Skin Picking Disorder

Skin-Picking Disorder is characterized by repetitive skin picking resulting in skin lesions and significant distress or impairment.

The diagnosis should not be made if the picking is solely attributable to a desire to improve the appearance or efforts to correct or “put right” (e.g. removing acne or other perceived blemishes of the skin).

It is possible that some individuals may start with BDD but their picking causes “real” defects. Alternatively, over time their BDD becomes a skin-picking disorder as the motivation alters. This is a complex area and may be relevant in the psychological treatment.

Picking usually occurs on the skin of the face, however it can be carried out on any part of the body. Individuals may start by picking at normal blemishes such as freckles or moles, pre-existing scabs, sores or even acne blemishes. Individuals may use fingernails, tweezers, pins or any other devices. As a result it can lead to bleeding, bruising, and infections. In extreme cases, permanent damage and skin disfigurement can also be experienced.

The skin picking is often accompanied by a feeling of relief or even pleasure due to the reduction in anxiety or urge. Individuals may go to great lengths to camouflage the damage they have caused through the use of make up and clothes that cover marks on the skin and avoid social situations in an attempt to prevent others from seeing their scars.

Helpful Resources

Body Focussed Repetitive Behaviours and Skin Picking. 2019 Conference
Compulsive Skin Picking. 2015 Conference
The Body Dysmorphic Disorder Foundation. Charity no. 1153753.