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RE:RE: Compulsive scab picking
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RE:RE: Compulsive scab picking

I saw the questions to compulsive scab picking and had to respond because I've been searching the net and this is the first mention of it I could find.  I'm 34 and have had this problem since early teen years.  I usually pick at my skin and scabs in places that don't show or can be hidden w/ clothing: legs, upper arms, but will also pick at exposed areas as well.  It is embarassing and I want to and have tried to stop for years, but just can't do it.  I will pick at cuts and scrapes and make them worse or if I don't have a cut or scrape I will pick at blemishes and cause a scab to form.  I'm generally able to stay away from picking at my face.  Like R.S., I otherwise function fine in life, I'm married w/ a child, and have a job.  My wife has likewise been non-judgemental. I'd llike to say understanding, but to be honest, I don't understand my compulsion myself.  I do not consider myself as OCD, but can see some aspects of it in this.   My question is: WHAT CAUSES THIS AND HOW CAN I STOP?
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Dear JS,

This particular symptom can be, but is not necessarily, a symptom of OCD. Whatever the case, you experience an impulse that you have had chronic difficulty controlling. As you can see, you're not entirely incapable of controlling it - you are able to refrain from picking at parts of your body (e.g., your face) which are visible most of the time.

With most such problems, there is some involvement with brain chemicals, namely the neurotransmitters which help electrical impulses move among neurons.

It would be a good idea to obtain a consultation with a psychiatrist, who may prescribe, as part of treatment, one of a 'family' of antidepressant medications called Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors. These medications influence the availability of serotonin, one of several types of neurotransmitters.
22 Comments
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I am 29yr old female.  I have this seemingly uncontrollable urge to pick at scabs as well.  Pick and pick. In a transe-like state.
It is comforting.  Even if it is painful.  Ever since childhood.  I am currently on Paxil for depression but, as of late, my depression is worse and so is my scab picking.  I stumbled upon this forum by doing a net search on this very subject.  I have seen psychiatrists in the past but I have never mentioned this out of sheer embarrassment.  I also suck my thumb. I conceal both of these.  Why these childhood afflictions have followed me into adulthood I do not know.  Compulsive Disorders.  Are their any other medications other than paxil?
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Dear DW,

Yes, there are other medications, several of which belong to the same "family" of medications as Paxil, the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors. Often, with OCD-type symptoms, medications need to be taken at a dose higher than what might be employed in the treatment of depression alone. It would be wise to speak frankly, with complete disclosure, to your prescribing psychiatrist.
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I am so relieved to find others with this same disgusting problem.  I have been picking scabs, mostly on my scalp for at least 20 years.  I have made bald spots on my head.  I seem to get hypnotized by it.  I want to stop, but I can't, and yet I don't want to stop.  I actually enjoy it.  Is that weird or what? I give myself headaches from it.  My husband is the only one who knows and tonight I broke down and cried that I need help.  I am so embarassed to seek any help.  My husband is a doctor and said he would prescribe Zoloft for me to see if that helps.  I saw Paxil mentioned.  Which is better or are they both the same.  Has anyone had any success with these or other medications?  I am afraid I will cause a cancer to form and leave my 3 little girls without a mother.  The sad part is, those fears aren't even enough to make me stop.  I would like to talk to others with this problem.
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Pschyogenic Excoriation, I have found this to be the closest discription to this problem.  I found an article online under the Psychiatric Times website.  If you want me to send it to you just email me at ***@****.
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Hey JS...thanks for sharing your story.  I'm a 27 year-old woman who suffers from the same problem that you've described, only I've had it since I was literally just a baby and I unfortunately can't even keep away from my face...it's a terribly embarrassing problem that's difficult to talk about to others (ie. family and friends) because they just don't understand why I can't stop.  I really don't understand the complusion myself either...I've tried talking to a psychotherapist many years back, but it wasn't very helpful.  I recently discussed the problem briefly with my doctor who recommended possible medication to try to alleviate the problem.  I was, however, nursing my second child at the time so it wasn't an option then, but I don't think I'm comfortable taking medication for treatment anyway. Ideally,I'd like to find a solution to COMPLETELY stop this problem too, but I believe it is something that I must deal with DAILY for the rest of my life, and I simply need to find ways to 'manage' it. So, I just wanted to let you know that you're not alone in your struggle to understand and manage this 'enigmatic' problem.
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I posted a response earlier.  I started taking Zoloft exactly 2 weeks ago.  I started on 50 mg.  While I am still picking, I am not doing it as frequently and the places on my scalp are healing a bit.  They seem less irritated.  I don't know if being on the medication longer will help or taking a higher dose.  I am going to see after a month and possibly up the dose and see if I can stop this gross habit. This is the only aspect of my life that I feel is out of control and am compulsive about.  I truly consider this OCD, because I cannot make myself stop and it is almost trance like when I do it.  I am afraid of causing a cancer or something, yet that fear doesn't make me stop.  It is so comforting to know that others have the same problem.
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I was searching the web.. trying to see if there is anything..that could possibly resemble my disgusting habit/obsession.. Compulsive Scab Picking. this is the first time I have ever typed it.. never even said the words out loud to anyone.  I do think..this habit contributed to my divorce.  I have been picking since I was a baby.. my mother said..that I would pick and pick my diaper rashes..and she would come in after my naps..and be covered in blood. I still am picking.. when i go to bed.. i pick at my legs..and hips.. at blemishes..and i have usually about 15 the size of quarters now!! I  can't stop.. It is conforting.. in my stress filled world!!  I can not let a man..see me naked..in fear he would ever see this side of me.  So alone.. I pick.. I am a together woman.. and mother.. but, this nasty obsession.. WHY DO I DO THIS?? WHAT ELSE CAN I DO BESIDES GO ON DRUGS???  HELLLLPPPP
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Me 2.  I'm on Paxil...no good.  Sucked my thumb 'til I was 11, stopped then picked my lip 'til I was 13, then stopped and have been picking my head for 17 yrs.  Dr's. have no clue, I've found.  Most have superficial thoughts and diagnoses.  I want to stop, but it gets worse when I'm anxious or before menstruation.  It's disgustingly embarrassing, too.  I wish a Dr. would respond that has successfully treated people like us.
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I can't believe I was able to find a whole site of people with my exact problem.  Like the Guest from Dec. 14, I sucked my thumb until I was 9.  I finally stopped and picked my lips until I was somewhere around 14, though I still do ocassionally, and I have always had a thing about picking scabs, but since I was not quite sixteen, I have picked and picked and picked at my scalp.  It is so gross, disgusting, embarrassing. . .I am so afraid of someone noticing, finding out about this gross habit I literally CANNOT make myself stop doing!  I try to, even while I am doing it, but I can't stop.  I fall into a trance and get lost in my own world until the sores are reopened and I dispose of the scabs.  HOW DISGUSTING?!  God, I wonder sometimes what is wrong with me.  I have also rocked back and forth all of my life without even realizing, but that isn't disturbing, just a little weird.  Doctors and my psychologists have always diagnosed me as depressive or borderline depressive, and this impulse doesn't help my condition.  I don't know how to stop, I don't know what's wrong with me, and I fear things inside of myself that lead me to do this.
I'm only 20, so I'm hoping that I'll find a way to stop soon.
I'm just thankful that I found others that know my pains.
A.S.
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I have been picking scabs since I was little, but it really wasn't an issue until I was around 12 and those nasty pimples appeared. I'm 18 now and still can't resist popping and picking at already popped pimples. I don't want to do it and have tried to stop cold turkey many times. I just can't stop though. As a result my face is scarred and always has several fresh sores on it. This disgusts me and probably other people too. I pick anywhere that my acne appears (arms, face, and back) and have scars in all aforementioned places. This is incredibly embarrassing and it's hard for me to seek any kind of advice. My doctor never mentioned it. If anyone does mention it, I get defensive and try to change the subject. My plan was that eventually I'll stop picking when my acne disappears, but it doesn't seem as if it'll go away anytime soon. This is really annoying and any suggestions as to what I should do will be greatly appreciated.
