Compulsive Skin Picking (CSP)/Dermatillomania

What is it?

Compulsive skin picking (CSP), also known as dermatillomania, is characterised by the repetitive picking of the skin to an extent where damage is caused. It is usually the face that skin picking starts, however it can be carried out on any part of the body. Individuals affected by CSP may start by picking at normal blemishes such as freckles or moles, pre-existing existing scabs, sores or even acne blemishes. They may also pick at imagined skin defects that nobody else can see.

CSP is often categorised as an impulse control disorder under the Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) Spectrum as the skin picking is often repetitive, ritualistic and tension reducing. It can also be linked to Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) as some suffers will feel that picking at acne or what they see as skin abnormalities (such as moles or freckles) will make them look more ‘normal’. The picking can create pronounced abnormalities that lead to a vicious cycle.

DIY self diagnosis

If you can answer YES to most of the questions it is likely that you are affected by compulsive skin picking. During the past 6 months:
  • Did you recurrently pick the skin of your face, lips, scalp, arms, legs or body?
  • Did you find that you skin pick more when you are anxious or stressed?
  • Did you find that skin picking leads to feelings of pleasure, gratification, tensions decrease?
Anxiety UK strongly advises that people seek further information and guidance from their GP who will be able to make a formal diagnosis.

Compulsive Skin Picking (CSP)/Dermatillomania

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder Fact Sheet

This fact sheet gives a detailed overview, as well as a look at some of the evidence based approaches to treating OCD.
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Recommended resources

Overcoming OCD offers advice and CBT techniques in a step by step approach to help you learn how to break free from the destructive cycles of obsessive behaviour. You can purchase this book from the Anxiety UK online shop here.

Controlling Anxiety is a CD designed to help those who experience a phobia or anxiety. You can purchase yours from the Anxiety UK online shop here.