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Scalp Picking

SSP30 , 15 Mar 2012

I need to quit picking my scalp

I hope that writing this will be therapeutic as it will be the first time I admit this to anyone. I remember the moment I started picking at my scalp. I was 10 years old in 5th grade and I'm now 30. I have always wanted to quit but haven't been able to go more than a few days. I am a successful female with my own house. I have a great boyfriend. I'm very healthy, into eating right and exercising. And I have lots of thick hair. No bald spots yet and want to quit before I do more damage. I remember exactly how I started. There was lice going around in school in 5th grade. A friend pointed out that I had white stuff on my hair and said I had lice. I didn't really have lice and I claimed it was dandruff so that I wouldn't be made fun of. If I scratched my head it would become flakey. Sometime soon after that I scratched my head and felt a flake or something in my hair. I pulled it out and liked the way it felt and started feeling around to see if there were more. There were no more so I started scratching to make flakes that I could pull out and thought if I scratched it all off it would go away. The scratching turned into picking and created scabs for me to pull off again and again. Now it's 20 years later. One time I thought to myself, "there must be at least one other person in the world who does this". It turns out there is a lot. No one knows what I do. My mom always saw me playing with my scalp and told me to stop but I don't think she knows what I really do or how bad it is. I try not to do it in front of people but if I get the urge I have a spot on the side if my head so it looks like I am pushing my hair behind my ear. Or I have a spot near the base of my head near my neck so it looks like I'm just rubbing my neck. Maybe I'm not as discrete as I think I am. I pick mostly when I'm alone which is a lot because I work from home. I have about 6 sores currently going. I think I pick when I am stressed. I love my career but it's demanding. I have deadlines to adhere to which stresses me out and I'll catch myself picking instead of working. I drive a lot for work. I start picking as soon as I get in the car because it's a time that I am alone and a time that I think a lot. And sometimes I just do it because I like how it feels. I like how the scab feels on my scalp, how it feels to pull it off under my nails, how it feels between my fingers when I pull it out of my hair. If it's a really big one I like to break into smaller pieces. It sounds so gross. The spots I pick have been there for serval years. I used to pick deeper and bloodier scabs in high school. Most are more like calluses now so I usually don't make myself bleed but sometimes it happens. There is one spot where there is little baby hairs that feel like stubble. They never get the chance to grow out and I'm afraid it will become a bald spot soon. My hair dresser noticed it once and asked if I pull my hair out. I said, "no" because that's not what I do. I made the excuse that my hair brush got stuck and it broke some hair off. I never went back to her out of embarrassment. I want to quit before my boyfriend and I move into together or get married because I fear he will catch onto my bad habit and be disgusted. I'm afraid to get bald spots. I'm afraid to get an infection and have to go to the hospital and tell them why. I'm afraid it will cause some other type of problem. Sometimes the back of my head will get sore and swell up a little. Reading the posts on here get me motivated to quit but I always relapse. I really want this to be the time I quit for good.
74 Answers
March 17, 2012
So much of this sounds exactly like my own situation...not in terms of how you got started, but in the current state of affairs and how you feel about it. We're the same age, and have been at this for basically the same amount of time. I've also never mentioned anything about this to anyone, and it is sort of therapeutic to just have a forum to make the grand admission and to know that it's not just me whose working through this compulsion that feels so silly...and so trapping. Thanks for sharing. I bet we can figure this out!
October 07, 2014

In reply to by ...

I've been doing this since I was a child and I'm now 50. For years I had flaky skin (dandruff shampoos did nothing, although occasionally if I used polytar shampoos, it felt less itchy, but the shampoo has a strong smell) and a sticky patch on my scalp, then about 5 years ago, clumps of hair started falling out with small patches of skin attached. I went to a trichologist - not cheap (£50 for a one hour session here in the UK), but I'm glad I did. It turned out that I had folliculitis decalvans. There's a brilliant New Zealand website with all kinds of scalp conditions on it called On it, I realised that I had seborrhoeic dermatitis, which caused the itchy scalp. I'm now using a fairly expensive shampoo recommended by the trichologist, but it's the only thing that stops my scalp feeling itchy. I've got long hair, which I've always left for about 5 days between washing as it takes so long, but the trichologist said that I must wash it daily or at least every two days. I now dry it about 80% dry with a hair drier, then finish it off with a hot air brush, which styles it so much faster and easier than with a conventional hair brush. Do see a proper qualified hair specialist - I'd put it off because of the cost, but it was definitely worth it.
October 07, 2014

In reply to by ...

