OCD: Skin Picking
Compulsive skin picking (CSP) is often classed as a type of OCD compulsion. If you suffer from CSP, you'll repeatedly feel the need to pick at your skin – even if it makes your skin bleed. Like OCD compulsions in general, CSP sufferers tend to perform this compulsive ritual to relieve anxiety.
Recognising The Signs of Compulsive Skin PickingCSP tends to occur after high levels of anxiety, which can trigger the urge to pick your skin as a means of dealing with the situation. This won't necessarily be a conscious decision and you may not even realise what you're doing until you notice the damage that it's caused. Skin picking is often followed by intense relief or pleasure that the anxiety has been reduced and this can result in a vicious cycle in which you feel compelled to perform skin picking rituals to relieve anxiety despite experiencing despair or self-hate afterwards when you see the results of your efforts. During stressful periods, CSP rituals tend to be increased in a bid to reduce the increased anxiety.
In the beginning, CSP may involve scratching spots, moles or freckles that you deem unsightly or irritating. This can be linked to perfectionism as sufferers can easily convince themselves that CSP is necessary to deal with these skin imperfections, even though it is only going to make them worse. As the condition progresses, picking and scratching the skin can become an obsession and you may even start to pick at perceived imperfections that aren't really there. As well as picking and scratching with your nails, it's also likely that you'll use objects to 'help' you. This can include tweezers, pins, scissors and other sharp objects. Because of this, visible damage is usually present after CSP and your skin may be permanently scarred as a result of Compulsive Skin Picking.
After CSP rituals have been performed, you may go out of your way to cover up the damage by wearing heavy make-up and long-sleeved clothes or avoiding social situations in which attention may be drawn to your scars or scabs. CSP can have a knock-on effect on key areas of your life as sufferers often sideline their friends and may jeopardise work by being late because of skin picking or taking time off because they are unable to face people seeing the extent of the damage. If the damage is severe, it's not uncommon for sufferers to stay indoors and avoid leaving the house because they are too embarrassed for the outside world to see the effects of CSP.