Skin Picking Treatment

Skin picking is considered a Body-Focused Repetitive Behavior Disorder which effects up to 5% of the population.  Examples of skin picking include, but are not limited to: picking acne or scabs, scratching itchy skin until it bleeds, biting nails or cuticles, and biting cheeks and / or lips.  While some degree of skin picking is normal, to be classified as having a Body-Focus Repetitive Behavior Disorder, the skin picking must result in bleeding or tissue damage AND cause significant distress or problems with work, social or daily activities.    Frequently people who struggle with a body focus repetitive behavior disorder also have a Depression and / or Anxiety Disorder.  Skin picking is most likely to occur during sedentary activities, but can occur during active activities.  Skin picking is most frequently engaged in absentmindedly, but may be an intentional behavior.  According to research, skin picking likely has a genetic component to it, as well as a cultural component.  Skin picking, or at least some derivation of it, frequently runs in families.

At the Center for Growth to help clients overcome their skin picking disorder, we use a Cognitive Behavioral Treatment approach.  Treatment focuses on helping clients develop:  

  • Awareness / Mindfulness of the behavior and the feelings surrounding the behavior. 
  • Social support system to help them.
  • A belief that they do not have to respond to an urge or feeling.  By increasing the stress tolerance, separating thought and behavior is more achievable.  The separation of these two concepts can feel freeing.
  • An ability to substitute a different, healthier behavior.
  • A new story / pattern.

Once the above treatment goals have been met, a client will have changed their private experience of themselves.  

In addition to “talk therapy” “medical” interventions can play a critical role in a client’s experience of success.  For some clients, the use of lotions, topical steroids and antihistamines can reduce the itching sensations, thus making change more easily obtainable.  Additionally, physical aids such as Band-Aids, medical tape, gloves or even the use of a comb create a physical barrier, thus reducing the frequency of absent mindedly pick at skin.  

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