Excoriation Disorder (Skin Picking): What It It & How To Deal With It

Last Update on May 18, 2021 : Published on October 31, 2020
how to deal with Excoriation disorder

An individual suffering from excoriation disorder or dermatillomania goes through mental illness where a repeated behavior of picking one’s own skin goes on. This skin picking even results in skin lesions and even disrupts the normal functioning of a human life. Alongside the disorder, other health conditions like Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder may also develop.

What Is Skin Picking Or Excoriation Disorder?

Skin picking disorder may seem a little issue for some but it can have a major impact on a person’s overall functioning. The person may scratch and pick healthy skin as well as keep picking up pimples, scabs or calluses. It may go for days, months and even years and typically begins during adolescence.

Skin Picking Disorder doesn’t have an underlying cause but it is very common with people who have OCD or have a genetic predisposition to the condition. Interestingly, this disorder is found in 1.4% of American population and is more common in females than males.

Skin Picking Disorder doesn’t have an underlying cause but it is very common with people who have OCD or have a genetic predisposition to the condition. Interestingly, this disorder is found in 1.4% of American population and is more common in females than males.

Signs & Symptoms Of Excoriation Disorder

There are some symptoms that can be checked for picking disorder like:

  • Recurrent skin picking that results in skin lesions
  • Developing open wounds due to picking
  • Significant psychological and physical impairment due to skin picking
  • Trying to remove patches create additional wounds
  • Picking of skin near fingernail and toenails unless it becomes sore or bleeds again.

This disorder usually begins through infection, injury, or wound which creates a scab on healing. This healing stops as a new wound appear and the cycle keeps going in the same place. This behavior becomes a stress relief habit for many and they keep repeating it to provide themselves psychological relief.

Signs & Symptoms Of Excoriation Disorder

Image source: Visually

Although it can happen in any age, the most common phase is adolescence, during 13-16 years of age. The other illnesses that may come up during the disorder are:

  • Major depressive disorder
  • Trichotillomania or hair pulling
  • Body dysmorphic disorder where a person tried removing ‘imperfections’ to have a good body image.
  • Nail biting, lip biting or chewing own cheeks

Excoriation Disorder Diagnosis

This disorder may not be diagnosed by you alone. It is recommended to visit an expert who would look into all the other symptoms before finally ruling it as skin picking disorder. After a physical examination, the doctor will try understanding if you are not going through conditions like eczema or psoriasis.

Once your general physician feels that you are showing signs of skin picking disorder, you are referred to a therapist for further examination and treatment. Experts can help you find out if you are going through any anxiety or stress beforehand or not.

Skin Picking Treatment

There are two major treatments for skin picking including medications and therapy.

1. Therapy:

When you talk to a mental health professional, he helps in finding out triggers that lead to skin picking. With that, behavioral approaches are applied to change the course of action and stop impulsive behavior. Instead, you are given a rubik’s cube, stress ball or diverted towards any other activity that can occupy you for a certain duration.

You will also be taught about the ideas that help in resisting such behavior whenever any triggers show up within you. Sometimes, wearing gloves and bandages are also applied as a part of the treatment.

2. Medications:

As recommended by doctors, taking medications according to the prescription can help in treating skin picking disorder.

How To Deal With Skin Picking Disorder?

1. The best way to treat excoriation disorder is to ask for professional help without any shame for skin lesions. Approaches like cognitive behavioral therapy helps in dealing with mental health and mould thoughts, feelings and behavior for betterment.

2. Healthy self care rituals shall be developed so that you can control the picking disorder on your own. Listen to good music, meditate, read self improvement books or perform mental exercises to divert yourself from repetitive behaviors.

3. Include exercises in your everyday schedule so that aggressive picking could be controlled and anxiety could be removed. Aerobics, biking, running or swimming could be done for overall improvement.

4. Your support system matters a lot as many patients try isolating themselves for being ashamed of scars. Surround yourself with friends and family members who understand your condition and make you comfortable with your struggle and in turn encourage you to deal with the condition.


Although excoriation disorder may make one feel anxious and overwhelming about the body image, opening up and communicating it to your own therapist is the best way to deal with it.

Even if you feel ashamed, stand up for yourself and get rid of the issue taking a toll on your mental health. Or you can even look for online therapy without visiting a doctor in-person by dropping us a message at info@calmsage.com.

We are here to help you! Ask for it.

About The Author

Akanksha Soni
Akanksha Soni

Akanksha is an active lifestyle blogger and writer at Calmsage. She has learnt various lessons on happiness and methods to fight depression through 'Gurus' as well as own experiences. An ardent practitioner of Yoga and meditation, she keeps traveling, writes and interacts with people to feel alive.

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