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Child Psychiatrist /Adult Psychiatrist

What is Excoriation (Skin Picking) Disorder?

Updated: Sep 9, 2023

Excoriation (Skin-Picking) Disorder

A person with excoriation (skin-picking) disorder, also known as dermatillomania, repeatedly picks at one’s own skin enough to cause lesions. The skin-picking behavior causes significant distress or problems in work, social interactions, or other activities. It can cause feelings of a loss of control, embarrassment, and shame and can lead to avoiding social situations. Individuals with excoriation disorder have usually made repeated attempts to decrease or stop skin picking.

a close up of a person's lips

The behavior may be triggered by feelings of anxiety or boredom. It may be preceded by an increasing sense of tension and may lead to a sense of relief after, or it may be a more automatic behavior. It sometimes involves a compulsion to try to fix perceived “blemishes.”

In the general population, the lifetime prevalence of excoriation disorder in adults is estimated at less than 2% and it is much more common among women than men. It most often begins in adolescence, and it may come and go over time

a close up of a person's chin

Treatment for skin picking disorder typically involves cognitive behavioral therapy, including a technique called habit reversal therapy, which can help identify stressors and triggers, tolerate and reduce urges, and replace the behavior with one that is less harmful.

People with excoriation disorder often have other psychiatric disorders, such as depression or obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Source: International OCD Foundation

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