What is Skin Picking?


Skin picking is a mental disorder in which a person does all of the following:

-- Repeatedly picks at their skin,
-- This frequent picking causes tissue damage,
-- The picking leads to emotional distress and interferes with one's daily activities.

Skin picking rarely occurs in a person as the sole psychological condition. It is generally accompanied by anxiety and / or depression. It is classified by the mental health community as an impulse control disorder and is widely regarded as being part of the obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) spectrum of disorders because it happens to share features with the broader diagnosis of OCD.

To that end, people with skin picking disorder are far more likely to be suffering from the likes of OCD and similar mental disorders.

Skin Picking Incidence, Treatments, Effects

According to the International OCD Foundation, as many as one in twenty people suffer from skin picking, an estimate which common sense suggests might be a bit on the high side. The condition is more commonly diagnosed in women than in men.

People diagnosed with skin picking disorder can sometimes be successfully treated with cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), and pharmacologic interventions in the form of selective-serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).

Skin picking causes severe distress, depression and anxiety, in part because the patient cannot stop doing it, despite the negative effect on that person's life. Furthermore, because the skin picking is so frequent, the ensuing tissue damage can cause severe physical problems, including infections and may require major medical interventions.

What Skin Picking Is Not

It is a very common thing for people to pick at things on their skin—a pimple, a scab, an itch—and when it's done infrequently and with a purpose, it does not fall into the category of being a diagnosable mental disorder.

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