Dermatillomania: (Symptoms, Causes and Treatment Options)

This guide addresses dermatillomania in detail, including information on how it may affect you, what are the possible cures as well as how you may treat this disorder.

Several helpful resources may assist you with overcoming this disorder. 

Precisely what is dermatillomania?

Dermatillomania, also known as skin picking disorder or excoriation disorder, is a disorder that affects millions of individuals around the world.

It is characterized by excessive skin picking in which one may spend several hours scratching or picking various parts of their skin. 

This is not a psychotic disease. Instead, it is categorized as an Obsessive-Compulsive and related disorder.

People with dermatillomania are at risk of tearing their skin as well as other skin related injuries. This may lead to skin diseases and infections.

Dermatillomania involves a behavior where one continuously picks at one’s skin.

This does not mean that you would be diagnosed with dermatillomania if you spend time in the beauty parlour.

Dermatillomania is categorized by spending large amounts of time picking one’s skin. This could extend for a few hours.  

Many people are affected by this disorder, although the amount of time they spend picking their skin could vary depending on the severity of this disorder.

In addition to this, dermatillomania affects females in three-quarters of the cases. Affected individuals may use a variety of methods to pick their skin.

This could include using tweezers, one’s hands, or other objects to scratch the skin. Many people may pick and scratch at their skin randomly.  

They may feel the urge to scratch their skin even though they may not feel any itching sensation. This could be categorized as a habit.

You may notice that a person with dermatillomania has a continued habit of picking at their skin.

It is not based on an external factor such as an insect bite or a pimple, etc. 

People with dermatillomania do not necessarily enjoy picking at their skin. This is usually fueled by a habit that has developed over time.

As such, they may develop sores and scars on different parts of their skin. Dermatillomania may affect social interactions as one may have the urge to scratch one’s skin in public.

In addition to this, your schedule may be disturbed due to spending many hours scratching your skin. 

Possible Causes or Contributing Factors

There are known physical causes of dermatillomania. Most people may develop illness randomly.

This disorder is part of OCD. This means that the more you engage in the behavior, the more compulsive it becomes, and you may be unable to leave it.  

Dermatillomania may develop after one begins to scratch a scab or other sore. This may be a natural tendency to itch.

However, this tendency usually withers away.

In dermatillomania, however, it only becomes stronger, and the behavior may remain with the patient even after the sores have disappeared. 

There are many theories as to exactly what causes dermatillomania.

Research has indicated that there is a certain genetic component to the disorder.

People who are susceptible to social anxiety are likely to be affected by dermatillomania as well. 

Another cause of dermatillomania is stress. Many people may bite their nails or pick their skin when under stress.

This may become a habit over time. Nail-biting and dermatillomania are both classified under Body-Focused repetitive Behaviors.

These habits are compulsive, and the person may not even be aware that they are engaging in the action. 

Dermatillomania may have evolutionary roots, as well.

Many scientists believe that it is part of our tendency as humans to engage in self-grooming.

This disorder develops when people overdo the grooming and become obsessed with the process. 

Signs and Symptoms

There are many ways to recognize whether you have dermatillomania, or it is just a normal habit.

However, people often confuse this disorder with other mental disorders.

You should note that while dermatillomania is a separate disorder, it cannot be diagnosed in patients who are already diagnosed with another mental disorder.

These symptoms would appear as a result of that specific disorder and cannot be counted as dermatillomania. 

Many of the symptoms are common in most patients with dermatillomania. They are not limited to certain genders and ages.

Children, as well as adults, may be affected by Dermatillomania.

Therefore, if you notice any of these symptoms, in yourself or a close relative, you should advise them to begin treatment before they damage themselves further. 

Common symptoms of dermatillomania include: 

  • Repeated skin picking- This usually means that you engage in this every day. If you only pick at a scar or a mosquito bite, then it does not qualify as dermatillomania.  These individuals many not stop picking or scratching their skin until it begins to bleed or pain. For it to be diagnosed as dermatillomania, the picking has to be repetitive.
  • Spending a major portion of your day indulging in this habit- Many people affected with dermatillomania spend hours, picking and scratching at various parts of their skin. You may be so engrossed in this behavior that you may be unaware of how quickly the time passes. 
  •  Picking cause’s scars on your body- This is not normal. Although many people may pick at their skin, they usually stop before causing any damage. With dermatillomania, however, you may pick at your skin until scars appear. 
  • Another sign of dermatillomania is that the individual usually feels a specific type of regret, stress and anxiety regarding this habit. You may significantly disfigure your face, or you may cause infections to appear as well. This habit may also prevent you from functioning normally in a social setting.
  • You are narcissistic regarding your skin- Well, everyone is a bit narcissistic when it comes to appearance! However, people with dermatillomania usually overdo it. They may pick at tiny bumps and scratches to try to remove it. However, it often makes the skin look even worse.  

