Excoriation disorder is a compulsive disorder where the people afflicted repetitively and compulsively pick at their skin, often to the point of discoloration and scaring. Excoriation is very similar to other compulsive disorders. For this reason it is classified as a Body-Focused Repetitive Behavior (BFRB). Also classified in this way are trichotillomania (compulsive hair pulling), compulsive nail biting, and the compulsive chewing of the inside of the cheeks. In addition to the physical symptoms of excoriation (discoloration, scarring, and sometimes severe tissue damage), it also has a host of mental symptoms. These include negative emotions such as depression, anxiety, shame, and helplessness.
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Excoriation is another name for dermatillomania. They both describe the same compulsive skin picking disorder. Though the condition is most often referred to as dermatillomania, even in medical circles - at least this is the situation in 2014 at the time of writing of this article - its proper name is Excoriation Disorder. In fact, skin picking is referred to as excoriation disorder in the DSM-5 (DSM-V). It has its own separate category here and is classified as its own disorder because it has marked and separate characteristics from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD).
a screenshot of the relevant section is the DSM-5 table of contents
The word excoriation originally meant “the act of stripping possessions wrongfully or by force.” The term is now obsolete. However, it is easy to see how the original meaning of the word, especially “the act of stripping,” can be applied to the modern day definition of excoriation. That modern day definition of excoriation is as follows: “to tear or wear off the skin; abrade.” When not used in the context of a skin picking disorder, excoriate has a meaning that is very similar to chafe. It means the act of the skin being rubbed or worn off, either by yourself or by an external object. The medical origin of the term excoriation likely harks all the way back to the late 1890s. The first known mention of the disorder was in 1898 by a French dermatologist. His female adolescent patient was suffering from the uncontrollable urge to pick at her acne. Today, the term excoriation is almost exclusively used to describe dermatillomania.
Excoriation disorder is sometimes known as dermatillomania or compulsive skin picking disorder. It can be a very serious compulsive disorder that has a number of negative effects.
For more information about the Excoriation Disorder, causes and treatment, get the Complete Guide to Picking Disorders today.