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Can I join this club?  I have been picking at myself for over 40 years now -- using all the same adjectives to describe my behavior.  I have been taking Prozac(20mg)for approximately 7 years. I was able to control/stop the picking at myself for years, however the habit has returned.  I did not start taking Prozac for this reason, I have suffered with depression on and off since childhood. After reading some of the postings, I am wondering if perhaps I need to change medications, or have the dosage increased.  So I will call for an appointment, run off a copies of all statements written in this forum.  Present them to my doctor, and for the first time in my life will admit to my doctor that I have this compulsive behavior -- and -- am in need of help.  It is the strangest feeling, to know that you are hurting yourself and at the same time receiving comfort.  I am not the only person in my family to do this to them self -- My sister will tell me to "pick one scab and leave the others alone -- make it your friend". I guess I like having friends.  Making light of the situation isn't helping with trying to break the habit.  What really is upsetting about this habit is that I have become a liar. When people ask about the marks on my skin, I have a set story (always feeling shame and disgusted with my behavior).
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Can I join this club?  I have been picking at myself for over 40 years now -- using all the same adjectives to describe my behavior.  I have been taking Prozac(20mg)for approximately 7 years. I was able to control/stop the picking at myself for years, however the habit has returned.  I did not start taking Prozac for this reason, I have suffered with depression on and off since childhood. After reading some of the postings, I am wondering if perhaps I need to change medications, or have the dosage increased.  So I will call for an appointment, run off a copies of all statements written in this forum.  Present them to my doctor, and for the first time in my life will admit to my doctor that I have this compulsive behavior -- and -- am in need of help.  It is the strangest feeling, to know that you are hurting yourself and at the same time receiving comfort.  I am not the only person in my family to do this to them self -- My sister will tell me to "pick one scab and leave the others alone -- make it your friend". I guess I like having friends.  Making light of the situation isn't helping with trying to break the habit.  What really is upsetting about this habit is that I have become a liar. When people ask about the marks on my skin, I have a set story (always feeling shame and disgusted with my behavior).
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Wow, I find it hard to believe there are other sufferers to scab picking out there! I pick 'only' at my scalp, causing it to bleed, but for some sick reason that gives me pleasure and have been doing it for years now. Every once in a while I may pick at the back of my head, near the hairline. I will also go through phases where I get enjoyment from picking when I have company, I know what I am doing is gross and twisted but I'm drawn to it. I understand it is a disgusting habit and have NO IDEA how to stop. I am 21, a few people in my life know that I suffer from scab picking and have not judged me on it. I have not sought professional help nor taken medication for this condition. So far scab picking has not interfered with my life other than me possibly being sprung picking away or it gets that worse they are noticeable on my head.
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I too have this nasty habit.  I never realized that it until I read everyone else's story.  I have been diagnosed with Manic Depression.  I have been taking medication for over ten years.  I have taken almost every medication in the "book".  I now am taking  Depakote, Welburtin and Synthroid.  They seem to work for me.  The bad part of all of this is my twelve year old son has just been diagnosed as a Manic Depressive/ADHD.  He also has this habit.  He takes Cloinidine for it.  He takes more medications, Adderal, Depakote, Zoloft, Periactin, and Hydroxyzine.  All of which seem to be helping him.  I am wondering if this could also be a thyroid problem.  My child's doctor seems to "shut down" now when I discuss the thyroid thing with her.  I have Hypothyroid as do my sisters and father.  But I did not start taking Synthroid until after my son was born.  Both of my sister's children have no problems such as scab picking, manic depression, or ADHD.  one of the things that has helped my sons sores heal is called "Bag Balm" it comes in a green tin, you can get it a Walmart and yes it is for Cows.  But it really works at healing quickly.
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I am a 17 year-old female and have been picking at my scalp for maybe two years now.  I thought I was the only person.  It is such a disgusting habit and I hate it, but I keep on doing it.  Its ironic how much I care about my hair, clothes and make-up but continue to keep picking and picking.  I have devloped scabs and I go back to them all the time.  My parents are always telling me to stop but I keep doing it- even to a point where I bleed.  I consider myself a regular teen but this picking thing is something I'd like to stop before it stays with me a lifetime.
Any suggestions?
e-mail: ***@****
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Wow, I don't know if it is a relief to see how many other people suffer from this, or a supreme disappointment that noone seems to have been assisted into a cure of any sort.  I am a 29 year old attractive female who takes a lot of pride in her appearance, but have a back, arms and thighs covered in scabs which I pick daily, and therefore never have a chance of healing.  I am incredibly embarrassed and revolted by it.  I also wash my hands at least 50 times a day, and have had to change soaps as my skin was raw.  Do I have OCD?  Are these linked?  I take 40mg Prozac per day for past depression.  If these were an OCD issue, wouldn't that have helped?  Can anyone out there help me?
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Just stumbled on this site while searching for resources and/or a name for this habit/compulsion. I pick soley at the scabs in my scalp...I have a dry scalp anyway, so when an irritation or dry place forms, I "go to town" picking at it, allowing it to form a scab, and then revisiting it to pick at again.

