Understanding Mental Health: Dermatillomania (Compulsive Skin Picking Disorder)

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By Ella Thwaites, Mental Health Editor | @ellathwaites_
Sub-edited by Jasmine Wing | @jasminenatashaw

Dermatillomania is a chronic skin picking disorder where sufferers will obsessively pick/pull/scrape/bite at their skin for long periods of time causing painful abrasions to appear.

The condition is often related to OCD so it’s not uncommon for people with dermatillomania to exhibit other obsessive behaviours. The disorder is a form of ‘body-focused repetitive behaviour’ similar to trichotillomania (obsessive hair pulling) or onychophagia (nail biting), usually triggered by anxiety or stress.

Dermatillomania affects up to 1.4% of the total population, approximately 75% of those being female. As opposed to the regular habit of skin picking, dermatillomania is deep-rooted and causes a person to spend several hours thinking about or physically picking their skin – the pain and visible lesions caused by picking which then leads to anxiety and embarrassment, resulting in further skin picking.

Despite being a serious issue, it is thought that fewer than 1 in 5 people with dermatillomania actually seek treatment due to shame or anxiety. There isn’t a definitive treatment that is known to cure dermatillomania but generally, cognitive behavioural therapy or habit reversal therapy is used to curb the symptoms. In some cases, anxiety medications such as doxepin have been prescribed in order to calm the urges.

Dermatillomania is widely misunderstood and shouldn’t be self-diagnosed as there could be an underlying medical issue like eczema or liver disease etc, causing the habit of skin picking.

If you feel that you may suffer from dermatillomania, you should get in touch with your GP to get a better understanding of the issue. If diagnosed it’s extremely hard to improve the condition by yourself. There are many avenues of treatment you can go down to help gain control of the disorder.

…or why not give a ‘Pimple Popper Toy’ a try!

About Ella Thwaits 24 Articles
Ella is currently working hard to recover from an anxiety disorder and spends her time writing blog posts (www.ellathwaites.co.uk), reading, sewing, and listening to music. Ella received an A in GCSE English and has always enjoyed writing.

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