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Obsessive-Compulsive Spectrum Disorders
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Diagnosis: The Signs and Symptoms of Excoriation (Skin-Picking) Disorder

Matthew D. Jacofsky, Psy.D., Melanie T. Santos, Psy.D., Sony Khemlani-Patel, Ph.D. & Fugen Neziroglu, Ph.D. of the Bio Behavioral Institute, edited by C. E. Zupanick, Psy.D.

Excoriation disorder, also known as skin-picking, is the recurrent picking of the skin. While any part of the body can be the target, the primary sites are arms, hands, and face. People can pick skin that is healthy and intact. Alternatively, they may pick at irregular areas of the skin such as hangnails, pimples, or scabs from previous picking, injury, or insect bites. Various tools can be used like tweezers or biting skin off, but fingernails are the norm. People who pick may also rub or squeeze their skin.

Approximately 75% of people with this disorder are women. It occurs in less than two percent of the population. Skin-picking often begins during adolescence in response to acne or another skin condition. Most people will admit to popping a pimple or picking a scab once in awhile. So do we all have skin picking disorder? Well, no. People with this disorder have tried to stop or reduce their picking behavior, but without success. Moreover, like all mental disorders, skin-picking disorder limits a person's functioning. It may be time-consuming and interferes with a person's social, occupational, or educational activities.