Can it be treated? 

Dermatillomania, like other forms of OCD, can be treated effectively via therapy and other methods.

Many people may try various techniques to remove this habit from their daily lives.

This could include motivational techniques as well as habit-forming routines. 

However, this is not a simple habit. Instead, a clinically diagnosed condition should be treated as such.

While normal habits may not be compulsive, dermatillomania is often compulsive and can be very difficult to leave through normal methods.

Although this disorder may be cured after some time, it usually requires proper therapy. 

Dermatillomania can be treated through behavioral commitment therapy.

This involves many techniques that may help you break out of this habit.

A psychologist may identify exactly what situations trigger the skin plucking and work with you to devise solutions for this problem. 

Many people may require stress management therapy. This will allow them to redirect their stress into more productive activities.

Your psychologist may recommend certain activities or hobbies that may replace your dermatillomania.

This could range from sports to simply playing with a fidget spinner.

Once your mind is occupied with other activities, the dermatillomania will be removed from your behavior. 

In certain cases, your physician may recommend that you wear gloves to protect you from hurting yourself.

This is usually a temporary measure. However, it is effective in helping you become more aware of your habits and is usually the first step towards change. 

Although dermatillomania is usually cured through therapeutic techniques, your doctor may recommend certain medications to help deal with the stress or certain underlying causes.

In some cases, antidepressants are prescribed that may help curb this habit.

Most people with an obsessive disorder are hyperactive or anxious, and these medications may help you feel calm.  

If you’ve scratched your skin open and it becomes infected, your doctor may prescribe an antibiotic to help deal with the infection.

This is a treatment for the symptoms and cannot help treat the disorder itself. 

However, medication may not work in all cases and should only be taken on the advice of your physician.

In most cases, this disorder is cured effectively through therapy. 

Some useful resources to help with your condition

  1. Here is a great guide that will provide you with techniques and tips that will help you break out of your skin picking habit. This guide contains a complete solution for people affected with dermatillomania. “Dermatillomania Treatment and Self-Help: How to Stop Chronic, Obsessive-Compulsive Skin Picking.”
  1. Another effective book that could provide you with unique cures for skin-picking behavior can be found in this book. Not only does it discuss the clinical aspects of this behavior, but it also helps by advising on how to stop this habit. “Stop Skin Picking: How to Break the Habit of Skin Picking and Effectively Cure Dermatillomania.”
  1. For alternative methods of dealing with bumps and pimples, this guide is necessary. You can find alternate solutions to your obsessive behavior as well as general skincare tips. “The Ultimate Skin Picking Cure Guide: How to Overcome Compulsive Picking and Dermatillomania for Life (Skin Picking Addiction, Pathological Skin … Addictions, Acne, Pimples, Rashes)”
  1. These Reusable Rubber Finger Gloves are perfect for helping stop you from causing bruises and wounds on your skin.  
  2. Skin Picking: The Freedom to Finally Stop is another great read.

Side Note: I have tried and tested various products and services to help with my anxiety and depression. See my top recommendations here, as well as a full list of all products and services our team has tested for various mental health conditions and general wellness.

Conclusion

Dermatillomania is a condition that may cause compulsive behavior in people.

It is characterized by excessive biting, scratching, or picking of the skin and is diagnosed as a type of OCD.

This behavior is chronic and may affect your self-image and prevent you from carrying out daily activities.

While this habit is very strong and compulsive, there are many ways to treat it.

One of the most successful methods includes a combination of commitment therapy and stress management.  

FAQS

How do I know if I have Dermatillomania?

Dermatillomania is usually characterized by excessive picking of the skin.

Although this habit may be natural, if you are spending hours every day picking at your skin, then you may have Dermatillomania.

You’ll often feel a strong compulsion to pick at your skin, and it might feel uncontrollable at times.  

Is picking at your skin a sign of anxiety?

Many people pick at their skin when they are in a stressful situation or feeling anxious.

However, Dermatillomania can occur even if you are not anxious. 

Is Dermatillomania genetic?

While more research needs to be done on the causes of Dermatillomania, many scientists believe that it has a genetic component attached to it. 

Is Dermatillomania a mental illness?

Yes. Dermatillomania is categorized as a mental illness that falls under Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder.

However, it is a behavioral illness that can be cured through simple therapy. 

How do you treat Dermatillomania?

The best way to treat Dermatillomania is through therapy.

This includes commitment therapy as well as stress management programs. 

hat it’s like to have Dermatillomania?

If you have Dermatillomania, you’ll often feel as if you are always itching to scratch your skin.

You may even feel like scratching your skin in social settings.

References

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