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What to Know About Skin Picking Disorder (Excoriation)

January 18th, 2023


It's not uncommon for individuals to pick at a scab, a pimple, or a bothersome bump on their skin. However, if you find it challenging to resist the urge to pick at your skin, you may have a skin-picking disorder like excoriation.

Excoriation disorder is a condition where individuals find themselves constantly picking at their skin, sometimes to the point where it can cause damage or leave a scar. This disorder can be overly stressful on the individual’s mental health and commonly paired with anxiety, depression, and OCD.

If you feel like you may have excoriation or a skin-picking disorder, here's everything you need to know:

What is Excoriation?

What is Excoriation?

Excoriation is a medical condition where you can't fight the urge to pick your skin. It's also commonly referred to as dermatillomania and excoriation disorder.

Skin-picking disorder is considered an impulse control disorder, similar to obsessive-compulsive disorder. The repetitive nature of the disorder shares many of the same symptoms as OCD.

Individuals who suffer from a skin-picking disorder will pick at their skin in response to a thought, urge, or image about their skin. This creates a vicious cycle that can interfere with their everyday lives and cause significant distress. A skin-picking behavior is also considered a coping mechanism for stress, depression, and anxiety.

Research by the International OCD Foundation found that 1 in 20 people suffer from a skin-picking disorder. While it can occur with anyone at any age, it most commonly affects women. Individuals who suffer from excoriation should seek medical help or treatment to help them attempt to stop.

Symptoms of Dermatillomania

Symptoms of Dermatillomania

Since skin-picking disorders are considered impulse control disorders, most symptoms are compulsive and hard to resist.

If you are suffering from dermatillomania, you may experience the following:

  • Can't resist the urge to pick at your skin
  • Skin irritation, cuts, and bruising caused by compulsive skin picking
  • Bleeding caused by picking
  • Uncontrollable urge to pick at moles, freckles, pimples, spots, or scars
  • Picking your skin when you don't realize it or when you're sleeping at night
  • Pick your skin when feeling anxious, overwhelmed, or stressed

Individuals typically use their fingernails or teeth to pick at their skin. However, it's not uncommon to use tweezers, scissors, or other sharp objects.

The Two Types of Skin Picking

There are two types of skin picking: Automatic and focused.

Automatic picking is impulsive picking that happens without thought. Individuals will run their hands across parts of their skin they pick at often, looking for something to pick.

Focused picking is when individuals hyper-focus on one area of skin they want to pick. This can last anywhere from a few minutes to hours. Without treatment, individuals can experience severe pain and damage to their skin.

When left untreated, both can lead to severe discomfort and skin irritation.

Treatment for Skin Picking Disorder

Treatment for Skin Picking Disorder

If you suffer from picking disorder, there are several treatments and medications a medical professional may recommend to help combat the behavior.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a psychotherapy that can help individuals build and sustain healthier habits and behaviors. CBT helps patients learn how to control impulses, behaviors, and unwanted thoughts. With stimulus control techniques, you can fight back the urge and replace it with less harmless motor behaviors.

Skin Picking is caused by several different disorders. Whether it's anxiety, depression, or OCD: A medical professional can work with you to find the most beneficial way to utilize CBT.


If you suffer from anxiety or OCD disorder, therapy can be a worthwhile treatment plan to help alleviate some of the symptoms associated with your condition.


Depending on your condition, a medical professional may prescribe you medication to help combat the intrusive thoughts that lead to skin picking.

Habit reversal therapy

This therapy helps individuals become more aware of the signs and symptoms of skin picking. By becoming more aware of your symptoms and triggers, you can find ways to break the habits.

When to Seek Help for Skin Picking

Skin-picking disorder isn't easy to live with. It can negatively impact your everyday life and cause irreversible scars and damage. If you are experiencing extreme discomfort or find it challenging to fight off the urges to pick at your skin, it may be time to seek professional help.

The team at Clarity Clinic are highly trained individuals to help diagnose and treat those with anxiety or OCD disorders. We can help you find and build a treatment plan that can improve your quality of life and help you resist the urge to pick at your skin.

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