How to treat skin picking disorder

How to treat skin picking disorder

"Finding Strength in the Struggle 🌟”, wrote Selena on Social media. “Today, I'm sharing something deeply personal. I've been battling skin-picking, a challenge that often goes unseen.

Each day is a fight against anxiety's physical manifestation, but I'm learning, growing, and healing. To anyone out there facing similar battles, know you're not alone".

Breaking the silence

In spite of its prevalence, skin picking disorder is often shrouded in silence due to stigma and misunderstanding.

As many as one in 20 people suffer from skin picking disorder, so bringing this subject to the forefront is crucial.

The more we talk about excoriation, the better we understand it, and the more supportive communities we create for those who are affected by it.

Increased awareness leads to better recognition, encouraging individuals to seek help and access effective treatments.

This article offers insights into effective strategies to stop skin picking, emphasising cognitive-behavioural therapy and supportive care.

What is a skin-picking disorder?

The skin-picking disorder, also known as excoriation, is characterised by compulsive skin picking that damages tissue.

Skin-picking disorder, a complex condition often rooted in psychological factors, can stem from various causes.

Often, it begins as a physical response to stress or anxiety.

There are also those who pick their skin as a way to cope with feelings of boredom or dissatisfaction or as a sign of more serious mental health conditions such as depression or obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

Real-life stories illustrate the diverse origins of this disorder.

Take Anna, for example, a graphic designer whose skin picking started during her college years, primarily as a way to cope with academic stress.

For her, the act of picking provided a momentary sense of relief from the pressures of her coursework.

Then there's Michael, who began picking his skin in response to social anxiety, often finding himself unconsciously doing so during moments of intense nervousness in social settings.

However, these narratives also shed light on successful management and coping strategies.

Anna, recognising her triggers, sought help from a therapist specialising in cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT), which provided her with tools to manage her stress in healthier ways.

Michael, meanwhile, found solace in support groups, where sharing his experiences and hearing from others helped him feel less isolated in his struggle.

These examples underscore the importance of understanding individual triggers and finding tailored solutions.

The impact of skin picking disorder

Skin-picking disorder leads to significant physical and psychological issues.

Aesthetically, it results in visible skin damage such as wounds, scars, and possible infections, often causing distress and lowered self-esteem.

These physical marks can lead individuals to extensively cover up their skin, potentially worsening the condition.

Experiencing skin picking disorder can exacerbate mental health challenges as the act of picking, often in response to stress or anxiety, further intensifies these emotional states.

This can lead to social withdrawal, heightened anxiety, and depression. The constant effort to hide the condition or its effects also strains relationships and hampers daily functioning.

Best treatment paths for skin-picking disorder

Treating skin-picking disorder effectively requires a personalised approach, as triggers and underlying causes vary significantly from person to person.

For some, the trigger might be physical conditions like acne or eczema, where the picking is a response to the tactile sensation of irregularities on the skin.

In these cases, dermatological treatments to manage the skin condition can be crucial in reducing the urge to pick.

For others, emotional triggers such as stress, anxiety, or boredom are the primary drivers.

Here, CBT is particularly effective at developing alternative coping mechanisms.

Techniques like habit reversal training, where the individual learns to replace skin picking with a less harmful action, and mindfulness practices, which increase awareness of triggers and responses, are commonly employed.

In addition to psychological therapy, some individuals may benefit from medications such as selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRIs) if their skin picking is related to OCD or anxiety disorders.

Support groups and therapy can also provide emotional support and strategies for managing the disorder.

Healing the skin

For the crucial step of repairing the skin barrier, dermatologists often advise the use of very gentle, non-reactive products.

Petrolatum ointment and creams that are rich in ceramides are highly recommended for their effectiveness in nurturing and reinforcing the skin's protective layer.

Additionally, for persistent marks that linger even after the habit has ceased, a specialised gel such as Brightening Hero, which contains tranexamic acid, can be beneficial. This type of gel is specifically designed to help fade the stubborn scars resulting from skin picking.