I pick at scabs on my head somewhat compulsively, but only in private. The odd thing I noticed is that if I get nail tips on my fingernails, like acrylic-type nails, the picking stops completely. Can anyone explain this, or has anyone experienced this?

My obsession with scalp

My obsession with scalp picking.
I have been going through some really tough times and have noticed that I have made a mess out of my scalp. I pick until it bleeds, or just simply oozes clear fluid. It started on one small area now it's gotten so bad that I have picked areas all over my scalp. I can't stand for there to be a scab so I have to pick it off and of course all around it, to where it has just made it an even larger area. I hate this so much and seriously need help. Embarrassed by this awefull habit I won't go get my hair cut or even go to the doctor about it. It's so bad I get headaches from it. My scalp is pulsating in pain from so many and so deep of areas I've made. I've become so obsessive about it that I go in the bathroom at work and have to pick until I have picked everything, I mean every area it can be up to 20 minutes sometimes and that's just because I have to get back to work. I sit at the computer hoping no one sees me and pick. When I'm in traffic, and even worse when I'm home hours upon hours picking and digging,and digging and picking.
I know this is an OCD problem and I am being treated for depression already. I lost my job during the economic slow down 18 months ago, which I have another one now. But after losing the job I was so devastated that I resulted in picking blackheads from my nose with the real pointed type of tweezers and did it practically 24/7. I looked so horrible, I knew it but just couldn't quit. I knew I had to go on interviews but just couldn't stop. Eventually it just faded however replaced with the scalp picking.
I don't want to take another medication for depression in fact I want off of the Zoloft now, and the Xanax. Which I've been on and off of for 30 years; I so don't want to take anything else. Every time I stop I have to get back on something within a year or so.
This really has been a problem since childhood. I've always picked at scabs, could not stand to have an area of skin uneven. Picking the scab to fix the area thinking it would be better for it every time. My sisters are the same way and so is my niece. Pick until it's ulcerated.
I googled this just to see if there was something out there about this problem and sure enough. However, I haven't seen anything about an home remedy/ natural treatment for these affected areas I've inflected on myself. If there is; and someone knows of such please by all means TELL. I need the help ASAP. KB

Oh my. I am not alone I

Oh my. I am not alone I started doing this awful picking started march of 2012. It started as a small bump an pucked an pucked to a judge sore I would never let it heal I love picking the scabs an then watching them fall off then I started listing all my hair around it. Well I'm still doing that same area now with four more like it. Its soothing . I will b back to chat more I'm in chronic pain an suffer with anxieties. I have always liked picked dry scalp on my family an they found it odd. But always saying it would help them get rid of it. Its become over powering an controlling. Thank u

Hi Katbee, What you are

Hi Katbee,
What you are describing is known as dermatillomania. It is an impulse control disorder. In some inividuals it is part of their OCD, and in some it is related to body dysmporhpic disorder. For some it is not related to either OCD or body dysmorphic disorder.

You mention that this runs in your family. It could be a learned behavior, and there may be a hereditary component as well.

You also state taht you are being treated for depression, and that you have been "off and on" medications (Zoloft and Xanax) for 30 years. Xanax is used for the short term treatment of anxiety, and should never be used long term. It is highly addictive and provides only short term relief. In most cases, when disorders are treated with medication alone, particularly anxiety, the symptoms often return shortly after the medication is stopped. It sounds like that has been the pattern for you.

Have you had psychotherapy for your depression or for the scalp picking? Medication alone is rarely the best treatment for any psychiatric disorder. I think you would benefit from psychotherapy focused on this issue.

As for "home remedies", it will take a
significant amount of determination on your part to overcome this, because it is deeply ingrained. One of the things you could try is finding ways to keep your hands busy. For example, get a koosh ball or another type of "finger toy".

If you are doing this when you feel anxious - as a way of self-soothing - then relaxation exercises may help.

The most important thing in overcoming this will be to address whatever it is that is driving it. If it is anxiety, then that needs to be dealt with. If it is boredom (which is sometimes the case - as this provides a form of stimulation)- then that needs to be addressed.

