Dermatillomania, also known as excoriation disorder, is a mental health disorder in which individuals have an irresistible urge to pick at their skin. Most sufferers of Dermatillomania will pick at the skin on their face and hands most often. Although most people who suffer from Dermatillomania do not feel guilty or worry about what damage they may be doing to themselves, it can cause problems with sleeping if done before bed and can cause acne and even infections when picked at aggressively.
Causes of Dermatillomania
Although the exact cause of Dermatillomania has yet to be identified by researchers at this time there are some common factors that contribute to its development, such as:
Stress at home or school
Intolerance to frustration, anger issues
Personality traits such as “difficulty letting go of things” or being a perfectionist.
The signs of Dermatillomania
There are many signs that can help you identify if someone may be suffering from Dermatillomania including:
compulsive touching and scratching behaviors involving other people’s hair, skin, clothing. these behaviors have no purpose, meaning, or value
excessive touching, rubbing, or scratching self in various places on the body results in noticeable raw areas, discoloration, or scarring. This could include eyelashes, arms, legs forehead, etc… but most common is picking at one’s skin on the face and hands
picking at acne, scabs, blemishes, or skin imperfections until they appear raw or bleed
chewing cuticles until they are red, raw, or bleed.
Symptoms of Dermatillomania can be tics like if you have Tourettes syndrome – some people use this as an excuse to pick at their skin (although not scientifically proven)
Dermatillomania causes other serious health problems
Dermatilomania is not just a habit that looks bad it actually causes major health problems for those who suffer from it. Some individuals will experience forms of hair-pulling disorder where they will pull hair out of their head causing bald spots. Compulsive hair pulling can also be linked to Dermatillomania as the individual may pull out hair from their eyebrows and eyelashes. Dermatilomania can lead to dangerous infections and disease and in very rare cases carpal tunnel syndrome if sufferers pick at the skin on their hands for a long period of time. Although there is no cure for Dermatillomania it can be managed with therapy.
The treatment of Dermatillomania
Treatment of Dermatillomania is difficult for both the patient and clinician. It can be frustrating to treat, as sufferers often lack awareness or concern about their behavior. Behavioral therapy has been found to be an effective treatment for this disorder, so CBT is often the best place to start. If there are concurrent issues with depression or anxiety, it may also be helpful to target those symptoms specifically with medication along with therapy. The mainstay of treatment is habit reversal training (HRT). HRT generally consists of identifying problematic behaviors/rituals that precede skin-picking episodes, tracking the urges that lead up to picking, having patients keep a log of these urges/behaviors prior to pick sessions, being mindful during the picking sessions, and implementing other strategies to substitute for the urge to pick. While self-help books can be quite effective, many patients may benefit from individualized therapy with a clinician who is experienced in treating this disorder.