like my grandma, mom, dad, boyfriend, cousin, aunt and most of all my brother who has not so serious case of seborrheic dermatitis since he was a baby, I remember spending hours picking the yellow flakes off his scalp and to this day I can’t control myself. He’s 19 and I have to go through his hair every day and it really bothers him. If he doesn’t let me do this I start crying. I also think about it during the day and it gives me great satisfaction when I do it and keeps me calm. I constantly check his ears and clean them but picking dandruff from his head is my favorite thing and it scares me. I also look at pictures of similar conditions online and I don’t think that’s healthy.
You are not alone in your focus on picking others’ skin. While this is not the most common manifestation of Dermatillomania, it is not unheard of, and it is really no different from picking at one’s own skin.
If you are unable to resist the urge to pick at others’ skin, I encourage you to seek treatment with a therapist who specializes in treating Dermatillomania.
I have a terrible skin picking disorder. I feel like I am classified as a “C”. When I’m playing a game or just bored I will get a sensation to pick. If I have no access to my feet I will resort to my fingers or fingernails, I will pick either until I bleed or I notice what I’m doing. Today, I had access to my feet. I picked at one spot until I felt I had dug under my skin enough to pull it pretty far. This caused an uneven amount of skin to be pulled, leaving me with more to pick. Thus making my foot bleed. My parents know that I have this problem and whenever they saw me picking they would tell me to stop I would but they can’t monitor me whilst I’m at school or in my room. They’ve been trying to help me but nothing has helped. I’m going to start wearing gloves again but I don’t think it will work considering how “well” it worked last time. Are there any other methods you could recommend to me? Please and thank you <3
This all sounds like classic Dermatillomania. Unfortunately, there us no quick and simple method to overcome this issue. The best solution is to seek treatment with a therapist who specializes in treating Dermatillomania with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). I also encourage you to download our free ebook on Dermatillomania and Trichotillomania, and to sign up for our free weekly online program “Reflections on Skin Picking and Hair Pulling”.
I’m a B person. I don’t know what that means. I pick at scabs or my nails, especially the skin under my bitten/ingrowing nails, which means my pinky nail is currently half the size it should be and it hurts to wash my hands. It’s hard to tell what counts as C behaviour, though. Scratching at dandruff until it becomes a scab? Scratching at weirdly thick/oily skin until it breaks? Cutting myself so I’ll have scabs to pick at? These are all rare, mostly one time things, but I have done them. I don’t pick at regular skin, which is annoying because it means I don’t know if I’m exaggerating my symptoms. I’d like to know, I think. It’s no fun to wonder if there’s something wrong or if I just “want” there to be. I’ve been picking at scabs for as long as I can remember so I can’t tell if it’s a disorder or just a quirk I haven’t grown out of, like when I talk to my teddies. I’m autistic. I don’t know if that’s relevant. My picking doesn’t really hurt me emotionally except when I’m worried if it’s a disorder, but it can make life hard physically even if it’s just hard to walk or wash my hands.
You say you “wonder if there’s something wrong or if I just “want” there to be.” Well, you also report picking for “as long as I can remember”, as well as cutting yourself so that you have something to pick at, so I’m voting for “there’s something wrong”. People don’t generally do the things you report doing. I strongly encourage you to seek treatment.
As a child I chewed the small finger on my right hand creating a permanent crack on the top of it. When I was in my 30’s I decided I needed to stop because I was worried someone would ask about how I got the crack. I realised that it was the feeling of my jaw opening and closing that satisfied me so I stopped chewing finger and started opening and closing my jaw really hard and wide (like chewing gum without gum) and did that for about 10 years. I never did any of these habits in public but the habit became so intense that I found it hard to not do it when in public. So I created a new habit and started picking my scalp (and eating it). My children used to catch me doing it and say things like “did you enjoy your little snack?”. I’m 67 now and I still have this habit. I will systematically scratch every inch of my head trying to find skin to eat. I also pick any bump on my body (mostly legs, back, arms and face) and eat the skin. I’ve tried painting my fingers which that horrible stuff that nail biters use, but it gets on my lips and makes my food taste awful so I stopped that. I’ve tried rubbing chilli on my fingers and that works but then I get it in my eyes…
Everything you write sounds like textbook Dermatillomania. I encourage you to seek treatment with a therapist who specializes in treating Dermatillomania with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT).
The only thing that makes it impossible for me to pick at anything are fake nails…as they aren’t thin or scratchy enough to pick…
Fake nails are helpful for many women with Dermatillomania. Our policy is whatever works is good, so long as it is not destructive. If fake nails do the job, then by all means keep using fake nails.