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Skin Picking, What Should I Do?

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I have always picked, bitten, pulled and scratched the skin around my fingers ever since I was around 10-13 years old. Then hitting puberty I was never one to leave spots alone and if I went away on holiday and was bitten by some bug sure enough it wouldn’t be long before I had squeezed, picked and scratched away at the area. I had a few scars on my legs and my fingers always looked sore but generally, I would try to break my habit by cutting my nails, covering the area with bandaids or clothing and generally tried to be aware of when I was doing it. Sometimes I would be fully aware of what I was doing and others times it was just a natural habit.

However, I have spent most of my late teens and early twenties battling with severe allergies and as a result have developed eczema, fortunately it’s not the worst case of eczema I’ve seen but the itching is unbelievable! Worst still my skin picking as increased dramatically. I’ve ruined my legs and have spent the whole summer either covering my legs in makeup OR wearing thick leggings so no one sees or makes a comment. My boyfriend feels so sorry for me and he has tried to help me stop. I hate my legs now and spends hours checking them and fretting over them.

I’m unsure if I fit in the category of compulsive skin picking but I’m concerned the longer I leave it the worse it will get and I will move on to other parts of my body! When I spoke to my doctor and he says it sounds like ‘psycho genetic something or other’, and suggested I be put on anxiety medication. I was really don’t want to be put on medication as I have found therapeutic routes to be more beneficial. I guess what I’m trying to ask is should I seek treatment and if so what treatment should I be considering? (Relevant medical history: Diagnosed in late teens, and silently suffered since early teens, with GAD anxiety disorder and depression recovered with CBT therapy).

Many, many thanks for any advice that can be given, I don’t know where else to turn to. (From England)

Skin Picking, What Should I Do?

Answered by on -


It sounds to me like it’s time for a specialist. Excoriation it is a very troubling and difficult condition that may require the use of a specialist. A general practice psychiatrist or other mental health professional may have had too little experience with this. The new DSM-V has reclassified this and it is now considered an obsessive-compulsive disorder you want to find a specialist to help. Here is a bit more information on it.

Wishing you patience and peace,
Dr. Dan
Proof Positive Blog @ PsychCentral

Skin Picking, What Should I Do?

Therapists live, online right now, from BetterHelp:

Daniel J. Tomasulo, PhD, TEP, MFA, MAPP

Dan Tomasulo Ph.D., TEP, MFA, MAPP teaches Positive Psychology in the graduate program of Counseling and Clinical Psychology at Columbia University, Teachers College and works with Martin Seligman, the Father of Positive Psychology in the Masters of Applied Positive Psychology (MAPP) program at the University of Pennsylvania. He is Director of the New York Certification in Positive Psychology for the Open Center in New York City and on faculty at New Jersey City University. Sharecare has honored him as one of the top 10 online influencers on the topic of depression. For more information go to: He also writes for Psych Central's Ask the Therapist column and the Proof Positive blog.

APA Reference
Tomasulo, D. (2018). Skin Picking, What Should I Do?. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 29, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 May 2018 (Originally: 28 Oct 2015)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 May 2018
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