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Dermatillomania Therapy: Symptoms, Causes, Treatments, And More



You pick at your skin compulsively if you have a mental health condition known as Dermatillomania.

If you have this disorder, you won’t be able to stop picking at your skin. Other names for Dermatillomania include excoriation disorder and skin-picking disorder.

People who suffer from this disorder pick at their skin to correct flaws brought on by acne or other skin issues.

Bruises, scarring, infections, and tissue damage may result from this, which may cause anxiety, stress, and a diminished sense of wellbeing

A combination of self-help techniques, medication, and therapy is frequently effective in treating this condition.

You could perform the recommended treatment on your own, but in some circumstances, you may require medical attention.

Cognitive behavioral therapy, which may also use a method known as habit reversal training, is the most popular form of treatment for Dermatillomania.

It’s believed that talking therapy may also help people stop picking at their skin. In this article, we will be discussing all Dermatillomania therapy.

All About Dermatillomania Therapy

What Is Dermatillomania?

Skin lesions caused by repeated skin picking are referred to as Dermatillomania.

Clinically significant distress is brought on by the skin picking, and symptoms[1] include a loss of self-control, embarrassment, and shame.

Along with other activities including compulsive cheek biting, hair pulling, and nail-biting, skin picking is categorized as a body-focused repetitive behavior[2] (BFRB).

Due in part to their shared compulsive tendencies, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder and Dermatillomania are frequently associated.

It is distinguished by psychological distress in addition to physical harm. Even after numerous attempts to lessen or stop the skin plucking, it is uncontrollable.

People who suffer from this condition may spend hours considering picking before finally giving in.

Symptoms Of Dermatillomania

  • Pick At Your Skin Frequently

    People with Dermatillomania, or skin-picking disorder, feel compelled[3] to frequently pick at their skin.

  • Bleeding

    Dermatillomania frequently causes tissue damage and occasionally[4] even infection. The urge to pick is so strong that it could result in skin bruises.

  • Skin Rash While Anxious

    Even the minuscule feeling of being stressed or worried[5] may lead you to scratch your skin uncontrollably.

  • Scratch Your Skin

    The person tries to stop picking because they are cognizant of how undesirable it is to pick. Therefore, a history of unsuccessful attempts to stop picking is one of the symptoms of Dermatillomania.

    You may pick the skin from one or more bodily parts. The head, face, arms, cuticles, back, hands, feet, and legs are typical locations.

    People typically remove the skin by picking it with their fingers and fingernails, but they may also pick at it with sharp objects like scissors or tweezers.

Causes Of Dermatillomania

Skin-picking disorder, or Dermatillomania, may occur as a result of,

  • An injury, rash, or illness that develops a scab. People may scratch or pick at the scab until it bleeds and a new wound emerges because it itches while it heals. This behavior gradually develops into a habit.
  • Given that the disorder frequently runs in families, genetics may play a role.
  • Another factor in people with Dermatillomania may be mental health issues like body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).
  • Skin-picking problems have a high correlation with both anxiety and sadness. People who pick at their skin more frequently have more severe anxiety feelings. Depression follows the same pattern.

Treatment Of Dermatillomania

  • Anticonvulsants

    This may help you with Dermatillomania including[6] lamotrigine which helps with uncontrollable muscle movements.

  • Antidepressants

    Antidepressants such as selective serotonin reuptake[7] inhibitors (SSRIs) could be administered to treat mental health through your complication.

  • Antipsychotics

    They are used to treat many conditions like bipolar disorder, dementia, and schizophrenia. Therefore, it is believed[8] that antipsychotics may help treat similar mental conditions like Dermatillomania.

  • Antibiotics

    These may be necessary for those who have this condition to treat any potential infections as a result of skin picking.

    Nutraceuticals like N-acetylcysteine, a nutrition-related product, may help reduce the urge to pick

Therapies For Dermatillomania

  • Habit Reversal Therapy

    The symptoms of extreme skin picking may be reduced and managed with HRT, even though there is no known cure for the condition.

    For treating body-focused repetitive[9] disorders like Dermatillomania, HRT has long been regarded as the most successful method.

    HRT works by assisting you in changing the undesirable behavior you want to stop into more desirable behavior. HRT could assist you in ending the cycle of picking and in discovering new coping mechanisms for triggers.

    However, hardly everyone experiences success with HRT alone. skin-picking disorders are extremely diverse and have various effects on individuals. HRT may still play a significant role in treatment, despite this.

    HRT has the advantage of being a simple practice to learn and apply. You may learn methods to conquer your urges to pick, whether you do it alone or with a therapist.

    You could even try one of the enhanced HRT techniques with a therapist, like combining HRT with an additional technique like Athe CT.

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy 

    It is also known as CBT. The most popular type of psychotherapy for treating people with Dermatillomania is cognitive behavioral therapy.

