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How Can I Stop Compulsive Skin Picking?

written by: Jean Scheid • edited by: Paul Arnold • updated: 5/7/2011

Dermatillomania is a disorder where a sufferer will continually pick at their skin. This article is a look at some of the treatments used for OCD suffers challenged by this disorder.

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    Treatments

    Skin Picking People who compulsively pick at their skin often choose areas on their face or other exposed regions. Some choose moles, freckles, or enlarge small scabs or scrapes from other injuries. Usually the picker is embarrassed by the damage to their skin and will often try and cover up the condition with heavy makeup or clothing. But there are ways to cure compulsive skin picking.

    Behavioral Therapy - There are few recognized treatments for skin picking including behavioral and cognitive therapy either in an individual or group setting. The technique most widely used is called Habit Reversal Training or HRT. The individual (or group) work to recognize triggers that may bring on an episode and work backwards to help to identify and stop the skin picking from starting in the first place. For those who are compulsive or perform skin picking unknowingly as an unconscious habit, therapy works to bring the condition out into the open to make sufferers more aware of what they are doing.

    Drug Therapy –Antidepressants and SSRIs have also shown some success in treating compulsive skin picking—although the treatments may take longer than actual hands-on therapy. SSRIs and antidepressants do take time to work—often up to six weeks and even then, the first chosen medication may have to be changed or the dose adjusted. In addition, some SSRIs can cause side effects such as dry mouth, sleeplessness and a decrease in sexual drives so patients and their doctors must weigh these effects against the desired result.

    Alternative Response Therapy (ART) – Much like diversions used to stop panic attacks, ART is where the patient is offered an alternative activity to the skin picking such as beading and knitting.

    Stimulus Control – Another way therapists are helping people to stop skin picking is through stimulus control where triggers are identified and then forced so the therapist and patient can work on the compulsive act as soon as the emotional trigger is present.

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    Other Help for CSP

    Help for CSP Beyond the traditional compulsive skin picking cures, online websites are popping up that offer support forums and online therapy. These include the Dermatillomania Skin Pick Center (link in reference section). This resource center also answers questions on the various types of skin picking and identifies the truths versus the myths surrounding the condition.

    If you live in California, the OCD Center of Los Angeles uses telephone and online webcam therapy. A full OCD assessment is offered before the therapist and patient determine the best treatment. You can learn more on this program by visiting their website (link below).

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    References

    1. APA retrieved at: http://www.psych.org/
    2. Resource OCD Center of Los Angeles retrieved at: http://www.ocdla.com/compulsiveskinpicking.html
    3. BrainPhysics Mental Health Resource retrieved at: http://www.brainphysics.com/skin-picking.php
    4. Dermatillomania Skin Pick Center retrieved at: http://www.skinpick.com/

    Image Credits:

    Itching Skin - Wikimedia Commons/US Federal Government

    Help for CSP - Wikimedia Commons/Wikie-tan