The primary characteristic of these compulsive behaviors is the repetitive picking at one's own body to the extent of causing damage.
Compulsive body picking may involve any part of the body. Individuals with this disorder may pick at normal skin variations such as freckles and moles, at actual preexisting scabs, sores or acne blemishes, or at imagined skin defects that nobody else can observe.
These persons may use their fingernails or teeth, as well as tweezers, pins or other mechanical devices. As a result, compulsive skin picking may cause bleeding, bruises, infections, and/or permanent disfigurement.
Sometimes these compulsive behaviors are preceded by a high level of tension and a strong "itch" or "urge". These compulsive behaviors may be followed by a feeling of relief or pleasure.
An episode may be a conscious response to anxiety or depression, but is frequently an unconscious habit.
Individuals with compulsive body behaviors often attempt to camouflage the damage caused to their face and other parts of their body by using make-up, or wearing clothes to cover the marks and scars.
In extreme cases, these individuals may avoid social situations in an effort to prevent others from seeing the scars, scabs, and bruises.
The Comprehensive Model for Behavioral Treatment.
This treatment is similar to the treatment of trichotillomania or hair pulling. This is a type of cognitive behavioral therapy has been shown to be a successful treatment.
This treatment model has five categories:
Sensory - how does it physically feel when I pick my skin? Cognitive - what am I thinking? Affective - what am I feeling? Motor - what do I do with my hands when I pick my skin? Place/environment - what environment am I usually in when I pick my skin?
After a thorough assessment, we explore how each of the above categories relates to an individual's skin picking.
Then we suggest strategies for each category to help the person better manage their symptoms.