What is Dermatillomania: Causes and Symptoms

If you constantly pick at your skin and struggle to stop, you may have dermatillomania, also known as excoriation disorder.

People with this disorder pick at their skin to “correct imperfections” caused by acne or other skin issues. This can cause tissue injury.

What Is Dermatillomania?

Dermatillomania, or excoriation, is a skin-picking disorder. It is distinguished by the repeated plucking of one’s skin. It may cause tissue damage and emotional discomfort. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) and the planned International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11) include dermatillomania among the obsessive-compulsive and associated disorders.

This condition can arise at any age. This condition usually appears around adolescence, around the time puberty begins. People with this disease can select skin from any part of their body, most often the face. A pimple, lump, or rough cuticle may prompt someone to begin picking. This creates a recurrent cycle.

Repetitive touching, rubbing, or scratching can result in bleeding, sores, blemishes, and scabs. Some people use instruments to pinch or poke their skin.

Most of us pick our skin on occasion, but this is not the same as excoriation disease.


The exact etiology of dermatillomania is unknown. However, there are a few factors that might promote skin picking. Individuals may experience anxiety, acne or eczema, stress, anger, boredom, or fatigue.

Dermatillomania is also associated with heredity. Skin-picking problem may run in your family. A 2012 research found that 28.3% of 60 persons with dermatillomania had family members who also suffered from the disease. Another research of 40 individuals discovered that 43% had a first-degree family with skin picking problem.

Signs And Symptoms

According to the DSM-5, you can confirm this disease if you satisfy the following criteria.

  • Symptoms of another mental disease do not explain it.
  • Skin picking generates clinically substantial suffering, such as humiliation, shame, and a sense of loss of control.
  • Repeated skin picking causes skin sores.
  • Skin picking is not caused by the physiological effects of a chemical or any other medical condition.

Repeated picking causes skin lesions, post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, and scarring. Individuals with dermatillomania commonly exhibit the following behaviors:

  • They begin picking when they are worried, agitated, or bored.
  • They find it impossible to quit picking at the skin.
  • The picking results in blood or bruises.

Diagnosis And Treatment

There is no permanent cure for dermatillomania, however it can be managed with therapy and drugs.

Talk therapy is an effective way to reduce skin picking issue. It’s available through community mental health programs. Some examples of talk therapy utilized in its treatment are:

Acceptance And Commitment Therapy

It encourages people to embrace unpleasant thoughts and feelings as natural parts of the human experience. It helps patients to avoid dangerous habits. In a pilot research on five individuals, a substantial reduction in skin picking was noted.

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy

Habit reversal training teaches people to detect their triggers and replace them with less damaging habits. When this strategy was attempted on dermatillomania patients, the symptoms were significantly reduced.

Effects Of Dermatillomania

Skin picking condition has a medical impact that includes consequences such as infections caused by skin sores and scars. When wounds grow severe, there is a risk of developing major complications, such as:

  • Picking near a large blood artery may result in blood loss.
  • Picking in the face region might lead to a brain infection.
  • Bacteria cause blood poisoning. In a rare incidence, a patient was diagnosed with Staphylococcus aureus bacteremia related to the skin picking problem.

Along with soft tissue injury, dermatillomania causes emotional suffering. When you can’t quit skin-picking despite repeated efforts, worry, dread, and embarrassment set in. You may also start to shun social situations. This might lead to increased anxiety and mental issues.

Dermatillomania scars

Scars are the body’s technique of mending and renewing its skin. Scars are likely to appear where you often pick at your skin. And if you keep picking at your wounds and scraping off scabs, they will worsen. This might make you more anxious since the scars may become deeper and larger.

Dermatologists have numerous treatments for minimizing scars, but none can entirely eradicate them. Before you explore for strategies to reduce your scars, you should first address your skin picking problem. Meanwhile, you may take certain measures to assist avoid deep, big scars, such as:

Rubbing Alcohol And Vinegar

To produce DIY swimmer’s ear drops, use rubbing alcohol (isopropyl alcohol) and vinegar. According to research, this combination works well for treating bacterial ear infections. To prepare these drops, do the following.

  • Mix equal parts isopropyl alcohol and vinegar.
  • Use a pipette or dropper to place 2-3 drops inside your ear.
  • Gently massage the outside and rear of your ears.
  • Wait 30–45 seconds and tilt your head sideways to drain the droplets.

Apply sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher on your sore after it has healed.

Sun protection may assist to decrease discolouration and accelerate scar fading. Change your bandage every day to keep your wounds clean while they heal.

Cover your sores with a bandage.

If you are allergic to adhesives, use a gauze pad with paper tape, silicone gel, or hydrogel sheets. Silicone gel or hydrogel sheets might be especially beneficial if your sore is huge or really red.

MIMI (Multi ion mask insert)

  • Can be worn with any facemask and provides additional heavy-duty protection.
  • Adult & Youth Sizes Available

Use petroleum jelly to keep your sores moist.

This will help prevent scabs from developing. Sores with scabs take longer to heal and might become itchy, prompting you to pick more.

Keep your skin and wounds clean.

Most sores that are not too deep or wide can be cleaned with a light soap.

Bottom Line

Dermatillomania, also known as skin picking condition, is characterized by persistent picking at one’s skin, which causes tissue damage and mental health difficulties. This obsessive habit belongs to the group of body-focused repeated activities. Acne, anger, worry, tension, boredom, and other factors can all function as triggers for skin picking. If you or someone you love suffers from dermatillomania, it is critical to visit a medical health expert to determine the best treatment and management options before concerns arise.

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