ZocdocAnswersWhat treatments exist for compulsive skin pickers?

Question

What treatments exist for compulsive skin pickers?

I have a really bad habit of compulsively picking my skin. I know I should stop - sometimes I end up opening these extremely painful wounds, but I really am compulsive about it, I guess. What are the treatments for this tendency? Is there a program I could take that would be helpful?

Answer

Skin picking, or any other compulsive or repetitive behavior, are quite common habits. As you have recognized, these habits have the potential to cause a significant amount of damage to your skin which may produce irreversible, permanent scarring. You may also cause an infection in your skin by repeatedly opening the same wounds. Repetitive behaviors such as skin picking, like other compulsive patterns of behavior, must be addressed early and adequately treated. These behavioral problems can easily get out of hand and become overwhelming to individuals and their families. This skin picking behavior you describe is already causing problems for you, but without treatment could develop into something that determines much of your daily behavior and negatively impacts your emotional health. The best thing you can do for yourself is to speak with your primary care physician or a psychiatrist about pharmacologic and behavioral treatment options available to treat this problem. There is a class of antidepressant medications called Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) which have been highly effective in treating obsessive or compulsive behavior. If your doctor tries these medications and they do not work for you they may try other classes of antidepressants. Another highly effective treatment for obsessive or compulsive behavior is called Exposure Therapy, and is a type of behavioral conditioning often performed by psychiatrists or psychologists to help you extinguish unwanted behavior. You should visit a psychiatrist to address this issue since he or she will be able to prescribe medications and perform exposure therapy, if needed. They may also be able to help you address triggers for this behavior, and identify stressors which make the behavior worse.

This answer is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

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