Harnessing Your Personal Strengths to Manage Skin Picking Disorder

Dr. Dawn Ferrara
Jul 1st, 2024

Online test

Find out the severity of your symptoms with this free online test


Dermatillomania, also known as skin picking disorder or excoriation disorder, is a challenging and often misunderstood disorder. Characterized by repetitive skin picking, it results in noticeable skin damage, significant emotional distress, and impaired psychosocial functioning. Just why someone develops skin picking disorder isn’t really clear. Research has found support for a number of causes and correlates including brain structure and function, reward processing, and more recently, personality traits


Personality traits have been found to influence the development of skin picking and other body focused repetitive behaviors (BFRBs). It makes sense that positive traits could also be embraced and used for managing your skin picking. 

While there is currently no single treatment or “cure” for skin picking, there are things that you can do to manage your situation. Drawing on your own unique personality traits and strengths, you can find ways to navigate urges and cultivate resilience. By fostering self-awareness and self-compassion, you can embrace your personal strengths and pave the way towards healing and empowerment.

The Power of Self-Awareness

Self-awareness is the cornerstone of managing skin picking disorder. Understanding your triggers, behaviors, and emotional responses is a crucial part of learning effective coping strategies. In fact, self-awareness is a key component in Habit Reversal Training (HRT), one of the most common types of therapy used to treat skin picking. During this phase of treatment, you learn to become aware of your thoughts, feelings, and behavior related to your skin picking to determine patterns of when it happens, where it happens, how it happens, and what triggers it.

This introspection allows you to recognize the situations or feelings that precipitate skin picking. Whether it’s stress, boredom, or anxiety, identifying these triggers is the first step towards finding strategies for coping. 

Even if you’re not yet in therapy, you can still gain self-awareness. Journaling is an excellent tool for enhancing self-awareness. Recording your thoughts, feelings, and picking episodes can help you identify patterns and gain insights into your picking. This reflective practice not only illuminates the underlying dynamics of your skin picking but also empowers you to anticipate and prepare for high-risk situations. Knowledge is powerful.

Embracing Self-Compassion

When you’re struggling with skin picking, finding self-compassion can be a challenge. It’s also vital to healing. Feelings of shame and self-criticism are commonly reported by people living with skin picking. It’s important to extend kindness and understanding to yourself, even when you fall short. And it’s important to remember that your skin picking does not define you nor does it diminish your worth. 

Practicing self-compassion can be hard, especially in the beginning. It can take many forms, such as mindfulness meditation, positive self-talk, and seeking support from loved ones. Here are a couple of strategies to try: 

  • Be Your Own Friend – Would you speak to a friend who was struggling in the same way you speak to yourself? Of course not. While you can’t take away their pain, you’d validate their struggle and support them through it. The next time you’re faced with a difficult situation, speak to yourself as if you were speaking to your best friend – because you are.
  • Improve Your Self Awareness – Do you even know when you are being hypercritical of yourself? Sometimes we do something for so long, we don’t even realize it anymore. Try using “releasing statements”. When you find yourself being critical, turn it around into something more affirming. For example, “I’m a terrible friend for forgetting to call.” Reframe it: “It’s ok that I’m forgetful sometimes.” See? You’re acknowledging the misstep but also giving yourself grace.
  • Practice mindfulness –Mindfulness helps to center you in the moment and can help you avoid the rumination that can create distress. It’s also a core component of self-compassion.  There are lots of ways to learn mindfulness including yoga, meditations, and even what self-compassion expert Kristin Neff calls “self-compassion breaks”.

By cultivating a compassionate mindset, you can reduce the emotional impact of skin picking and create a more supportive mindset conducive to healing.

Leveraging Personal Strengths

We all possess unique personality traits that can be leveraged to navigate a difficult situation. Recognizing and embracing these strengths can transform the way you deal manage your skin picking. For example, someone with a strong sense of curiosity might channel their inquisitive nature into researching effective coping strategies and understanding the psychological underpinnings of the disorder. Similarly, someone with a creative flair might explore artistic outlets such as drawing or writing to redirect their focus and express their emotions.

Resilience is the ability to overcome adversity and plays a significant role in managing skin picking. Part of the healing process involves developing coping mechanisms and strategies that bolster your ability to bounce back from setbacks. The fact is, recovery is not linear and there will be times when relapse may happen. It is part of the recovery process. Resilience gives you the ability to overcome that challenge successfully.  By harnessing resilience, you can better withstand the urges to pick and recover more swiftly from episodes.

Can you strengthen your resilience? Yes! Some ways to do that include:

  • Be prepared. Part of therapy is learning ways to manage urges by finding competing responses to take the place of picking. Make sure you have what you need at all times. For example, if your fidget spinner is your go-to tool, make sure you have it with you all the time. 
  • Preventative care and lifestyle management. Take care of YOU! Live a balanced lifestyle with a healthy diet and regular exercise. Establish routines. Maintain low-stress levels and engage in self-care before you need it.
  • Use habit apps. Devices like Keen from HabitAware help you stay aware of hand movements that lead to picking and alerts you.
  • Social Support. Social support is a huge benefit, and when you enlist the help of your supportive others, they can help you recognize signs or triggers before you are aware. You may also find support from others in recover. People in recovery who help others in recovery experience significant benefits from being someone else’s supportive other. It keeps you focused on modeling good behavior and coping skills as well as improving self-esteem.

You are your greatest advocate and have the power to choose how to manage your skin picking. The journey to healing from skin picking requires patience, perseverance, and self-discovery. By harnessing your strengths through introspection and reflection, you will empower yourself to be able to navigate skin picking urges with greater ease and resilience. 



1. Grant, J. E., & Chamberlain, S. R. (2021). Personality traits and their clinical associations in trichotillomania and skin picking disorder. BMC Psychiatry, 21(1). https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33882867/

2. Neff, K. (n.d.). Self-compassion exercises by Dr. Kristin Neff. Retrieved from https://self-compassion.org/category/exercises/

Dr. Dawn Ferrara


With over 25 years of clinical practice, Dawn brings experience, education and a passion for educating others about mental health issues to her writing. She holds a Master’s Degree in Marriage and Family Counseling, a Doctorate in Psychology and is a Board-Certified Telemental Health Provider. Practicing as a Licensed Professional Counselor and Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, Dawn worked with teens and adults, specializing in anxiety disorders, work-life issues, and family therapy. Living in Hurricane Alley, she also has a special interest and training in disaster and critical incident response. She now writes full-time, exclusively in the mental health area, and provides consulting services for other mental health professionals. When she’s not working, you’ll find her in the gym or walking her Black Lab, Riley.

Online test

Find out the severity of your symptoms with this free online test


Start your journey with SkinPick

Take control of your life and find freedom from skin picking through professional therapy and evidence-based behavioral techniques.

Start Now