What is skin picking?

Marla Deibler, PsyD
Excoriation (skin picking) disorder is characterized by:
  1. Recurrent skin picking that results in skin lesions
  2. Repeated attempts to stop the behavior
  3. The symptoms cause clinically significant distress or impairment
  4. The symptoms are not caused by a substance, or by a medical or dermatological condition
  5. The symptoms are not better explained by another psychiatric disorder

Excessive skin picking occurs in up to 5.4% of U.S. adults. Those who engage in skin picking tend to pick from multiple body sites, for extended periods of time, targeting both healthy and previously damaged skin. 

Commonly reported antecedents (experiences prior to skin picking) include: an urge or physical tension prior to picking, unpleasant emotions, cognitions, or sensations, and a displeasing aspect of his or her appearance. 

Commonly reported consequences (experiences following picking behavior) include: urge reduction, sense of relief, or pleasure, psychosocial difficulties or embarrassment, avoidance, reduced productivity, and emotional sequelae such as anxiety or depression, scars, lesions, disfigurement.

There is emerging evidence that skin picking is both environmentally and biologically influenced.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.