Dermatillomania (Skin Picking): Symptoms & Treatment


Dermatillomania, also known as skin picking disorder, is a psychological condition that involves recurrent and compulsive picking of one’s own skin. This behavior can lead to tissue damage, scarring, and emotional distress. In this article, we will explore the symptoms, causes, and available treatment options for dermatillomania.

Understanding Dermatillomania

What is Dermatillomania?

Dermatillomania is categorized as an obsessive-compulsive and related disorder. People suffering from this condition have an irresistible urge to pick at their skin, often causing significant damage. The areas commonly targeted for picking include the face, arms, hands, and legs.

Symptoms of Dermatillomania

  1. Repetitive Skin Picking: Individuals with dermatillomania repeatedly touch, rub, scratch, or pick at their skin, sometimes for extended periods.
  2. Emotional Distress: Feelings of anxiety, shame, or guilt often accompany the urge to pick at the skin.
  3. Skin Damage: Picking at the skin can lead to open wounds, scabs, and scars.
  4. Preoccupation: Constantly thinking about skin imperfections and the need to remove them through picking.
  5. Impact on Daily Life: Dermatillomania can interfere with daily activities, social interactions, and work or school performance.

Causes of Dermatillomania

The exact cause of dermatillomania is not fully understood. However, several factors may contribute to its development:

  1. Genetics: There is evidence that genetics plays a role in the development of skin picking disorder, as it tends to run in families.
  2. Emotional Triggers: Stress, anxiety, or boredom can trigger episodes of skin picking as a coping mechanism.
  3. Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD): Individuals with BDD, a condition characterized by a distorted perception of one’s appearance, are at a higher risk of developing dermatillomania.
  4. Neurotransmitters: Imbalances in certain neurotransmitters in the brain, such as serotonin and dopamine, may contribute to the disorder.

Diagnosing Dermatillomania

Diagnosing dermatillomania involves a thorough evaluation by a mental health professional. The diagnosis is usually made based on the criteria outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5).

Treatment Options

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

CBT is considered one of the most effective treatments for dermatillomania. This therapy helps individuals identify and change negative thought patterns and behaviors related to skin picking. Through CBT, patients learn healthier coping strategies and ways to manage the urge to pick at their skin.

Habit-Reversal Training (HRT)

HRT is a specific type of therapy designed to help individuals become more aware of their skin-picking behaviors and develop alternative responses to the urge to pick. It focuses on replacing the habit of picking with healthier activities.


In some cases, medication may be prescribed to manage the symptoms of dermatillomania. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and other psychiatric medications can be beneficial in reducing obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors.

Support Groups

Joining support groups or therapy groups can be beneficial for individuals with dermatillomania. Being part of a community where experiences are shared can provide emotional support and encouragement.

Skin Care Techniques

Developing a skincare routine can help individuals with dermatillomania become more mindful of their skin’s condition and reduce the urge to pick.


Dermatillomania, or skin picking disorder, is a challenging condition that can significantly impact an individual’s physical and emotional well-being. If you or someone you know is struggling with skin picking behaviors, seeking help from a mental health professional is essential. There are effective treatments available that can provide relief and improve the quality of life for those affected by this disorder.

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

Is dermatillomania a form of self-harm?

Dermatillomania involves skin picking, which can lead to self-inflicted injuries. However, it is not typically driven by a desire to harm oneself deliberately.

Can dermatillomania be cured completely?

While there is no definitive cure for dermatillomania, effective treatments can help manage symptoms and reduce the frequency and severity of skin picking behaviors.

Is dermatillomania common?

Dermatillomania is more common than previously believed, but many cases go undiagnosed or misdiagnosed.

Can children develop dermatillomania?

Yes, dermatillomania can manifest in children and adolescents. Early intervention and treatment are essential to prevent long-term effects.

Can stress worsen dermatillomania?

Yes, stress and anxiety can exacerbate skin picking behaviors in individuals with dermatillomania.


  1. Medical Journals and Research Papers: Look for peer-reviewed articles published in reputable medical journals that discuss dermatillomania, its symptoms, causes, and treatment options. Websites like PubMed and Google Scholar are good resources to find such articles.
  2. Psychological Associations and Organizations: Check websites of organizations like the American Psychiatric Association or the American Psychological Association for information on dermatillomania and related mental health disorders.
  3. Mental Health Institutions and Hospitals: Many renowned mental health institutions and hospitals may have articles, research papers, or patient resources related to dermatillomania and its treatment.
  4. Books: Look for books written by experts in the field of psychology and psychiatry that cover topics related to dermatillomania. These can provide in-depth insights and understanding of the condition.
  5. Government Health Websites: Some government health agencies or departments may have information on mental health disorders, including dermatillomania. For example, the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) in the United States might have relevant resources.

Related Posts:

Whats on this Page?

© Clean and 2023. All Rights Reserved.