    An individual may recognize[10] triggers and learn to modify their behaviors to stop or reduce skin picking through cognitive behavioral therapy. 

    When given to patients in a self-help format, cognitive behavioral interventions for the skin-picking disorder are very beneficial.

    The brain structure of the person changes as they learn and practice new behaviors, making the previously learned behaviors automatic responses.

  • Decoupling Therapy

    Another method, known as decoupling (DC), is effective in unlearning the habit of skin-picking and substituting[11] healthy behavior for it.

  • Group Therapy

    People with Dermatillomania frequently experience intense shame and loneliness and are unable to open up to others about their struggles.

    Therefore, group therapy may offer a valuable, secure setting where individuals with Dermatillomania could express and share experiences and feelings.

    The support[12] they get via talking in group therapy may help them with their skin-picking disorder.


Undiagnosed or misdiagnosed Dermatillomania frequently causes more harm than it is worth.

When seeking a therapist, look for someone who specializes in body-focused repetitive behaviors (BFRBs).

They are knowledgeable about the most recent therapies and are skilled at conducting accurate assessments for behaviors and triggers.

Early treatment and less skin damage will be made possible in Dermatillomania by establishing an open environment where people do not have to hide their picking habits.

Finally, mental health specialists who focus on repetitive body-focused behaviors may instruct their patients on how to take care of their skin and introduce them to all the various treatments available.

A mental health specialist will comprehend that each experiences the disorder differently, and they could help you through the process of increasing your self-awareness and determining the kinds of treatments that will be effective for your particular circumstance.


Working4Health prefers using primary and verified references. We have strict sourcing guidelines and our primary references include peer-reviewed research, academic, and medical institution studies.

  1. Srikrishna V Malayala, Hira Rehman, and Deepa Vasireddy. Dermatillomania: A Case Report and Literature Review. Cureus. 2021 Jan; 13(1): e12932.
    Published online 2021 Jan 27. doi: 10.7759/cureus.12932.
  2. Rahat Hossain, Joanne Leung-Yee, and Mark Sinyor. Body-focused repetitive disorders. CMAJ. 2022 Oct 17; 194(40): E1381. Published online 2022 Oct 17. doi: 10.1503/cmaj.220228.
  3. Jon E. Granta and Samuel R. Chamberlain. Prevalence of skin picking (excoriation) disorder. J Psychiatr Res. 2020 Nov; 130: 57–60. doi: 10.1016/j.jpsychires.2020.06.033
  4. Daniel I. Kim, Roger C. Garrison, and Gary Thompson. A near fatal case of pathological skin picking. Am J Case Rep. 2013; 14: 284–287. Published online 2013 Jul 29. doi: 10.12659/AJCR.889357
  5. Shady S. Shebak,a James Pinkston, and Rizwan Ali. Rash Associated With Panic Attacks. Prim Care Companion CNS Disord. 2016; 18(1): 10.4088/PCC.15l01822. Published online 2016 Feb 11. doi: 10.4088/PCC.15l01822
  6. Hee Ryung Wang, Young Sup Woo, and Won-Myong Bahk. Potential role of anticonvulsants in the treatment of obsessive-compulsive and related disorders. Psychiatry Clin Neurosci. 2014 Oct;68(10):723-32. doi: 10.1111/pcn.12186. Epub 2014 Jun 9. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24735021/
  7. David R. Spiegel and Lindsey Finklea. The Recognition and Treatment of Pathological Skin Picking. Psychiatry (Edgmont). 2009 Feb; 6(2): 38–42. Published online 2009 Feb.
  8. Christine Lochner, Annerine Roos, and Dan J Stein. Excoriation (skin-picking) disorder: a systematic review of treatment options. Neuropsychiatr Dis Treat. 2017; 13: 1867–1872. Published online 2017 Jul 14. doi: 10.2147/NDT.S121138
  9. Melissa T. Lee, Davis N. Mpavaenda, and Naomi A. Fineberg. Habit Reversal Therapy in Obsessive Compulsive Related Disorders: A Systematic Review of the Evidence and CONSORT Evaluation of Randomized Controlled Trials. Front Behav Neurosci. 2019; 13: 79. Published online 2019 Apr 24. doi: 10.3389/fnbeh.2019.00079
  10. Cognitive behavioral therapy. Date of Publication: August 7, 2013. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK279297/
  11. Michael E Levin, Jason B Luoma, Jack A Haeger. Decoupling as a mechanism of change in mindfulness and acceptance: a literature review. Behav Modif. 2015 Nov;39(6):870-911. doi: 10.1177/0145445515603707. Epub 2015 Sep 8. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26349756/
  12. Akshay Malhotra; Jeff Baker. Group Therapy. Date of Update: June 11, 2022. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK549812/

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