Effects of Compulsive Skin Picking, Chronic Skin Picking
Compulsive skin picking can negatively impact a person emotionally, physically and socially, interfering with school, work, or daily activities. Also called excoriation disorder or dermatillomania, the effects of this disorder can range from mild to severe. Episodes of obsessive skin picking are often preceded by some sort of trigger, such as an irregularity on the skin, anxiety, or other uncomfortable internal feelings.
Experts believe that people engage in chronic skin picking behavior to cope with high levels of stress or anxiety. The act of compulsive skin picking then provides relief from the mounting tension in the person with some people reporting feeling a rush of pleasure after picking.
Complications of Compulsive Skin Picking
You may wonder if your compulsive skin picking will result in scars or if you could develop an infection from it. After your picking sessions, your skin may look like a battleground with scabs and lesions all over. This may cause you to feel deeply ashamed, starting the cycle of tension and anxiety over again, causing another bout of chronic skin picking. You may even know that your picking makes your skin worse, but your brain tells you that if you just do it one more time, your skin will finally be flawless. Whatever your individual experience with your skin picking compulsion, left unchecked, it can lead to some serious complications.
Complications due to compulsive skin picking include:
- Tissue damage
- Infection at picking site
- Scarring and disfigurement
- Epidural abscesses – collection of pus around a wound on the skin that emerges during an inflammatory process in response to an infection or the presence of foreign matter, such as splinters
- Septicemia – a potentially deadly illness involving a systemic inflammatory response due to severe infection
Some very severe cases of skin picking can require surgical repair of the picking site or even skin grafting procedures to repair the damage. In addition to physical complications, compulsive skin picking can cause intense guilt, shame, and embarrassment, increasing the likelihood that they will engage in even more self-mutilating behaviors. People suffering from compulsive skin picking have a recognized mental illness and should seek help from a mental health professional before they experience some of the potentially catastrophic effects of the condition.
Last Updated: 17 March 2016
Reviewed by Harry Croft, MD