3 ways to stop skin picking and what are its side effects

Do you have this constant urge to pick at your skin? If yes, you may be a victim of skin picking disorder. Let our experts tell you more!

Have you found yourself picking at a scab or a bump? Well, it happens with all of us. But if it becomes a habit, it’s quite likely that you suffer from skin picking disorder or SPD. Apart from the physical manifestations, it can also affect you mentally in so many ways!

Dr. Kiran Sethi, a renowned skin specialist from Delhi, tells us more, “Skin picking is when you try to remove scabs, or pimples yourself. It can cause unnecessary marks trauma and marks, worsening zits, spread of bacteria and cause infection.”

Here are some common symptoms of the disorder:

  • Engaging in skin picking, after trying ways to combat it
  • Developing recurring lesions due to skin picking
  • Experiencing mental health issues, as a result of indulging in it

There are various reasons why people engage in it. Preeta Ganguli, a mental health practitioner, explains, “Some people want to have flawless skin, and even the slightest kind of imperfection bothers them. There are others who pick at their skin as a result of high levels of stress or boredom. Others may just do it out of habit.”

skin picking
Skin picking could be stress-related. Image courtesy: Shutterstock
Why do people develop this skin picking habit?

There are largely two reasons why this happens:

Dr Sethi explains that in many cases, when there’s a scab, people tend to scratch or pick on it, and a new wound forms. This, in turn, causes a vicious cycle of picking at your skin, and carries on!

Skin picking has to also do with your state of mind, believes Ganguli. “When an individual is stressed, he/she may pick at their skin, pull their hair or even bite their nails. Everyone has a different response to stress. Others might not want any scars or imperfections, and hence, engage in this behaviour,” she adds.

How can this skin picking disorder be tackled?
  1. Identify the triggers

It’s important to understand why you may be skin picking. It could be nothing but boredom, or there could be underlying negative emotions. Once you know the triggers, the right treatment can be recommended.

“If it is more to do with acne or itching, a dermatologist can help you out. In case it is connected with your mental health, you must see a psychologist, who has knowledge regarding how to deal with this issue,” explains Dr Sethi.

skin picking
Don’t refrain from seeing a mental health expert if the need arises. Image courtesy: Shutterstock
  1. Practice stimulus control

“In such cases, the environment is changed, so that it’s not as easy for a person to pick at their skin. It could be anything – from keeping your nails trimmed, or wearing full-sleeved clothes. One could also make use of stress balls, or fidgets,” explains Ganguli.

  1. Therapy is essential

Such patients are also recommended cognitive behavioral therapy or CBT. A specialized kind of SBT has been developed for SPD. “This kind of therapy pays special attention to stimulus control and habit reversal. Work with a therapist, who can guide you properly, and is trained in dealing with skin picking disorder,” says Ganguli.

Lastly, medication may be recommended by the expert. “Do not consume anything without medical supervision,” she concludes.

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