QUESTION: I have recently discovered that Dermatillomania exists through recent conversations with my friends. After some research, I realize that I have several of the symptoms, such as acne picking, scratching at the skin around my nails, lip biting, continuously picking at scabs, and a few other of the characteristics. My question is this: at what point does it become a serious condition? I understand that is serious at all times, but at what point should a professional be sought out for help? Until I heard about this, I thought that everyone picked at their face and nails, so I am unsure at what point it becomes severe.
ANSWER: This is a frequent question, a fair question to ask, but one that is very hard to answer. Some people come to see me with very moderate levels of picking. Others have delayed until they have needed hospitalization or a partner has practically hit them over the head with a 2X4. My hunch is that anyone who is asking the question or surfing forums and websites is bothered enough to be a good candidate for professional help. One thing that can get in the way of getting help is shame or feeling that it is your fault. Don't be surprised if these feelings come up, but don't let them get in the way.
Ted A. Grossbart, Ph.D., Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA