Can anxiety cause peeling the skin off lips?

This blog answers: Can anxiety cause peeling the skin off lips? What is Lip picking? What are the other causes of peeling the skin off lips? Is peeling the skin of lips common? What are the comorbidities of Lip picking? What are the treatment options for peeling the skin off lips? What is Anxiety? What are some ways to manage anxiety? What are the therapy options for anxiety?

Can anxiety cause peeling the skin off lips?

Anxiety can cause people to peel their skin off their lips as a stress-relieving action. This is mainly a result of increased stress and anxiousness that a person experiences and not as a symptom of anxiety. 

Many times people might peel the skin of their lips when they are stressed either consciously or unconsciously in an attempt to control their emotions.

Lip picking is also common in families with a history of obsessive-compulsive disorder or body-focused repetitive behaviours, similar to compulsive skin picking. Each person’s actions, on the other hand, are unique. 

What is Lip picking?

Lip picking is a type of compulsive skin picking that mostly affects the lips and the interior of the mouth. Peeling, biting, or chewing the skin on the lips, as well as biting and chewing on the inside of the mouth and cheeks, can cause serious injury. 

While it’s difficult for anyone to avoid removing or biting off a sliver of ripped skin from their lips, persons with disordered picking behaviours go further. They can injure their lips so much as a result of stress, boredom, or concern that everyday actions like eating or kissing become unpleasant or even painful.

What are the other causes of peeling the skin off lips? 

Some other reasons for lip picking are: 

Apart from increased stress Lip picking can also be caused by physical issues. Chapped lips, for example, can encourage you to peel your skin, and efforts to aid the healing process by removing dead tissue can set off a chain reaction of obsessive behaviours.

Picking can also begin with cold sores or fever blisters. While these behaviours may appear benign at first, they have the potential to deteriorate.

Lip picking disorders commonly begin in infancy around puberty, implying that hormones may play a role in some aspects of the ailment.

Is peeling the skin of lips common?

Peeling the skin off lips is a type of body-focused repetitive behaviour that falls under the umbrella of skin picking disorder. There is little information on lip picking and biting in particular, yet, much as prevalence statistics on obsessive skin picking is frequently underreported, lip picking is likely to be underreported as well. The lips can be one of many skin picking targets, including the face, making quantification difficult.

What are the comorbidities of Lip picking? 

Lip picking commonly occurs with:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression and 
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorders 
  • What treatment is available? 

What are the treatment options for peeling the skin off lips?

Behavioural treatment 

Behavioural treatments aim to raise behavioural awareness and provide a healthier alternative. The assessment will reveal whether the behaviours are automatic or deliberate. 

Either kind of conduct necessitates self-awareness and trigger identification training. Self-awareness aids in the separation of behaviour from one’s identity. As a person’s awareness grows, therapies such as habit reversal training and cognitive behavioural therapy can assist in the development of new habits and coping abilities.

Other co-occurring mental health issues that affect behaviours are also addressed as part of behavioural treatment. Because stress, anxiety, and depression can exacerbate behaviours, it’s critical to work on treating those disorders as well.

Pharmacological treatment 

There are currently no drugs licenced for body-focused repetitive behaviours. Pharmacological treatment can sometimes assist to alleviate the symptoms of stress, anxiety, and depression that contribute to certain behaviours. People frequently find it easier to control choosing habits after successfully managing those symptoms.

One pharmaceutical treatment has shown to be effective. When combined with other body-focused repetitive activities, N-acetyl cysteine (NAC) showed minimal effectiveness. 

However, NAC was no more beneficial than a placebo in a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled experiment, which implies it was a rigorous, well-constructed study. When using medicines, use caution and moderation because some of them can exacerbate choosing behaviours.

What is Anxiety?

Problems and resulting stress are usually accompanied by some common emotions like confusion, feeling at the edge, a sense of helplessness, and recurrent negative thoughts which can collectively be seen as an individual experiencing what’s commonly called  Anxiety. 

Every human has their unique ways of dealing with these difficult situations and the following emotions, some try to adapt to the circumstances and find the best and most comfortable solution while others try to find an escape route for the same, in both cases the main aim is usually to get over the uncomfortable emotions of anxiety. 

What are some ways to manage anxiety?

Identify and acknowledge the triggers

The most significant strategy that can be used to control one’s anxiety is by identifying and acknowledging those triggers.

Being able to recognize what makes an individual anxious makes them better equipped to take action.

Relaxation techniques


Even though anxiety can be bought under an individual’s control it cannot be predicted. In such situations, it is necessary that an individual actively carries out relaxation techniques.

These might include meditation, yoga, and deep breathing which helps to reduce the intensity of anxiety within a short period.



A key to reducing the frequency and intensity of anxiety attacks could be spending time with close family and friends.

The kind of emotional and practical support provided by these social and personal groups help the person feel connected and aid in distracting one’s mind from negative and recurring thoughts that lead to anxiety.

Apart from friends and families, individuals can also consider speaking to groups of people that are experiencing similar problems.

Set realistic goals

When an individual is feeling overwhelmed, setting goals and targets keeping in mind priorities can help resolve overwhelming feelings of fear or panic.

Setting goals provides structure and routine to an individual’s life reducing space for uncertainty which can be a major trigger for anxiety in many cases.

Take up new challenges

Apart from doing activities that an individual is usually fond of and has expertise in, trying new and challenging activities that put an individual outside their comfort zone in a healthy manner may help reduce the stress and anger temporarily.

Signing up for new activities also provides a path to meeting people with similar stories and concerns.

Lifestyle changes

An individual’s lifestyle plays a major role in their experience of anxiety. An unhealthy and busy lifestyle usually leads to unhealthy eating, lack of exercise, lack of adequate sleep.

A combination of a well-set diet, exercise, and sleep can help to regulate an individual’s mood and equip them with a favorable coping mechanism.

These coping mechanisms in turn help to get control over once anxiety concerns in a more adaptable manner.

lack of proper diet, sleep, and exercise can make an individual sluggish, dependent, moody and vulnerable to anxiety attacks.

Making journal entries

Last but not least having a journal to write down how a person is feeling and thinking when they are anxious helps them to reflect upon their thoughts and feelings.

Putting down one’s thoughts and feelings onto a paper helps to provide a sense of temporary relief.

In the case of journal entry, a person does not even have to fear being judged by another person regarding their thoughts and feelings.

What are the therapy options for anxiety?

Cognitive-behavioural therapy

Cognitive-behavioural therapy helps an individual to control their anxiety by using strategies like relaxation and breathing. It works on the principles of replacing negative thoughts with positive ones.

Exposure therapy

Exposure therapy is a kind of therapy in which an individual is exposed to a particular stimulus that they usually fear or are anxious about in a graded order.

As and when the individual gets comfortable with the situation or stimulus introduced or exposed to them with each session, individuals get more comfortable with a real-life situation that might have otherwise been a source for triggering anxiety.

Group therapy


It is based on the principle that when an individual interacts with other people who are suffering from the same fears they might not feel left alone or isolated. Group therapy usually involves a group of individuals who are experiencing similar symptoms and problems.


Anxiety can also be treated with the help of medication prescribed by a health care professional.

Though medication alone cannot help in reducing persistent anxiety it can help in restoring a sense of control and bring temporary relief. 

Online therapy  

In cases where reaching out physically to a professional is impossible or discomforting an individual can opt to seek help through the online medium. 

In this, the therapy sessions are carried out one-to-one over a video or audio call. Some individuals also prefer interacting with the therapist through text as well due to various reasons. One of the most common is the fear of being judged by the therapist or some personal hesitation. 

Online therapy can help individuals to regulate some aspects of their anxiety that aids individuals in carrying out a stress-free life over time


Although peeling lip lips can be a serious condition, it is diagnosable and there are treatment options available. It most commonly occurs in people who have a history of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. It can also be caused by physical conditions such as chapped lips or blisters. If you recognize any such behaviours, it is best to consult a doctor, get a diagnosis and start the required treatment. 

Frequently asked questions: Can anxiety cause peeling the skin off lips?

Is skin picking a symptom of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)?

In reaction to their hyperactivity or lack of impulse control, people with ADHD may develop skin picking conditions.

When I’m nervous, why do I peel my lips?

During times of stress, the behaviour is a stress-relieving habit. Skin plucking, with its repetitive motion and control, may provide comfort from other uncontrollable events.


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