I too have been doing this since my teens. Does this cause cancer? I've always wondered...cause if there is a link between the habit and cancer, I think I would hopefully stop.
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I am amazed & a little relieved to see so many people suffering from the same condition.  I can go way back in my childhood & see where the "picking" started & how it brought me comfort. I usually contentrate on my scalp (I also have psoriasis, does any one else?) This is how the scabs originate & then I just can't leave them alone.  Now, to even get more honest (and unfortunately grosser) I also pick my nose & eat the scabs & boogers.  This is so disgusting, I know it must seem like a gag memo, but it's not.  I have never admitted this out loud (or typed) before in my life.  I am a 42 year old woman: married, mother of teen-age daughter, successful, seemingly well-adjusted & moderately over-weight (about 30 pounds) but still very attractive---what gives???

I have never gone to therapy & I could never admit this to any one any way.  I am considering joining Overeaters Anonymous because I am also a compulsive overeater & I think this disgusting habit somehow ties in.  Is it an eating disorder of some sort?  An obsessive-compulsive disorder?  What do you think?
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I wish that I was writing this explaining a cure for all of you out there, but I am not. I too suffer from this complusion. It was only last night that I admitted to my boyfriend of 6 years about my compulsion. I have been picking for almost 23 years - as long as I can remember. I seem to have radar for finding the smallest of bumps anywhere on my body. I tend to pick in places that can be covered up and have become a master of disguise with makeup. I have always felt ashamed by this habit and still do. Whenever people would see my scars (and I have plenty of them) I would lie and tell them I had a roller blading accident or something else very lame. My boyfriend thought that I had a skin disorder and was always very helpful, but he was a little upset that I had lied to him and not told him for 6 years that I had been secretly picking. We are going to see a doctor next week to try to get some help with my compulsion, but I must admit that I am terrified. My parents tried taking me to all kinds of doctors when I was in grade school. They even gave me medications that were supposed to stop the bumps, but I still picked. I hope that someone will be able to help me. I have wasted too long covering my body. I am so jealous of those people who can take a shower and then just throw on some clothes. I always have to spend a half hour concealing my scars with makeup and beach vacations are always too stressful to be enjoyed. I wish you all luck!
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What is a scab?  How do they work?
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I pick at the sores on my legs til they bleed.  Once hat happens I am good to go.  It is weird can anyone else help me understand why?  It is almost a relief after the scab is picked off and then  bleeds.  HELP PLEASE. Marie
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ok so I've been picking since i started breaking out as a teenager. Its getting out of control lately. Its so bad that i don't even want to go out of the house. I try to cover my scabs up with make up but it doesn't last. I also pick at my scalp i had picked a scab and it still has not healed and its been about two months. I feel ashamed and embarrassed by this. I need to stop but i can't. My mom picks too i think this is where i learned thus nasty habit. I look in the mirror everyday and see that my face us filled with scars and i get depressed. I know i need to stop but i feel like i'm already too far gone. I need some help
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