I encourage you to keep an accurate log of when you do it - keep track of what was happening shortly before you started picking - if at work, were you bored, upset, anxious, stressed, etc? If at home, what was going on? Write down what you were thinking about and what you were feeling at the time? This will provide valuable information that may help you have a better idea of what has been driving this behavior for all these years.

You may also want to check out this site for more helpful information on this topic: http://www.skinpick.com/

I hope you are able to get the help you need for this, as it sounds like it has caused you significant distress for a very long time.

Dr. Lane

Dr. Cheryl Lane, Thank you

Dr. Cheryl Lane,
Thank you for taking the time to read about my dilemma. Your concern, and feed back are greatly appreciated. I know I need to go to the Doctor about this issue. However my Doctor has no idea that I've been battling with this issue. Were just dealing with all the other issues that's going on. And yes this picking thing has been going on most my life and I never put "the picking at scabs" anywhere on my body as related to my depression issues. Until; I lost my job then started picking blackheads on my nose with no end insight. I feel like it's a self mutilation type of thing. Then of coarse I feel a pimple on my head started picking at that then one thing led to another and I've made a mess out of my scalp. It's horrible. I never considered it like a self mutilation until I tried to seek help through the internet. I was vigorously picking at my head and googled,not knowing what to google so I typed in scalp... and that was it, and I saw scalp picking. Started reading some stuff and realized that's what's happening to me. Just reading the articles, I felt has helped me. When I felt the urge to pick, I would just rub instead. However that only lasted about a day and a half. So I cut my nails. That makes me try to scratch harder at the bumps. But I'm am more aware of it and really trying to do this on my own. I actually am trying to loose weight and feel like the Zoloft is keeping it on me so I lowered my dosage just by 50mg I had been taking 150mg and and I did that just last week. I will see my doc if I feel this is not going to stop soon. I'm more aware of it now, so I'll just have to try harder. I know what your saying about this being a deeper issue and most any drug is just a temporary fix, that's very right I just keep replacing one bad habit for another. That's the way it's been all my life. I don't want to except it but any psychiatrist that I have ever been to has only listened to me and prescribed meds. I don't want that anymore. So in the dilemma I may have to stay. Kath

i used to pick my scalp a lot

i used to pick my scalp a lot too, when i was a kid i was depressed a lot and nervous a lot only when i was a kid picking scabs or dry bumps on my head i use to save them in a pill bottle obsessing that i was leaving them behind for some one to find after i died, like it was a way some how to be remembered i dont know who i thought would find the bottle and know or care but i had to do it.sounds sick doesnt it? I finnaly stopped somehow.But started picking again years later as an adult, then i started obsessing about being with other guys,mind u I am married and love my husband, i eventualy got past that, then it was the # 666 Worked at a factory i made part for whirl pool on a weld machine i had to weld 696 parts a day, the machine had a counter every time i got to 666 id close my eyes and weld twice then when i opened my eyes 666 would be long gone to my mind i voided out that evil #now ive got other issues of the religous nature Ive loved God and Jesus my lord but I have fear of sin and Gods wrath and do constant repenting when i know its unreasonable the desperation I feel, I desperately say the sinners prayer and ask God to please help me
I dont want to doubt my salvation but everytime I say the prayer I doubt I did it right and if I really meant it I know i meant it but it never feels just right this is the worst obsession yet,I eventually had to quit work and go on disability.Im on meds they help a little sometimes,Im seeing a therapist now and am going to join group therapy soon. I want and need help.But just know youre not alone.This is a horrible thing to live with.

i used to pick my scalp a lot

i used to pick my scalp a lot too, when i was a kid i was depressed a lot and nervous a lot only when i was a kid picking scabs or dry bumps on my head i use to save them in a pill bottle obsessing that i was leaving them behind for some one to find after i died, like it was a way some how to be remembered i dont know who i thought would find the bottle and know or care but i had to do it.sounds sick doesnt it? I finnaly stopped somehow.But started picking again years later as an adult, then i started obsessing about being with other guys,mind u I am married and love my husband, i eventualy got past that, then it was the # 666 Worked at a factory i made part for whirl pool on a weld machine i had to weld 696 parts a day, the machine had a counter every time i got to 666 id close my eyes and weld twice then when i opened my eyes 666 would be long gone to my mind i voided out that evil #now ive got other issues of the religous nature Ive loved God and Jesus my lord but I have fear of sin and Gods wrath and do constant repenting when i know its unreasonable the desperation I feel, I desperately say the sinners prayer and ask God to please help me
I dont want to doubt my salvation but everytime I say the prayer I doubt I did it right and if I really meant it I know i meant it but it never feels just right this is the worst obsession yet,I eventually had to quit work and go on disability.Im on meds they help a little sometimes,Im seeing a therapist now and am going to join group therapy soon. I want and need help.But just know youre not alone.This is a horrible thing to live with.

