Sitting in front of your favorite mirror, picking endlessly at the skin on your face, neck, scalp, arms, shoulders, or wherever, you may wonder where this strange behavior came from? Why pick at the skin? Out of all the behaviors you could do, why this one? As a parent or schoolteacher watching a child pick unconsciously or uncontrollably you may wonder why this child does this behavior but not the other children or other behaviors. While there is not one, concrete answer to what causes a person to pick compulsively there are a number of common triggers that may offer some insight into reasons behind the behavior.
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A cause for skin picking disorder is difficult to determine. However, research does provide an indication of correlates, physical and psychological, that make skin picking disorder more likely to occur.
Genetics - Research suggests that people in families with a history of body-focused repetitive behaviors and obsessive-compulsive disorders are more likely to experience skin picking disorders.
Hormones – The typical age of onset for skin picking disorder occurs around the same time as puberty. A study of skin picking disorder in women found that behaviors worsened with hormonal changes as well as during perimenopause and menopause indicating a link between hormones and skin picking. Further, research suggests a link between thyroid hormone imbalances and skin picking disorder.
Drugs – Some prescriptions and illicit substances contribute to skin picking either as a side effect or due to changes in physical sensations that lead to picking and scratching. For example, stimulants may trigger an increase in picking behaviors.
Other physical conditions – Some people begin compulsive skin picking due to feeling physical sensations on the skin, or because of perceived flaws or blemishes. Other times, itching, dryness, or burning inspires picking and because the behaviors provide some relief, they continue.
Emotions – Emotional trauma, stress, anxiety, depression, and an inability to regulate emotions may contribute to skin picking behaviors.
Regardless of the cause or the reasons someone picks, consideration for an individual’s picking behaviors during the evaluation phase of treatment will help rule out physical or medical correlates that could be contributing to behavior severity. Treatment interventions that include physical and psychological are more likely to have long-term success.
For more information about skin picking causes get the Complete Guide to Picking Disorders today.