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Compulsive Skin Picking

Compulsive Skin Picking (Dermotillomania) can be described as the inability to resist or control the urge to pick at one's own skin, sometimes resulting in noticeable scarring, damage, and infection. This picking often occurs when individuals are feeling a high level of stress, frustration, and/or anxiety. The marked anxiety can trigger a "need" or strong urge to pick. This picking is often followed by an immediate release of tension and pleasure. Others may pick when excited, tired, or bored as a self-stimulatory activity. Still others may search for "imperfections" on their skin, wanting to make it "clean" or "clear." For many others, it has become an unconscious activity. For whatever reason the picking is occurring, individuals often feel embarrassment, guilt, and/or shame. They may attempt to camouflage their picking areas with make-up and clothing. Picking may occur on various parts of the body, as well as the picking of others and/or their pets.

The preferred treatment for Compulsive Skin Picking is Habit Reversal Training (HRT). Through HRT, pickers can become aware of when, where, and possibly why they are picking. By creating this awareness they are then able to build in various Competing Responses and Habit Blockers to assist them with tolerating the urge to pick.

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