skin picking disorder myth 1

I found this helpful article on, so I’m going to include this in eight separate posts.

Text taken from

Myth #1: Skin picking is just a bad habit.

Fact: Skin picking is a disorder that has known genetic, anatomical, physiological and environmental causes.

Recent research has demonstrated that compulsive skin picking appears to be related to anatomical changes in the brain. Specifically, changes in the thickness of the brain cortex in the parietal and occipital regions appear to be related to obsessive skin picking.

Skin picking appears to be associated with changes in nerve conduction in certain parts of the brain. This is known as a physiological change in the brain. While these results are very preliminary, they do suggest that skin picking disorder is much more than a bad habit; it may well be related to anatomical and physiological changes in the brain.

The fact that skin picking disorder has been correlated with structural and functional brain changes strongly suggests a genetic component to the disorder. A study of twins demonstrated a strong heritable component to skin picking disorder, which accounted for about 40% of the disorder. The genes involved appear to affect the brain chemical (neurotransmitter) serotonin, which explains the obsessive-compulsive and anxiety-inducing nature of skin picking.

Besides the anatomical and genetic causes of skin picking disorder, certain environmental factors have been implicated in causing the disorder:

  • Birth complications
  • Streptococcal (bacterial) infections
  • Traumatic life events
  • Exposure to bullying
  • Exposure to domestic violence

So, although research is just beginning to uncover these factors, it is already apparent that skin picking is not simply a bad habit. Rather, it is a disorder caused by structural and physiological brain changes, genetics and environmental factors.

When I visit my psychologist, even I describe my skin picking as a bad habit, but now I know that so much more is going on psychologically. No matter how much I have tried to control this disorder with all the different types of therapies I have tried in twenty years, it’s just something that I have to live with but just cannot accept of myself. I know that I cannot stop because something is wrong with my brain. I experienced trauma in my childhood, and I was bullied at school and sometimes we don’t know why we develop mental difficulties in some areas of the brain. Is it a way for the body to cope with pain? I’m very much knowledgeable about my condition  but I can’t stop myself from picking for hours a day to relieve anxiety coupled with feelings of guilt, shame, embarrassment, seeing only the flaws of my scars all over my body, and thoughts of suicide to end the cycle. The vicious cycle of self-hate is daily.  Sadly, I doubt a lot of GPs know very much about this disorders it’s just bundled into the OCD spectrum of disorders, but it is an extremely debilitating illness.

Please follow and like us: