Skin Picking Disorder (Excoriation): Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

Skin picking, also known as neurotic excoriation or dermatillomania, is a common Body Focused Repetitive Behavior like hair pulling and nail biting.

It is an impulsive behavior that is performed in a semi-trance in response to something that does not look or feeling just right on the skin. A scab, an ingrown hair, an open pore, or a microscopic bump can lead someone to dig under the layers of skin to “fix” the perceived imperfection. This compulsive behavior can cause scarring, pock marks, red spots and bleeding that will leave its victims feeling shame or upset about the time they wasted on the behavior and the damage they created on their body. Many people who struggle with this problem feel alone and misunderstood and try to hide it from family and friends.

At Advanced Behavioral Health, we understand how upsetting this problem can be. We are especially sensitive to how difficult it is to ask for and ultimately seek out help for a problem that most people feel should be under one’s control. Fortunately, we teach methods that help you manage your urges to pick and to eventually eradicate the behavior. We specialize in the use of Habit Reversal and Stimulus Control Techniques to raise awareness of the skin picking behavior and to identify the various sensory and psychological motivators behind the picking. We teach people how to reverse muscle memory and to channel their repetitive movements into a behavior that is more adaptive. We have great success with our treatment and are confident that even the most stubborn picking problems can be helped.

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