The Disease of Compulsive Skin Picking

Dermotillomania, or Compulsive Skin Picking is an impulse control disorder in which a person feels the constant urge to pick his skin. The most common area of picking is the face, but areas of picking can also include the hands, feet, lips and other areas of the body. People with Compulsive Skin Picking disease or CSP often pick their skin to the extent that it causes bruising or bleeding. CSP can also lead to infections, scarring and even permanent damage

Compulsive Skin Picking

Why People Pick Their Skin

Chronic skin picking is often viewed as a form of self-destruction but studies have shown that most people with CSP have an anxiety disorder and find it to be a soothing experience . According to the article "Dermotillomania: Compulsive Skin Picking" on the website Brain Physics about one quarter of people with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder also have CSP.

Chronic skin picking has been known to produce soothing effects that can reduce the stimulation of the nervous system.

Ironically, skin picking can also be used to stimulate the nervous system when people become bored and need to stay awake or alert.

Another reason people pick their skin is to achieve a kind of perfectionism. Many people with CSP have a condition known as Body Dysmorphic Disorder, a disease which causes a person to obsess over every "imperfect" aspect of his body. People who pick their skin with the aim of perfectionism often spend hours in front of the mirror searching for pimples or other imperfections of the skin in an attempt to remove them.

It has also been theorized that Chronic Skin Picking can be linked to an "out of control" grooming mechanism in the brain ("Dermotillomania: Compulsive Skin Picking, Brain Physics website) Skin picking and scratching is a common ritual among animals, such as apes as a means to remove dead skin and other imperfections--something which is biologically triggered in these animals.

The Range in Severity of Chronic Skin Picking

People with Compulsive Skin Picking Disease can range from sucessful people who are able to function in everyday life to people who have severe emotional and anxiety problems.

Most people who pick their skin report that during picking episodes they feel as if they are in a "trance" like state, and are not entirely in control of what they are doing. Many people pick their skin while reading, in front of a television or before bed time while others begin picking their skin in highly stressful situations.

One of the most severe cases of Chronic Skin Picking involved a middle-aged woman who in the course of three hours used finger nails and a pair of tweezers to cut through the skin of her neck until the carotid artery was exposed.

While most people with CSP are conscious that they have a problem they often find it difficult to stop their behavior.

Treatment for People with Compulsive Skin Picking DiseaseTreatments for CSP are similar to those used for people with anxiety disorders. Often medication used to treat anxiety is also used to treat CSP.
Therapy has also become a viable method used to treat CSP as healing from CSP seems to involve a process of recognizing the problem and finding methods for consciously stopping it.

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