Many people pay large sums of money for the upkeep of their skin, but there are some people who damage their skin themselves. These people suffer from an impulse control disorder called Dermatillomania. Dermatillomania is characterized by harmful and compulsive picking at one’s skin even when there is nothing to pick at. It can lead to scarring and redness, as well as embarrassment and bad self-image.

Quick Facts about Dermatillomania:

  • Dermatillomania has been tied to Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
  • People suffering from Dermatillomania often wear longs sleeves and makeup/band-aids to cover up their scarring/scabs
  • Dermatillomania is considered a form of self-injury
  • There are support groups fort those suffering from Dermatillomania

Diagnosis and Prognosis for Dermatillomania

Episodes of compulsive skin picking in those suffering from Dermatillomania can be triggered by stress, anxiety, fear, or simply boredom. During moments of stress, anxiety, fear, boredom or paranoia, individuals afflicted with Dermatillomania pick at areas of the skin that they perceive to have some sort of flaw (i.e. blemishes, scabs etc.) even if there aren’t any imperfections that actually exist. Dermatillomania can result from an individual literally feeling uncomfortable in his/her own skin or being self-conscious about his/her skin. Dermatillomania leads to bleeding, scabbing, swelling and sometimes scarring which makes the skin look worse; this leads to more compulsive picking of the skin, thus making it a vicious cycle of self-harm. The areas that people with dermatillomania pick at most often are the face, mouth (interior), lips, back, shoulders, scalp, stomach, chest, and even fingers and toes. These regions of the body are the most easily accessible and thus receive the most abuse. People can spend hours picking compulsively at their skin and be powerless to stop it; they are often aware of the fact that they are harming themselves, but cannot control the impulse to pick at their skin. Physical/outward signs of dermatillomania can alert medical professionals to the presence of the disorder and can help diagnose a patient.

Treatment of Dermatillomania

While there are support groups in existence for those suffering from Dermatillomania, these are usually not enough to help a person stop picking at his/her skin. Compulsive skin-picking is often caused by psychological factors like self-consciousness and anxiety, and these sorts of problems require therapy. Therapy usually focuses on determining the cause behind the Dermatillomania and the factors that cause specific individuals to being picking at their skin compulsively. Individuals suffering from Dermatillomania are taught/train themselves, with the help of their doctors, to avoid certain situations and therefore avoid compulsive skin-picking. Often, other underlying issues must be addressed before Dermatillomania can be controlled.

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