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Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) Community
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Compulsive Scalp Picking

I am 28 years old and have picked scabs on my scalp since I was about 12 years old.  Normally I find little imperfections, possibly dandruff or dry scalp, and I pick at it until it becomes a scab.  Once a scab develops, I find myself uncontrollably picking at it, so it usually never heals or takes an extremely long time or another scab to develop to stop.  Right now, I have a total of six scabs that I have created on my scalp.  When I am picking I can't necessarily say that it relieves stress like I have found on some of the other web sites, but more of an obsession that I can't control.  I have been treated for depression and PTSD, but have never mentioned my compulsive picking.  I have been prescribed both Zoloft and Prozac with Klonopin for the symptoms of anxiety and depression, but I still seem to pick at me head.  The kicker is that I also do this in my sleep.  I will literally wake up with blood under my nails.  What treatment options are there other than medication?  Should I tell my primary care physician or should I talk to a psychiatrist?  What are some of the causes of this, could it be OCD?  I don't really have any sort of rituals like you see or read about or extreme fears, but I can not seem to stop picking at my scalp, and although I am not pulling at my hair, I am noticing hair loss.  Any feedback would be appreciated.
374 Responses
Avatar universal
i have had this problem for a year. I thought I had scalp problelms.  I realize that I have created it my self. I can't stop.I hate it. My scalp hurts
so bad. I cant stand if someone touches my head. I dont know what to do. it sounds like a freak telling someone that you can't stop picking. But, I think after I pick I do feel better.
Avatar universal
Your description sounds exactly like my scalp picking problem. I am 26 years old but I only started this 3 years ago. To be honest, I can't recall how this all started. it's as if I'm trying to clean/smoothen my scalp from dandruff/scabs with my nails..but it just creates more. I'm embarrased to go to the salon because of the scattered bald patches and newly formed scabs. How do I explain if asked what the scabs are from???

But i understand the frustration and embarassment of it all. My family can't stand it because they think it looks disgusting, which adds to the guilt of the behavior. They don't understand and say "Just stop" but that's easier said than done.  I was diagnosed 4 years ago with severe depression, Bipolar II and PTSD, although I've been suffering from the 3 with symptoms since I was 16 but did not get help until later.

When I told my doctor about my compulsive scalp picking, first she said to "cut my nails" but that does not help. Or wear mittens and a beanie =).....but that does not solve the underlying cause of the behavior itself. It's under "trictillomania" which is compulsive hair pulling even though I don't directly sit there and pull my hair out. The deep picking/bleeding/scab cycle eventually results in a small bald spot.
Avatar universal
I've had a scalp picking disorder for as long as I can remember. I can literally scratch my head for hours. It almost seems like I go into a soothing trance-like state. I don't even notice the pain until well after I'm done, or the next time that I shower and the water hurts the wounded areas. For me it feels comforting, but I too feel shamed with the yuckiness of this habit. I am aware of the fact that it is a disgusting activity but it seems to be like an itch that I can not possibly help but itch (pardon the pun). I am also obsessed with popping anything that slightly resembles a zit, and find enormous levels of satisfaction when I pop them. I assume these habits are related. It is comforting to know that I am not alone.
Avatar universal
I too have this problem. I have been doing it off and on for over 10 years. I typically do it for a six month period before I force myself to stop, then maybe a few years later I'll find a small bump on my scalp and start the process all over again until I wake up in the morning with blood under my nails or an infection sets in and there is pus. My husband thinks it's disgusting and it is. I have even gone as far as saving all the white scabs. For a period  of time I thought if I cut my finger nails all the way down I wouldn't be able to pick and therefore stop the habit, but I ended up using a metal nail file to get under a scab and then would pull the rest off with my fingers.

I always found it a relieving and satisfying point in my day when I get to finally sit down alone and pick. I have blamed the condition on the bad eczema that plagues the rest of my body but if the scabs did exist because of the eczema it still didn't excuse the compulsive picking. I suggest that you speak with your primary care physician about prescription shampoos or steroids to help speed the healing of your scalp, cut your finger nails, think how bad you would feel if you ended up with permanent bald spots and possibly work with a counselor or psychologist to get to what is really behind all of this.
Avatar universal
I pick my scalp like all the time!!! i dont know why but it just makes me feel good and its fun i guessss, but its a bad habbit cause now i bet without any hair my scalp looks really gross. i do it wen i get nervous i just pick my scalp and pick a big chunk of dandruff or scapl wutever it is and pull it out u oick my boy friends scalp toooo! and sometimes my moms or someone that lets me wen i have no more good scabs to pick off of my scalp
Avatar universal
im 16 years old, and i have been picking at my scalp sience i was about 6 or 7. it relaxes me and usually i dont know that im doing it. i do it in school and when i realize what im doing i feel embarrased because people who see me are probably grossed out when i pull a big piece of scalp out and flick it onto the floor. when i have no good spots that i can pick on my head i pick them off of other people. my boy friend lets me pick his head and i think he likes it and i like it because i just like picking things off of other things(: my mom picks her scalp tooo and i love when she picks my scalp its just so relaxing and i dont really think its weird but i dont think its normal because i dont see a lot of other people doing it but idk it just feels good and its fun
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