Characteristics of 262 adults with skin picking disorder

Grant, J. E., & Chamberlain, S. R. (2022). Characteristics of 262 adults with skin picking disorder. Comprehensive psychiatry, 117, 152338. Advance online publication.


Introduction: Skin picking disorder (also known as excoriation disorder or dermatillomania) is a common mental health disorder currently classified as an obsessive-compulsive and related condition. Despite being first described in the 1800s, very little is known about its phenomenology and clinical presentation. Most information about this disorder to date is based on online surveys rather than in-person assessments.

Methods: Clinical and demographic data were collected from individuals with skin-picking disorder taking part in research studies, using in-person assessments comprising validated instruments. Descriptive information was presented as to the nature of skin picking disorder.

Results: The sample comprised 262 individuals, mean age 32.5 years, being 87% female. The peak age of onset of symptoms was 12.9 years, and most affected individuals (>90%) had symptom onset before age of 20 years. Typically, individuals reported picking from multiple body sites (most common was the face), and the most frequent triggers were stress and the 'feel' (i.e. texture) of the skin. Comorbidities were common, including trichotillomania, depression, generalized anxiety disorder, and impulsive/compulsive disorders (especially attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder). The majority of people with the disorder (87.1%) had never received treatment. Of those who had received treatment in the past, 87% reported that they found the treatment helpful for their symptoms.

Discussion: This study sheds new light on the clinical presentation and phenomenology of skin picking disorder. Results highlight the need for further research into its clinical presentation, longitudinal course, and treatment approaches.