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Dermatillomania (also known as compulsive skin picking or CSP) is an obsessive compulsive disorder characterized by the repeated urge to pick at one's own skin, often to the extent that damage is caused.

Sufferers of dermatillomania find skin picking to be stress relieving or gratifying rather than painful. An episode of skin-picking is often preceded by high levels of tension, anxiety, or paranoia, coupled with a seemingly irresistible "urge" or "itch" to pick.

Damage from CSP is common on the face, back, scalp, and extremities, and is usually caused by a mixture of picking, scratching, biting, and tweezing. Focus may be placed on ingrown hairs, scabs, insect bites, pimples, or cuticles. Sufferers of the condition may enter an trance-like state for periods of up to several hours, only to be confronted with the results afterward.

Research into the cause of the condition has been limited, but it has been linked to obsessive-compulsive disorder. Some sufferers feel that "picking off" pimples or skin abnormalities may rid them of these flaws and help them look more "normal", which is a symptom of body dysmorphic disorder.

Many sufferers feel the need to create pickable surfaces in order to satisfy their compulsion. This may lead to self-harm in the form of mutilation or cutting in order to produce scabs. Some sufferers report picking at inanimate objects or others' skin.

Few psychiatrists have studied the disease, as many of these cases go unreported, but some individuals have found relief through cognitive-behavioral therapy.

Recent research suggests that dermatillomania may be a part of impulse control disorders, such as eating disorders, alcoholism, obsessive-compulsive disorder, codependence, perfectionism, Borderline Personality Disorder or social anxiety disorder.

Habits of dermatillomania sufferers

  • Skin pickers are characteristically obsessive in their skin routines, bathing, and make-up application.
  • Self-harm.
  • Compulsive tendency to check mirrors
  • Some skin pickers may also suffer from trichotillomania.


  • compulsive skin picking
  • acne excoriee (from French)
  • chronic skin picking
  • excoriated acne
  • neurotic excoriation
  • psychogenic excoriation
  • skin picking
  • self injurious skin picking
  • obsessive skin picking


  • acne excoriee des jeunes filles (from French)
  • compulsive face picking
  • scalp picking

Psychological treatment

Few mental health practitioners have studied the disorder, as many of these cases go unreported, but some individuals have found relief through cognitive-behavioral therapy. Hypnosis, self-hypnosis and meditation have also been useful for some patients.[citation needed] They are also sometimes prescribed medications, such as those prescribed for obsessive compulsive disorder. For example, artificial fingernails (acrylic or gel) have been found to be useful to some in stopping the picking behaviour.

See also

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