What Is Dermatillomania?

You probably know somebody who has a nervous habit, such as twirling their hair or biting their lips.  However, there are some cases where bodily focused repetitive behavior can go as far as to become a disorder.  This can include disorders like trichotillomania (the compulsion to pull out one’s own hair) and onychophagia (the compulsion to bite one’s own nails).  However, experts say that as many as 1 in 20 people suffer from dermatillomania, also called excoriation disorder – the compulsion to pick at one’s own skin.  And, while this condition isn’t usually life-threatening, it can cause quite a strain on relationships and even appearance.

Dermatillomania isn’t simply popping a pimple or picking off a scab.  Almost everyone engages in these types of behaviors at least occasionally.  The problem with this particular Bodily Focused Repetitive Behavior Disorder (BFRB) is that it takes skin picking to a whole new level.  People who feel the compulsion to pick at their skin often experience scarring or even disfigurement due to their condition.  And, while there are treatments, dermatillomania, much like other mental disorders, is not always easy to overcome.  So, who experiences this disorder and what can they do about it?  Let’s take a look at some of the details of this condition.

Who Gets Dermatillomania?

Anybody can fall victim to this condition.  Since 1 in 20 people are thought to have the disorder, it affects all walks of life and all types of people.  However, it may affect more women than men.  On the whole, it seems that dermatillomania may have some relation to other disorders.  Because it is classified as an “impulse control disorder,” it may be related to Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD).  For example, people with dermatillomania tend to be more likely to also suffer from other obsessive conditions.  However, the cause of dermatillomania is unknown.

Why Do People With Dermatillomania Pick Their Skin?

While classified as an impulse control disorder, it isn’t necessarily a lack of control that drives people to pick their skin.  For some, it is an answer to extreme anxiety or stress.  Those who suffer from dermatillomania may find a place that they perceive to be imperfect on their body and pick while feeling distressed.  For others, it is this exact feeling of imperfection that causes them to pick at their skin.  For example, there are some versions of trichotillomania (hair pulling) where, instead of pulling out strands of hair on the head, those with the disorder will use tweezers and other instruments to pluck out individual hairs on legs and other regions of the body.

How To Deal With Dermatillomania

Luckily for those suffering with this condition, there are some options out there for recovery.  Some with milder cases find that they can avoid picking their skin by fidgeting with other objects.  Plastic toys called “tangles” have been popular in the past.  And, today’s hot trend “fidget spinners” may be another answer to obsessive skin picking.  However, for those who need more help, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) may be an option.  In any case, the first step is diagnosis.  If you feel you may be suffering from dermatillomania, trichotillomania, or another BFRB, ask your doctor if there is a treatment that could work for you.

 

Rebecca Thompson

Rebecca Thompson

Staff Writer at New Review HQ
Rebecca Thompson

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