I forgot to add that I also scratched and picked at my scalp more when I was stressed and I know just how satisfying it was to pick at a scab! However, my bald patch is now permanently scarred through the folliculitis decalvans (a bacterial infection) so I'm washing it daily in the mild shampoo recommended by the trichologist. Am sad to have a bald patch and am doing a comb-over to try and hide it. Don't let yours get to this state, it's worth spending some money getting it properly diagnosed.
March 19, 2012
Your not alone. I'm 26. Mine also started with dandruff when I was about 12. A friend of mine told me I had dandruff and revealed that she did as well. When I was studying I used to scratch the little flakes out onto my textbook. When I had a fair amount I would gather them on the tip of my forefinger and smell them and sometimes eat them!!! I can't even believe I am typing this. So thats how it started and has now evolved into one spot near the top of my head. I have the same worries about losing my hair. I imagine it has been noticed because I have failed to conceal it. I wear hats alot or I wear my hair in a pony tail so it doesnt show. I once told a hairdresser that I hit my head on the corner of a shelf that I was cleaning under. But this isn't my only problem, I pick my upper lip which I imagine is quite noticeable at times. I sometimes wonder if people think its a cold sore, I would almost prefer that they think that rather then know the truth. When I was 4 or younger I remember my mom scolding me for picking my lip, but as an adult I've seen her pick her scalp and cuticles, and my dad picks his cuticles and his toes. I too pick my cuticles but not my toes. I've read up on it a bit and discovered it is hereditary. Also, very interesting bit I read on wikipedia: "In contrast to neurological theories, there are some psychologists who believe that picking behavior is a result of repressed rage felt toward authoritarian parents. A similar theory holds that overbearing parents can cause the behavior to develop in their children" My mother is extremely over-protective, worry wart, struggles with anxiety and depression, etc. So don't be too hard on your kids people or they'll end up like looking like tweakers. I know my boyfriend has seen me picking but I try to hide it from him. Its so unconscious that I catch myself doing it right in front of him. I want to talk to him about it, to tell him that I desire change, because I hate that I do this... but I am a coward. Sometimes he'll catch me picking at my cuticles and he'll try to hold my hand- either because it bothers him, or hes trying to calm me down, or both. I think he picks his lip too though on occasion, but my condition is worse. I just want some help, but I can't afford real treatment. I'm a student and I don't have a job. I confessed it to one doctor (about my fingers only) who asked me if it prevented me from getting work done. When I said it didn't (which now I fear that it does)... when I said that it didn't prevent me from getting work done she shrugged it off. At least made me think it wasn't that big of a deal. Thats when I learned it was anxiety related. I did not have the courage to go into detail with this doctor, perhaps if she knew more she would have wanted to help. But why is it a problem only if it affects my productivity!? What about my emotional well-being? My self control? My self esteem? My physical appearance? Oh, how can we do this to ourselves? Something that causes such misery, embarassment and at times physical pain? We have no one to blame but ourselves, yet it is because we are so hard on ourselves that we do it! Stress, anxiety, all of the above and I feel sick, sick, sick.
April 01, 2012

In reply to by Tortured

I found your post very interesting particularly the info from Wikipedia. My father was always very over protective and strict to the point where I basically had no social life outside of school while I was growing up. Even after high school and as I became an adult he was still strict because I still lived under his roof. I couldn't do simple things with my friends such as going to the mall, movies, or even talking on the phone. Never went to any school dances. He didn't allow me to have a boyfriend until I was finished with college. To this day I hold a grudge towards him. I lost a lot of friends because I couldn't keep in contact with them. It's also hard for me to make new friends as I have become accustom to my "loner" lifestyle. I have a small handful of friends but don't really spend a lot of time with them or talk very often. Most of the time I'm with my boyfriend and his friends. I don't have a very close relationship with my father because of this. I've learned to hide things about my personal life from him. He doesn't know me very well at all but I don't know if he even realizes it. He always brags about being strict and credits himself for the success in my life. He thinks being a strict parent is being a good parent. I started picking my scalp at 10 years old before I knew how strict my dad would be but maybe that was a part of my stress which helped the picking to continue and get worse as I got older. I think the picking was at it's worst in high school. I've read a lot of posts by people who say their parents also had a similar habit. When my mother was younger she would pull out her hair that had split ends and she would split the hair apart. I don't know if it was stress related. She grew out of it before I was born. Maybe it's partly hereditary the way we deal with stress. The more we know about this condition I feel the better the chances are of quitting. When I feel the urge to pick a lot I come to this site and read the posts. It helps. Thanks for the feedback.
March 19, 2012
I did some extensive reading of posts on this site and I found two people who have claimed that NAC or N-acetyl L-cysteine improves this condition. Read for yourself! I'm going to pick some up tomorrow!! On November 3rd, 2011 kgolden1234567890 said: I have had a LOT of luck with the amino acid N-acetyl cysteine, which is sometimes sold as N-acetyl L-cysteine, for my 11-year-old daughter who severely picks her skin (arms and legs). I'm hoping that everyone on this group will check it out. We started out at 1200mg each day, 600mg in the morning and 600mg in the evening. Then we worked up to 2400mg, 1200 mg in the morning and 1200 mg in the evening, within about 3 or 4 weeks. The study that was done in 2009 showed the best results were after 9 weeks of continuous treatment with this amino acid, also just known as NAC. We saw great results after 6 weeks. Please consider trying it. I am not a doctor, so please weigh out the risks for yourself. It has truly been a godsend. My daughter used to pick to the point of staph infections. She has scars all over her body. It works by regulating the URGE to pick. You can download the summary text of the 2009 study on this website - The study was for hair-pulling, but skin-picking and nail-biting result from similar sets of urges.
April 04, 2012
OMG I do the same thing!!! I drive a lot too and I pick in the car all the time! ugh. Nice to know I'm not alone. I have had to have small pieces of my scalp cut out in real thin pieces because of infection. It comes and goes. Sometimes I will not really have any need to pick and then there are times I can't get enough of it. It's messed up. I'm on medication for anxiety as it is, but I think at this point it's just a behavior modification type thing I need to work on.
October 11, 2014

