Some people may find themselves, from time to time, distractedly picking at their skin. For example, they may randomly pop a pimple or scratch at a particularly worrisome scab. In some cases, this habit can grow into a more heightened and persistent pattern of skin picking, a condition known as excoriation disorder.
excoriation disorder is a psychiatric condition which is characterized by the repetitive and sometimes aggressive picking of one’s own skin. It is a compulsive body-focused repetitive behavior, and people who engage in the behavior often do not realize that they are doing it. Others find that it’s a habit that is hard to abstain from. Excoriation disorder has been described as an OCD-related disorder, as it can simultaneously occur with other compulsive habits like hair-pulling. Research has also shown that this condition affects a small percentage of the population — an estimated 2-5% — the majority being women.
The skin is the body’s largest organ, and this means that any condition that affects it can also affect a person’s general health and well-being. The impact of excoriation disorder on one’s life may be significant, as it causes physical pain and can make an individual feel shame and embarrassment about their appearance and this compulsive behavior. It can also affect their relationship with themselves and others.
The exact cause of excoriation disorder remains largely unknown, but there are several ways to deal with the condition. Stimulus control — a process whereby people struggling with this condition adopt preventive measures like keeping sharp objects used to pick at their skin out of reach, or wearing protective clothing like gloves to prevent them from picking their skin — has been recommended as a means to break the habit..
While tip may be helpful, individuals affected by this condition may find it too easy to remove gloves, or reach for objects like tweezers when the urge to pick at their skin arises. It is as important to deal with the urge itself as to adopt habits that can help prevent skin picking.
Here are five ways to deal with excoriation disorder.
1. Identify The Triggers
In order to deal with excoriation disorder, the first thing one should do is identify and understand the factors that trigger the urge to pick at the skin. There are a number of biological and environmental factors that contribute to the growth of a persistent pattern of skin-picking, and it is important for sufferers to be aware of the particular circumstance that affects them, in order to know the type of treatment to pursue.
Some people may pick their skin out of boredom, displeasure at blemishes, and in some cases, as a result of depression. If a person is triggered to pick their skin as a result of physical conditions like acne, consulting a dermatologist may be the best option. However, if the habit is triggered by depression or anxiety, it is advisable to speak with a mental health expert.
2. Get Professional Help
Many individuals dealing with excoriation disorder tend to avoid seeking help from an expert because they feel shame about their condition, while others may not see the condition as being serious enough to seek medical help.
However, consulting a therapist or psychiatrist is the most effective way to deal with excoriation disorder. There are several psychotherapeutic approaches and interventions available to reduce the symptoms and repair the damage caused by the disorder, such as cognitive behavioral therapy, which helps people understand the relationship between their thoughts, feelings, and behavior and their mental health. Medication — that helps ease anxiety and stress —may also be prescribed by professionals, in order to deal with the triggers that cause skin picking.
Since excoriation disorder often occurs simultaneously with other conditions like depression and body dysmorphia, it is equally important to target these conditions as well, so that they do not trigger or heighten the urge to pick the skin while it is being treated.
3. Exercise Regularly
Aggressive skin picking is mostly triggered by stress, anxiety, and negative moods. Adopting a consistent exercise routine is one of the best ways to reduce stress. Engaging in regular physical activity can also help keep the mind occupied, and lessen a person’s urge to pick their skin. Aerobic exercises — like biking and swimming —minimize muscle tension and improves the overall mood of a person, reducing their impulse to engage in skin picking.
Apart from physical exercise, practicing mindfulness also helps in dealing with excoriation disorder. Engaging in activities like yoga and meditation can relax the mind and ease stress. Maintaining a calm mind also helps an individual identify the obsessive thought patterns that causes them to pick at their skin, and work on controlling those thought patterns. On a general note, exercising the mind and body keeps a person busy and fosters a positive mindset.
4. Develop Healthy Self-Care Rituals
Another helpful way to deal with excoriation disorder is by developing healthy rules and rituals to help control anxiety. These self-care routines do not have to be life altering — but can be simple activities like listening to soothing music, eating healthy, or adopting a regular skincare routine. These small adjustments can go a long way in curbing stress and reducing the urge to pick the skin. Caring for the body can also help a person develop a more positive mindset.
Even though it may be hard to adopt new habits to replace the habit of skin picking, it is important to maintain consistency and slowly incorporate a new, healthy ritual into one’s daily routine.
5. Strengthen Your Support System
Building a strong support system made up of close friends and family is crucial for anyone who is dealing with excoriation disorder. This condition tends to make people isolate from family gatherings and social events, because they may be ashamed of the scars on their body. If you know someone struggling with excoriation disorder, be mindful that it does not help when they get asked about scars. Many, when struggling with the disorder, find it difficult to speak about.
Even though it can be challenging, it is important for people who are dealing with excoriation disorder to reach out and communicate with family and friends about the condition, surround themselves with people who understand what they are going through, and are willing to provide them with the necessary support and encouragement to deal with the condition.
While dealing with excoriation disorder, the most important thing to remember is that everyone has the right to feel confident. Always. The skin positivity movement is one of the most progressive trends of the decade, and it highlights the need for people to feel free in their skin, regardless of conditions that causes them to have physical scars or blemishes.
Don’t let the presence of physical scars stop you from living life fully.