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We all pick our skin from time to time, and it can be extremely easy to catch yourself flicking at the cuticles on your fingers or any tenacious scabs dotted around your body. However, in some cases, this behavior can become immensely compulsive, especially in young adults who are beginning to pay more attention to grooming themselves and their appearance.

As a parent, you may have already noticed this behavior in your child, catching them as they ignorantly pluck away at their body while on the bed. Although it can be reasonably easy to wave this away when you become aware of this, you must try to pay close attention to this habit, as it may quickly spiral out of control.

When care is not taken, skin picking often grows into a medical condition called dermatillomania, which occurs when the scratching or plucking becomes unusually obsessive. This scraping against the skin often leads to prominent scars and extensive skin damage.

If your child has made active efforts to stop picking at their skin but has been unable to do so, please speak to us as soon as possible. Courageous Kids Counseling has a vast amount of experience in treating dermatillomania and would be glad to help in any way we can.

How Can I Tell if My Child has Dermatillomania?

As plucking away at the skin can be normal to a certain extent, it can be exceedingly difficult to find where the soft habit stops and where the problem begins. This vagueness often leads to a blurred line that makes it complex to diagnose dermatillomania early, making it much more difficult to stop.

However, you must remember, compulsive skin picking is not a typical condition. Instead, you should think of it as a coping mechanism that your child employs throughout their day to climb over certain hurdles that they are facing.

These issues may include stress, anxiety, negative thoughts, and several other problems.

These feelings are often so intense that most children with this disorder require a physical sensation to calm themselves. In essence, while your child may recognize that their anxiety is not physical, they may also believe they can use their body as a medium to ease their negative thoughts.

When they begin to carry out this action repeatedly, it can often lead to evident marks on the skin, which can become embarrassing and increase their anxiety.

Fortunately, this does not have to be the case. Dermatillomania has several symptoms that make it distinct from regular skin picking, making it easy to spot and treat. These may include:

Visible Scars or Lesions from Skin Picking

If your child has continuously picked at their skin for a while, lesions or permanent scars may likely begin to show up. These scars represent one of the core ways dermatillomania stands out from typical skin picking. So, if you notice any of these, you must seek help as soon as possible.

However, your child may also be able to successfully hide these from you depending on the location that they pick. So, if your child regularly plucks at their back or abdomen, they may be able to conceal any lesions.

All Attempts to Stop Picking Has Failed

While most skin picking tends to happen unconsciously, your child may quickly notice the effects depending on how often they pluck or scratch at their skin. Naturally, while they may try to stop picking upon recognizing any skin damage or lesions, they may find their hands returning to their favorite spot.

Remember, compulsive skin picking tends to be an extremely intense sensation. The fierceness of this disorder often means that stopping is extremely difficult, despite desperately wanting to. If your child has tried to stop this habit but failed, please reach out as soon as you can.

It Causes a Great Amount of Disruption to Your Child’s Life

Most children with dermatillomania often describe the condition as a powerful itch that they simply cannot ignore. Essentially, the more they attempt to disregard it, the stronger the need to satisfy the sensation becomes. Unfortunately, this can be heavily disruptive as the desire to pick can come at any time, regardless of the social setting that your child may find themselves in.

So, the need to pluck at their skin may suddenly creep up on your child while they are around friends or giving a presentation at school. This desire quickly puts them between a rock and a hard place, as they must either begin scratching at their skin in public or try to ignore the sensation.

In any case, your child may find it immensely embarrassing and could try to limit their social interactions as much as possible in the future.

Additionally, dermatillomania often leads to an increase in depression and anxiety in young children, as they mostly try to stay away from social interactions with their peers. They may also begin to distance themselves from you, as they could fear that you will notice any lesions or scars that they may have on their body.

This panic often leads to them covering up their skin with clothes or artificial products, such as makeup.

Can Compulsive Skin Picking Be Treated?

At Courageous Kids Counseling, we understand how distressing it can be to watch your child battle this disorder. This pain may also become much harder to bear if your child has made several attempts to stop picking at their skin but has failed to do so each time.

However, this does not have to be the case. We have years of experience in treating dermatillomania and helping children step out of this condition, and with the right amount of work and dedication, your child can also recover.

One of the proven methods we apply when treating this condition is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). This method involves drilling down into all the negative thoughts and feelings that may be responsible for your child’s dermatillomania and helping them understand how they can react differently each time their mind throws up these thoughts. In essence, it puts your child back in the driving seat of their life.

By altering your child’s core reaction to anxiety and negative thoughts, they can move from skin picking to a much healthier habit. This mental shift makes CBT one of the most efficient ways of treating compulsive skin picking, and we highly recommend it for all children currently struggling with this disorder.

If you would like to learn more about CBT and how we use it to treat other issues, don’t hesitate to contact us or book a free consultation. Our therapists would be happy to answer any questions you have and offer their services.

In addition to our therapy sessions, your actions as a parent will also be crucial in helping your child beat their battle against compulsive skin picking. One core mistake that several parents make is forcing their children to stop plucking. Remember, this is often an intense and uncontrollable sensation that needs to be satisfied for your child to continue to go about their day.

So, any attempts to force them to stop picking will likely fail and may also lead to them distancing themselves from you. This remoteness could be because they will feel uncomfortable scratching against their skin around you and may prefer to be in a safe space where they can reliably relieve this sensation without feeling beat down about it.

Instead of forcing them, we suggest that you speak to them about the condition in a calm manner. Ask your child the questions that will help them place you in their shoes and understand what they are going through. Through this period, you must remain patient and calm with them.

This compassion will help keep your relationship determined and spirited, as well as give your child the strength to go through their therapy sessions.

If you would like to learn more about this condition and why Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is the most successful method of treating compulsive skin picking, feel free to contact us as soon as possible. At Courageous Kids Counseling, we understand that you and your child may be going through a significantly troubling situation, and we would love to help.

Additionally, if you are unsure your child needs therapy, you are also welcome to book a free consultation. Our therapists would be happy to address any nagging questions and ease any concerns you may have about the therapy process.


Additional Reading

Do You Believe Your Child Has Anxiety?

Is Your In-Network Provider Not Getting the Results Your Child Needs?‏

How Do You Know If Your Child Needs Therapy?‏

Time Out from My Child!

How can EMDR help your child?