In reply to by denmargia

I am a 48 year old man. And I to pick my scalp . It started probably 15 years ago .i think mine is stress and anger related. I am glad to finally be able to talk to someone .for the first time ever .i believe that i may finally have found a way to start dealing with this... I have noticeable bald spots i get so embarrassed i guess right now i don't have alot to say. Just that i hope we who suffer this keep on talking about this and that we can somehow find a way to just stop. i do so know how hard this is to stop and how it affects are lives. so i am take a step and say. I need. Help with my problem of picking my scalp. And i talked to my girlfriend about it . I am going to try and start talking to people about this it is so help full knowing i am not alone.

April 30, 2012
Hi...congratulations on gaining the courage to write your story, SSP30, and everyone else on this site! I have a very similar one. I guess I'll start from the beginning... I was abused emotionally and physically by my mother (a "Mommie Dearest" if anyone is familiar) and sexually abused by one of her many boyfriends. I really liked the info about picking from suppressed rage (I had/have a lot towards my mother). I started abusing alcohol and drugs at age 13, but went to rehab and have been sober for over 2 years (I'm 33 now). I think drugs and alcohol numbed the pain from childhood - then I had to deal with a lot of healing with positive coping skills. I am now a wife and a mother of two beautiful children. And mostly very happy. But the continuous scalp picking....I finally told my husband. He says to stop..."just stop" he says....I WOULD IF I COULD... Oh's been really gross! Just a couple of weeks ago I had a huge cyst toward my hair line/forehead. I found pleasure from picking it, letting the blood dry, and picking it more. I enjoy smelling my fingers with the blood on them (I can't believe I'm writing this...) Who does that? Us, I suppose. I just don't get it...I could give up drugs and alcohol (not that easy...but I did) and now I can't stop picking at my scalp. I think my hair is thinning out because of it. I have certain spots on my head where I know I can find something to pick at. I'm breastfeeding my newest daughter. When she wakes at night for some, I will stay awake and pick at my scalp until there's nothing left but a really sore head. I'm trying to stay "pick free" just for day at a time, you know? It's so incredibly difficult! I've read "habit reversal training" can's some info Thank you to all who can relate and who can sympathize and empathize...this too can pass..
August 27, 2012

In reply to by erinanne1030

erinanne; i do that exact thing.. when i pick i smell the blood on my fingers too and sometimes lick it and then pick some more at another spot. Right now i have about 8-9 sore spots on my head.
June 17, 2012
OMG I was so relieved to read all these post. I was convinced that I was the only person on this planet who picked her scalp. I started in college when I was in the middle of a heat wrenching breakup. That spot became infected and I had to go to the doctor for an antibiotic. It subsided for many years. I am now 41 years old, am at a point in life where I feel like I am going crazy. My youngest child is getting ready to leave for the military and I am already experiencing empty nest syndrome. I find that I pick my scalp if I become stressed at work, sleepy at night trying to stay awake, or start to worry about some other aspect of life. I have been to my MD a couple of times due to the fact that I was worried the spot had became infected, (I didn't admit that I caused the spot) She thought that I was a shingles outbreak and prescribed zovirx, didn't help. I too will pick until the spot bleeds, I have gotten so compulsive with this I now use a straight pin to pick off the scab. I too smell it, then sometimes eat it WOW I am crazy. I guess just reading everyone else's story has helped. If anyone can make any recommendations on how to stop I would love to know. The picking is driving my husband crazy.
August 27, 2012

