Skin picking: How to stop?

By Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW

Q. I always feel the need to pick my skin, like if i get a blister or dead skin on my foot i need to pull it off and continue to rip the skin off till its either pink and sore or even bleeds.I also pick any skin near my nails off and try to chew the skin off near my nails my skin doesnt itch or anything i just feel like picking it off… scabs from scratches too. is this some kind of mental disorder or caused by stress because i mostly do it probably when im bored or stressed i want to know what it is i hope you can help :) and thanks for reading this.

A. Without knowing more information, I cannot tell you if this is related to some kind of mental disorder but I really do not think it is. There are a lot of people who bite their nails, pick their skin, and the like. These are nasty habits. Know that you do have the power to stop this behavior. You must make a concerted, conscious effort to stop. You simply just don’t do it. Whenever you find yourself picking your skin, just stop immediately. Whenever you find yourself chewing your skin, just stop. Some people initially will wear gloves or band aids (around the house) to ensure they do not have access to their favorite picking spot. Others, to remind themselves to stop, will wear a rubber band on their wrist. As soon as they start their picking behaviors, they will snap their rubber band inflicting slight wrist pain. This, in essence, is a form of punishing themselves for their bad behavior. Some have had success with this method. If you feel this is really bothering you, perhaps you can try medication to stop your behavior but I really do not think it is necessary. I do think you could stop your behaviors by making a real effort to do so. There is no magic way to stop. It is pretty straight forward; you just don’t do it. I hope this helps. Take care.

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 24 Apr 2006

APA Reference
Randle, K. (2006). Skin picking: How to stop?. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 19, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2006/04/24/skin-picking-how-to-stop/