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Thankfully, dermatillomania is treatable through the use of cognitive behavioral therapy that emphasizes habit-reversal training and exposure and ritual prevention. Often people with this condition will also be prescribed certain psychotropic drugs to help them as they learn to reduce their fixation with their skin or appearance. Others learn to “replace” the ritual of picking with things such as bubble wrap, writing, or similar methodical hand movements that simulates the sensation of picking something.
Treatment is not without difficulties, however. First, many people who have this condition are too ashamed to admit it to their healthcare providers. Second, unlike an alcoholic whose addictive behavior is triggered in the presence of a drink, dermatillomania sufferers cannot avoid the object of their destructive behavior because they live in their skin.
If you believe you or someone you care about is living with dermatillomania, look for these signs and symptoms of the conditions:
- Having persistent open sores, scabs, or swollen areas on face, arms, legs, or other body area
- Spending excessive periods of time picking at the skin (more than five to 10 minutes per session, or more than 1-2 sessions per day)
- Using skin picking to relieve stress or boredom
- Using skin picking to intentionally harm yourself or to gain attention from others
- Experiencing extreme anxiety if unable to do check the skin or pick at it
- Having areas of scarred or heavily calloused skin
- Inflicting damage to the skin that requires medical intervention such as stiches or grafts
- Expressing a belief that the skin is holding contaminants or “toxins” that must be removed through picking
If you notice that you or someone you know has these signs and symptoms, you should contact a physician or mental health provider to get treatment for this medical condition.
Sources: Neuro-Behaviorial Institute; American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy; Brain Physics; Wikipedia; MSNBC.com; Daily