In reply to by Marinemom853

i pick and eat my scabs too... sometimes i will have 8-9 places that are bleeding at once. and then i look at the blood on my fingers from the scab i picked and wonder Why am i doing this?
June 25, 2012
I can totally relate, I had been picking at my scalp for about 2 weeks and one day I went to turn my head to the side and couldn't then I noticed that I had a bump below my ear. I was freaked out so I went to the doctor. At first I didn't tell him about my scalp I just told him about the bump and that I couldn't turn my head to the side, but when he went to check my ear he said why is your scalp bleeding...what is this sore from. I had to come clean. He said it was OCD and put me on Clindamycin for the infection and Prozac for the OCD. Well the clindamycin made my scalp heal faster than I could hurt it so it stopped and the prozac didn't really work it made me gain 20 lbs in one month so I stopped taking it. I never thought my picking could really harm me but it can.
August 20, 2012
Hi I'm 16 and exactly the same thing happened about 2-3years ago.. I thought I'd got nits because a friend had then, but I didn't. But from then on I began feeling my head to make sure there were no 'bits'.. Apart from I liked to do it. Which I think is really strange and not normal, but I can't stop it! My hair is thinning and I hate it. I also sometimes manage to stop for a day or so, but I actually start doing it again without realizing. I get pretty upset about it (not showing it) my mum just tells me to not do it. I know she's right but I just can't stop. Please help.
August 27, 2012
SSP30; wow - your story sounds so much like mine. I love how it feels in between my fingers too and it is also comforting to know that there are others out there that do this as i do; but when i pick my scabs i eat them. Gross i know but it's just something i do.. i want to stop as well but don't know how.. thanks 4 sharing your story
October 04, 2012
Oh my gosh... I looked this up because I've had a scab on my head for years, in the same spot, that comes and goes and I pick at it a lot. I don't particularly LIKE to, but I can't stand the way it feels and how it itches sometimes, and I feel around for more to make sure my scalp has no more imperfections. I looked this up because I thought maybe the fact that it wouldn't heal was a medical problem. I never expected this to be a symptom of obsessive compulsive disorder. I used to pick at my nails all the time, but I started getting acrylic nails at 21, when I was first married. That broke my habit and now I'm really careful with my nails and always have them painted and perfectly manicured- no picking. I think I switched to my scalp or something. I did this a lot in my late teens, and then it switched to my nails, and now I'm picking at my scalp again. I might need to talk to someone about this cause it can cause infections. Some words of encouragement- don't worry about your boyfriend. If you get married, he's going to love you no matter what you do. My husband has bad habits of his own, but none of the little stuff matters to me. (The only ones I can't stand are the way he loses attention span while he's driving! :P) And he doesn't even NOTICE my bad habits, or at least he's never said anything. And he's the type of person who would. If anything, your boyfriend will be more worried about you getting an infection than paying attention to the gross out factor. Have you been diagnosed with OCD at all? I'm curious to talk to someone who has and find out how things go afterward and what they do to help themselves.
October 04, 2012

In reply to by KC1208

Also, with mine I do not eat them or smell them. I think for me it's more of a hating-imperfection thing. I also feel the need to wash my hair constantly. I only do it once a day, sometimes twice if I really can't stand it. I don't have dandruff really, just the sore. It makes my cringe thinking about it or knowing its there and I just want it gone.
January 06, 2013
Why is it that they can send people to the moon but they cant figure out how to cure scalp problems ? All these people writing there terrifing problems with there scalps ,people writing books about not picking at themselfs. People don't want imperfections on there heads they want treatments that work period !!!!!!!!!!
January 21, 2013
When i read this i couldn't stop crying. I have Picked my scalp ever since i was about 12. I wish I could stop but it is so hard. I have OCD i wasn't diagnosed but i have a lot of symptoms. I get the scabs on the back of my hair and the sides and sometimes in the front. I try using oils and other stuff but I'm not sure... Once my ex was sitting next to me while I was doing it and he made me let him look at it and I had a HUGE scab that was at LEAST the size of a quarter. I hope some other things work but i really wish to get this fixed.
August 16, 2013
I pick my head and, after reading all the comments here, I think that I pick my head because I LIKE the way it feels to my hands. I don't think it is anything more than a sensory feeling. I pick my cuticles as well. I don't think I am OCD, I don't think it has anything to do with my effed up childhood, I just think that it feels good to pick, like I said some kind of sensory fingery thing. That being said, I would really like to stop picking my head because I have very short hair and you can see where I pick.

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