Kath, Thank you for

Kath,
Thank you for providig a little more information. Yes, you very well may be self-mutilating. While I don't want to say you can't stop this on your own, it is extremely difficult to do so, especially if you don't know why you're doing it.
I also encourage you to consider seeing a psychotherapist (a psychologist, a master's level therapist, or a clinical social worker) rather than a psychiatrist. While I have great respect for psychiatrists, I have found that psychotherapy is not usually their strong point (obviously I can't speak for all of them). Their primary focus is often prescribing medication.

If possible, I think you would benefit from weekly or bi-weekly psychotherapy to really address this issue. Granted, it is difficult (and sometimes impossible) to address multiple issues in psychotherapy, but if they are related then it will be to your benefit to let your therapist know.

Also, I suggest you look for a therapist who specializes in or has a lot of experience in treating OCD or compulsive behavior in general. And preferably someone who does not have a "psychoanalytical" orientation. You may benefit from cognitive behavioral therapy or another type of therapy in which the therapist is not just listening, but is much more interactive and helps you develop the skills you need to manage your issues and hopefully overcome them in time. It sounds like you are not getting what you need from the doctor you are currently seeing.

Not every therapist is going to be the right fit. So I encourage you to talk briefly by phone to a few in order to find the right fit for you.

One of the greatest complaints I had from patients and clients with regards to their previous or current treatment providers was that "all they did was listen" - in my experience (and perhaps my bias) that only helps to a point.

I do think you have some good insight into your behaviors, and I commend you for that!

Dr. Lane

oh my gosh i have been doing

oh my gosh i have been doing this for the pass 3-4 years and i like to see the scabs fall off and i would pick my moms dry scalp and she would call me a monkey but... she doesnt know i pick my scabs cause i am bored or stressed and i just got a habit and now i have like 5-6 scabs on my scalp and i just dont know what to do i have went to a counciler bit she just gave me a stress ball and i still do it mostly when im mad or sad what can i do??

Hi Allison, Compulsive skin

Hi Allison,

Compulsive skin picking is a very real disorder. I'll be honest in that I don't think it is a good idea at all for your mother to ever allow you to pick at her scalp. That is just reinforcing and enabling your compulsive skin picking.

You said you went to see a counselor but "she just gave me a stress ball". Did you see the counselor only once? An experienced therapist would most likely do more than simply give you a stress ball and send you on your way.

That being said, the stress ball is one way of helping to keep you from picking your skin. It's often used as part of therapy, but not typically the entire treatment.

If this is causing you a lot of distress as well as creating sores on your skin as a result of the picking, then I encourage you to keep working with the counselor, of find a new one who has a lot of experience in treating compulsive behaviors.

Ultimately, the goal is to reduce the urge to pick, and that is a process. Using the stress ball (e.g. when you are mad or sad) is definitely something I encourage you to do, a that will keep your hands busy. So, please don't discount its value (which it sounds like you are doing).

You can read more about compulsive skin picking in an article on this site (the link is on the left margin of this web page, in the section "Spectrum Disorders" and then "Compulsive Skin Picking").

I hope this helps.

Dr. Lane

I did not realize that this

I did not realize that this was a real problem. I have been doing this for about 22 years. (off and on) I did not know that it was a form of OCD. I am starting to have head pains, not headaches, just pains that come and go, just in the past week or so. Has anyone ever had that problem? I pick my scalp all day long, and even in my sleep. I will wake up with blood on my pillow. It is very embarrassing. I try not to do it in front of people, but sometimes I do not realize that I am doing it.

 
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