Skin Picking As a Mental Disorder

For people who take normal grooming behaviors to the next level. Pathological grooming is a mental disorder that sits in the same category as obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), a disorder that requires medication if their habits become uncontrollable.

Picking at scabs, nail and cuticle biting, and pulling off dead ends in the hair and even pulling out hair are all forms of pathological grooming. This newly coined term was recently added into the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) click here.

Nail biting can be triggered by a hangnail and under a normal grooming circumstance will be fixed with filing or cutting. A pathological nail biter is not only triggered by a simple hangnail, but will start to associate the biting with factors such as driving, reading or stress. After a while, the behavior requires no triggers and becomes an automatic behavior with no relationship to an external stimuli.

Other grooming behaviors such as dermatillomania, or skin picking can become an obsessive behavior. The need to clean a scab can develop into an irritating picking. Interrupting the body’s natural healing process can lead to skin infection and unusual scarring. Trichotillomania or hair pulling is another compulsive disorder that can lead to long-term skin damage. The roots of the hair are constantly being strained, making it hard for the body to replace the hair that has been unnecessarily pulled out. The hair pulling takes place most commonly from the eyelashes, eyebrows, scalp.

If you feel you are grooming the hair, nails or skin without a stimuli and find it hard or stressing to stop, you may be a pathological groomer. Therapy can be sought out or suggested by a dermatologist such as Dr. Rokhsar. As a fellowship-trained Dermatologist with expert knowledge, Dr. Rokhsar can also treat any scarring that may come from the obsessive grooming as well as advise the patient certain other treatments, lotions and medications.

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