Skin Picking Disorder (Excoriation Disorder/SPD) causes those who suffer from it to continually rub, touch, scratch or pick at their skin. This may be done in an attempt to remove minute irregularities or imperfections. The action may leave a scar and can even cause tissue damage or worse. These actions may occur as an attempt to eliminate feelings of fear or anxiety. People may spend several hours picking at their hair or skin.


DISCLAIMER: The content found here is intended to serve as educational content and is not intended to replace therapy. For treatment-related questions, please be sure to work with your local provider or contact a local clinician.

Videos: Skin Picking

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Suzanne Mouton-Odum, PhD, discusses hair pulling, skin picking, and body dysmorphic disorder (BDD). Each disorder can look different for everyone.

Suzanne Mouton-Odum, PhD, discusses how important it is to seek treatment. She explains how many people assume or believe that a disorder can just disappear. However, this is not the case. Those who suffer from a disorder must seek help from a trained professional in order to relieve symptoms and to feel better.

Suzanne Mouton-Odum, PhD, discusses the length of treatment. She recommends 12 weeks of treatment. She discusses that the main component that predicts a successful treatment venture is one's readiness for change.

Suzanne Mouton-Odum, PhD, discusses compulsive skin picking and that it is far more common than anyone would think. It includes behaviors such as nail biting, nail picking, cuticle picking, and any type of skin picking. It is diagnosed when it becomes a severe problem.

Suzanne Mouton-Odum, PhD, discusses treatment for compulsive skin picking. It is very similar to treatment used for trichotillomania. It is a cognitive-behavioral treatment (CBT) that involves identifying internal and external triggers for the behavior. Internal triggers include thoughts, sensations or emotions. External triggers include environments or activities you are engaging in. Treatment involves teaching coping skills.

Suzanne Mouton-Odum, PhD, discusses the steps one needs to take to treat skin picking disorder. The first step is to speak with a physician or pediatrician. It's important to first asses whether the picking is dangerous and is causing health problems, such as infections or scarring. The next step is visiting the Trichotillomania Learning Center, which is the resource for hair pulling and skin picking, and can help one identify a trained professional in their area that focuses on the disorder. Medications are also available for anxiety and/or depression that become associated with skin picking.

Suzanne Mouton-Odum, PhD, discusses how important it is for families and caregivers to realize that skin picking is not the result of some psychological underlying issue or trauma. It will not develop into serious issues such as suicidal behavior or an eating disorder. It truly is a soothing behavior, in which a person has learned over time, that helps them achieve a certain emotional or physical sensory state. Hair pulling and skin picking are also genetic, which means the disorders run in the family.