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Skin picking disorder

Skin picking disorder is a mental health condition where you cannot stop picking at your skin.

You may have skin picking disorder if the picking causes cuts and bleeding. You may do it when you're stressed, or not always realise you're doing it.

Skin picking disorder is usually treated with talking therapy and medicines. Things like wearing gloves or squeezing a soft ball can help.

It's not clear what causes skin picking disorder. It can be triggered by boredom, stress or anxiety, and feelings of guilt or shame.

Read more on the NHS website.

You may have skin picking disorder if the picking causes cuts and bleeding. You may do it when you're stressed, or not always realise you're doing it.

Check if you have skin picking disorder

Most people pick at their skin from time to time, but you may have skin picking disorder if you:

You may pick your skin with your fingers, fingernails, teeth or with tools like tweezers, pins or scissors.

Read more on the NHS website.

Skin picking disorder is usually treated with talking therapy and medicines. Things like wearing gloves or squeezing a soft ball can help.

Self-care


Do

  • keep your hands busy – try squeezing a soft ball or putting on gloves
  • identify when and where you most commonly pick your skin and try to avoid these triggers
  • try to resist for longer and longer each time you feel the urge to pick
  • care for your skin when you get the urge to pick it – for example, by applying moisturiser
  • tell other people – they can help you recognise when you're picking
  • keep your skin clean to avoid infection

Don't

  • do not let your nails grow long – keep them trimmed
  • do not keep things like tweezers and pins where you can easily get at them

Medical treatments

Talking therapy for skin picking disorder

Talking therapy is currently thought to be an effective treatment to help change skin picking behaviour.

If you're offered this, it'll usually be given through community mental health services.

The most common type of talking therapy offered for skin picking disorder is cognitive behavioural therapy, and may include a technique called habit reversal training.

Habit reversal training works by helping you:

  • recognise and be more aware of your skin picking and what's triggering it
  • replace skin picking with a less harmful behaviour

Medicines for skin picking disorder

Your doctors may recommend some types of medicine to help you control your skin picking behaviour.

This may be prescribed by a GP, but more often it'll be prescribed by a specialist (psychiatrist).

Read more on the NHS website.

It's not clear what causes skin picking disorder. It can be triggered by boredom, stress or anxiety, and feelings of guilt or shame.

Read more on the NHS website.