Dermatillomania : Symptoms And Causes

dermatillomania thumbs

Dermatillomania is also known as SPD (skin picking disorder). It is a serious problem in which the person picks at their skin to the extent that is causes wounds. Many people do not know that they have dermatillomania, but 2 – 3% of people struggle with this condition. But, if you suffer from dermatillomania, then you should know that you are not alone. The dermatillomania is considered to be an impulsive control disorder, which is related to the obsessive compulsive disorder. [1] In some cases, people will also display characteristics of other disorders, such as body dysmorphic disorder, borderline personality disorder or substance abuse. [2]

It is noticed that dermatillomania is most common among teenagers and young adults. Also, females have more chances of having dermatillomania compared to men and they may need to seek treatment of dermatillomania [3]. There are some studies in which are estimated that about 1.4 – 5.4% of people are affected by the dermatillomania [4]. It is very important to be understand the psychological factor, so the doctor can help you with this condition.

dermatillomania causes

Dermatillomania symptoms

People, who suffer from dermatillomania, can have some of the below mentioned symptoms:

  • Squeezing skin repetitively
  • Skin picking
  • Digging into skin
  • Compulsively rubbing skin
  • Repetitive touching
  • Skin scratching

The dermatillomania is often accompanied by intense emotions and it can be done with the fingers or by the use of other tools, like tweezers. Most people who suffer from dermatillomania focus on a primary area of their bodies and the face is the most common primary area. Some people believe that the dermatillomania is a result of another disorder, but in the recent studies and changes in the field of psychology suggest otherwise. It is very important to talk with your doctor if you have noticed some of the above mentioned symptoms, so in this way, your doctor can help you to deal with the dermatillomania and give you a proper treatment.

Also, you need to be under clinical distress or impairment, so your doctor can diagnose you. Your doctor should check if your symptoms are caused by dermatillomania or they are caused by dermatological, substance or medical condition. Also, your doctor should check that you have symptoms that cannot be explained by another psychiatric disorder. In many cases, it has been shown that the treatment is most effective when both behavioral therapy and pharmacological therapy are used in conjunction with one another.

Medications can help to inhibit specific serotonin neurotransmitters which are found to help to reduce the compulsive behaviors and obsessive thoughts. The cognitive – behavioral therapy can help people to understand his or her behavioral patters and thoughts, so they can begin a healthy and guided direction down the path of healing. So, talk with your doctor if you have some symptoms of dermatillomania.

Dermatillomania causes

There are no enough studies to show the real cause for dermatillomania. But, it is thought that some factors are linked to dermatillomania, such as

  • Trauma: In some cases, a single and very traumatic event can trigger the onset of dermatillomania. [5]
  • Genetics: It is noticed that people who have a parent or sibling with excoriation disorder or other related disorders, are having more chances of developing dermatillomania. [6]
  • Stress: There are some studies in which are said that stressors which result in anxiety can cause dermatillomania, because they making person stressful and he or she copes with the skin picking [7].

Effects of dermatillomania

The skin becomes scarred and discolored, with occasional severe episodes of major tissue damage. There are some rare cases when the dermatillomania can be required. One of the most common problems caused by dermatillomania is the infection. People, who suffer from the dermatillomania, can experience feelings of guilt and helplessness, along with symptoms of embarrassment and shame. These feelings can come as a result of the physical effects of this disorder and it can be cyclical, driving the individual to pick more.


[1] Harries MD, Chamberlain SR, Redden SA, et al. A structural MRI study of excoriation (skin-picking) disorder and its relationship to clinical severity. Psychiatry Research. 2017;269:26–30. doi:10.1016/j.pscychresns.2017.09.006

[2] Chamberlain SR, Odlaug BL. Body focused repetitive behaviors (BFRBs) and personality features. Current Behavioral Neuroscience Reports. 2014;1:27-32.

[3] Odlaug BL, Lust K, Schreiber LRN, et al. Skin picking disorder in university students: Health correlates and gender differences. General Hospital Psychiatry. 2013;35(2):168–73. doi:10.1016/j.genhosppsych.2012.08.006

[4] Grant JE, Odlaug BL, Chamberlain SR, et al. Skin picking disorder. American Journal of Psychiatry. 2012;169:1143–9.

[5] Ozten E, Sayar GH, Eryilmaz G, et al. The relationship of psychological trauma with trichotillomania and skin picking. Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment. 2015:11-1203. doi:10.2147/NDT.S79554

[6] Monzani B, Rijsdijk F, Harris J, et al. The structure of genetic and environmental risk factors for dimensional representations of DSM-5 obsessive-compulsive spectrum disorders. JAMA Psychiatry. 2014;71(2):182-9. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2013.3524

[7] Gupta M, Gupta AK. Skin picking and the role of stress. Stress and Skin Disorders. 2017;87-97. doi:10.1007/978-3-319-46352-0_8


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