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Many people pick at their skin occasionally, but people with excoriation disorder — also called skin-picking disorder — develop a chronic compulsion that lies on the obsessive-compulsive spectrum. Individuals with the disorder feel regular impulses to pick at their skin, eventually causing physical or psychological damage. While the condition is uncommon, there is a significant amount of research detailing its effects. The cause is unknown, though it has many links to various mental disorders.

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1. Picking Episodes

People with excoriation disorder have episodes where they feel driven to pick their skin. Tension, stress, and anxiety often precede these episodes, and many individuals learn to predict when the impulses are approaching. Skin picking often follows a specific trigger, such as noticing a perceived flaw on the skin. During these episodes, people with the condition pick at their skin in a trance-like state, often to the point of injury. An excoriation episode can last anywhere from a few minutes to several hours. Most people pick with their fingers, though some may use tweezers, needles, or other tools.

excoriation skin picking AndreyPopov / Getty Images
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