Avatar universal

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
omg i do this too! i reaally wish i could stop its so time consuming i sometimes do it for hours on end and then i dont get my homework/studying done :( i go into a trance and sometimes i forget to blink for a couple of minutes! I have 3 or 4 thinned/bald spots on my head the size of dimes right down the center of my head so i cant even wear my hair down anymore (well, i could if i wear my hair curly) the bald spots grow hair when i stop but that doesnt last for more than a few days...

umm, I started doing this when i was 13  (i'm 18 next friday! ), stopped for 2-3 years and i started 10x worse around 16 (i never got bald spots the first time) i think its because of all the stress of going to college and mild depression/ anxiety etc. when i start thinking i'm not smart enough or pretty enough, or my life's too boring, or that im a failure or something, thats when it starts. the thoughts go away when i pick; but the pain afterwards, x__x i CANT STAND it.

for solutions, the days i dont pick are the days when i write down how ****** i feel in my journal. it gives me the EXACT same empty, relaxed, "clean slate" feeling i get when i pick. only i cant keep remembering to do it xD i'll try harder.
to get rid of the scalps, rubbing an oil like aloe vera, olive, coconut, etc. will remove the scalps with no pain or damage, but i think we're picking because of how we feel inside; we HAVE to fix that first, or we'll pick weather theres a scab or not (i've picked my scalp and MADE my own sore so i could pick it). just my two-cents. if i think of any other solutions i'll post lol <3
Avatar universal
Trichotillamania  is the name of this condition. Very difficult to stop once you've established the habit. It can get much worse, causing baldness and infection, and incredibly debilitating shame. Some forms have actually caused death when the compulsion takes the form of nibbling the root  and eating the hair. I think these hair masses are called bezoars. I advise you to talk to an OCD specialist about breaking your programming. Hypnotherapy, behavior modification therapy, meditation, increased exercise and better diet, anything that reduces the stress that brings on the need to "worry" yourself can be helpful. It does not go away by itself, it can go on for years without being too difficult to hide , making it seem safely manageable and then accelerate. Really. You do not need the pain this can cause you. I've had it since I was a child and it is terrible. Repetitive action digs deep ruts in our brains and it will be far better to buckle down to retraining your stress mechanisms than to let this blight your life.P.S. It is not easy for other people to live with and it is not fair to think it is just your problem. I am very ashamed that my husband and daughter had to bear watching me.
1311328 tn?1273665692
Any concerns or problems You have are definately worth mentioning to Your psychiatrist that is what they're are there for to speak to about any of your problems and they can not help you best unless you bring these up.
If you have a problem with speaking about this maybe it is best writing it down and taking it in when you do see them
Avatar universal
I started doing this about 3 years ago when I was on jury duty. I found myself sitting in my car at lunch time, over the duration of an 8 week trial, passing the time by looking into the mirror at gray hairs and pulling them out. Then I began to pull with tweezers while plucking my eyebrows. ...Then I found myself touching the balding spot and became obsessed with pulling out the new growths with tweezers.  It's gone on and on.  The spot of course has become bigger and bigger that I have to comb over. I, too, am embarassed to get my hair cut because of it.   I've tried throwing out my tweezers, just to find I'd search for a pair at a girlfriends house or at my mothers, and then start it all over again, or even stop at the pharmacy to buy another pair!

I think the reason I do it is because I've been overly worried about finances, my job loss, my husband's job loss, the loss of our property, health insurance, retirement losses, amongst other things.  I find myself frequently in a trance, spaced out from worry, wondering how bad our situation can and will really get and I have to say I fear for our future.  We've worked hard for many years just to lose everything, and I think that's why I do it. It's almost like a self-inflicting pain or punishment or something.  I think it has to do with the feeling of low self-esteem, feeling our problems are because of me. This has been the first time in my life I've had so many negative thoughts constantly running through my head for such a long period of time. I probably need help, but don't know it.  

Well that's my story.  Thanks for reading!  Best to all of you!  
Avatar universal
I have a similar story like SisterSarah23....no jury duty though.  I am self supportive and lost my job way back in Sept.  My unemployment benefits were denied due to "misconduct", which was totally WRONG.  But I didn't have the funds to hire an atty to take my claim any further, and nobody would take my case (either pro-bono or on contingency).  That's when all the picking started.

Since then, I can't get a job because of the "misconduct" being on my record.  Also, I'm way behind on morgage payments (last one paid in Dec), and my FICO score is shot to hell (it was in the mid 700's before all this).  I have been battling this job market, with no results, and constantly picking at my head when thinking about my future.  Seems to be the worst when I'm on this computer looking for work, posting items to sell on the internet, or looking for things to sell at a pawn shop. Plus the fact that my credit cards are all becoming maxxed out because I've been using them for the past 9 months to pay bills and live on.

I have been in my home for over 16 years, and until this job loss happened, was always current with my mtg payments and all my other bills.  Also, I have a dog, two cats, and five birds who have never known any other home bu this one.  That just adds to all of my frustration, and when I think of having to re-home them is when the picking escalates the worst.  This whole situation is so senseless and unfair.  I think I'm taking all of my animosity out on my head!

So I know that for me, it's an anxiety thing.  Just like SisterSarah, I fear for my future and where I will end up.  I have until Aug 1st to figure all of this out.....by myself.  Most of my friends have already moved, and I have no family here in town.  I've never been destitute, but at the rate that I'm picking now, I will be bald and destitute.  

That's my sad story.  Good luck to everyone out there that is suffering any type of loss, anxiety, and fear for their future.  It's hard to stop the picking with no kinda meds or support system.  I have no health insurance to fall back on either.  My so-called life has hit rock bottom, therefore I pick.

Avatar universal
i too pick at my scalp.. im not sure that i would say it relieves stress or anything like that, i guess i just dont like knowing that its there & can be removed.. like sometimes im driving & i just keep & keep picking, sometimes i wont turn on  my blinker or things like that because i dont have a free hand, obviously im not going to do anything above & beyond like run a stop sign or anything like that, but really with anything im doing, i have to get the scab off before i can stop. ive never been to therapy about any of my issues & not sure that i want to .. but what ive come to think of is that when i was a child, i had lice for like a year, i have very long curly hair & my mom i guess wasnt interested in getting rid of it, but she is a different topic, any how i used to always pull lice out of my hair & i think maybe i just like pulling things out of my hair because it 'reminds' me of my childhood or something, not that my childhood was something i enjoyed, but i think just being an adult, i maybe in the back of my head want to be a child again.. hope this helps someone.
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