Chronic skin picking is similar to hair pulling, sharing many of the same characteristics in both symptoms and treatment options. Research into skin picking is relatively new, and we are still learning how it’s both alike, and different, from trichotillomania. Both are most recently being considered as part of a group of disorders called Body-Focused Repetitive Behaviors.
Chronic skin picking, like trichotillomania, may at times resemble Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder in the feelings of compulsion and repetitive behavior, but the two disorders have different symptoms and require different treatments.
Chronic Skin Picking is most commonly characterized by:
- Inability to resist urges to pick at real or perceived blemishes in one’s skin
- For some, mounting tension before one picks
- For some, gratification and relaxation while picking
- Noticeable sores or scarring on the skin
- Increased distress and/or interference with daily life
When is skin picking a serious problem?
There is no universally agreed-upon standard as to when skin picking becomes a serious problem. In more serious cases, though, the picking is generally time-consuming, results in noticeable tissue damage, and causes emotional distress. When it is even more severe, people often suffer impairment in social, occupational, and physical functioning. This can include avoiding social activities such as going to the pool, gym or beach; being late for work or other events because of the time it takes to cover up the picking; and avoiding contact with anyone who may notice bleeding, scars, or sores.