Do you often pick your skin in the middle of a stressful conversation or when you are in a meeting? Well, you will be surprised to know this could be serious, and is called a skin picking disorder.
It’s a condition in which you tend to pick and scratch the scabs, bumps, pimples or anything else present on the skin. This disorder is a kind of obsessive-compulsive disorder categorized as body focussed repetitive behaviour disorder (BFRB) and is called as dermatillomania or excoriation disorder.
We got in touch with Dr Rinky Kapoor, Cosmetic Dermatologist and Dermato-Surgeon, from Esthetic Clinics in Mumbai to tell you all the symptoms, treatments, do’s and don'ts if you’re suffering from this disorder.
Did you know SPD can cause serious skin disruptions?
For people suffering from skin picking disorder (SPD) cannot help but pick at healthy skin. Dr Kapoor explains, “We all tend to pick up minor skin irregularities but people suffering from SPD tend to do so quite frequently. SPD can cause serious disruptions in one’s personal life. It can also cause infections, permanent marks on skin, and shame, depression and anxiety because of the scars.”
Symptoms of skin picking disorders
People suffering from SPD can sometimes spend hours picking their skin. SPD is something that needs attention and cure. It is a chronic illness and has some remittance periods and some periods where the intensity becomes uncontrollable. Dr Kapoor explains the symptoms as follows:
1. Involuntary picking the skin even when there is no lesion, scab or bump on it.
2. Developing lesions and wounds on skin quite frequently which do not go away because the patient tends to pick on them often.
3. Desire to pick or scratch moles, freckles, spots and pimples on the skin to smooth the skin out.
4. Picking on skin when stressed or even when sleeping.
5. Avoiding going to public meetings because of the scars on the skin.
What triggers SPD?
There is no known cause of skin picking disorder. “It usually begins during the onset of puberty but it is known to affect younger children and adults too. In fact, SPD affects more women than men. Skin picking disorder can be caused because of a mental health condition that compels people to smooth out the skin or keep it perfect by removing the imagined imperfections on the skin,” explains Dr Kapoor.
What causes SPD?
1. Itchy scabs present on the skin
Scabs caused because of infection, rashes or injuries on the skin generally tend to itch when they are healing. This itch might lead people to scratch or pick on it, causing it to bleed and formation of new wounds. This causes a picking cycle that soon becomes a habit, which turns into SPD.
When under undue stress, people tend to scratch, pull their hair or bite their nails in order to relieve the stress.
Negative emotions such as guilt or shame can also trigger SPD on skin conditions such as acne or eczema.
Here’s how you can treat it
The good news is the skin picking disorder is treatable. If you have any symptoms that are causing you worry of if your family members have pointed out this habit of yours, then you must consult a good dermatologist immediately who can help you plan the full treatment plan. The dermatologist will check your symptoms and confirm if they are not caused by other dermatological condition and cannot be explained by another psychiatric disorder.
Dr Kapoor said, “If SPD is not treated in time, this behaviour can continue for weeks, months or even years, at times leading to skin infections and permanent damage.” She further explains the treatments:
Cognitive behavioural therapy
CBT is one of the effective methods of treating SPD. This includes encouraging other habits such as squeezing a stress ball, playing with Rubik’s cube, and other activities that occupy your hands and mind.
Changing the environment that triggers the need to pick the skin can help treat SPDs. This treatment involves wearing gloves to prevent feeling the skin or covering the mirrors so that you cannot see the “imperfections”.
SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors), antidepressants, anticonvulsants, and antipsychotics drugs are prescribed to control skin picking disorder. Treatment of skin picking disorder requires a holistic treatment, which involves assessing and treating the psychological, physical, and environmental factors and managing the symptoms.
1. Keep your hands busy by picking up a hobby that keeps you distracted
2. Exercise regularly
3. Practicing yoga, and deep breathing exercises that help reduce stress and keep you calm
4. Identify the triggers and keep them away
5. Keeping your skin cool by using aloe vera gel, virgin coconut oil, and soothing chemical-free ointments
6. Taking help from other people to help you stop when you are picking your skin
7. Keeping the skin clean and dry
8. Taking medicines on time
1. Don’t let your nails grow
2. Do not keep things like tweezers, pins, scales, etc. within your reach
3. Don’t miss out on therapy
So next time, you start picking your skin be aware it’s not as normal as you think. It’s could be a serious disorder which could cause some really bad infections.
Dr. Debraj Shome is Director and Co founder of The Esthetic Clinics. He has been rated amongst the top surgeons in India by multiple agencies. The Esthetic Clinics patients include many international and national celebrities who prefer to opt for facial cosmetic surgery and facial plastic surgery in Mumbai because The Esthetic Clinics has its headquarters there.