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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
Your story made me cry. I am you. You are me. I thought I was alone, and crazy.  I started in 6th grade, I am a 26 year old female.  I have 5-9 scalp I pick at a time on my scalp.  I have long black hair and cant wear certain styles because my problem will be seen and people would laugh or judge me.
I started med school last year, and the people around me everyday are medically smart and are starting to pick up that my fingers are in my hair pulling out scabs.
If you want to talk you can email me at ***@****
Sarah
Avatar universal
I am 43years old and have picked my entire life.  I have small but permanent scars around my chin, neck, upper arms and even legs.  It starts as a small pimple or perhaps and ingrown hair on leg or just running my fingers through my hair on the scalp and finding any "spot" and picking it.  I have always picked my scabs off also.  This has resulted in sores taking forever to heal (weeks) and them 70% of the time leaving a small permanent scar. I've always run my fingers anywhere on my body feeling for the slightest imperfection.  This includes my head, face, neck chin, shoulders, legs, bottom bikini area and even up my nose.  Yep, always got the finger up the nose too (yeah I know, pretty sick!)

I've also always picked my cuticles around my nail beds to the point of having sore raw areas and cuticle scabs.  A few years ago I started wearing artificial nails and have found I no longer pick at cuticles but still the rest of my body.

I do this whenever my hands aren't busy doing something else.  Watching tv, talking to someone else, reading etc.  I've found that I can minimize this by always keeping my hands busy doing something like eating sunflower seeds.  

My husband of 18years is always telling me "stop picking" or telling me I look like a "tweak" someone who does speed or meth.  I've always been an extremly hyper person with a very high/fast metabolism.  Always been underweight and unable to gain weight (at 43yrs I currently weight about 105lbs and am 5'4" tall)

Whats odd is my daughter age 22 does not pick yet my 11year old son is always picking. As if it was genetic.  He always has little sores on his cuticles, picks at scabs on legs that come from an ingrown hair or maybe mosquito bite.  He never has to trim nails or toe nails because they are always picked down to the skin.

After reading about this hear and there over the last year or so on various websites I've come to the conclusion that behavorial therapy and basically self awareness to be always aware of what your doing and attempt to retrain yourself is probably the best thing that can be done.  Realize when your doing and and force yourself to stop.  Maybe engage in something else such as eating sunflower seeds which require your fingers.  
Avatar universal
Hello folks, I am another who obsessively picks my head until it bleeds, it is not as my family keep asking me, bhecause my head itches, no I haven't got nits/dandruff etc, they are ALL self inflicted, I am not happy until I create a scab that can be picked at mercilessly! I have been scalp abusing since I was about 18 (I am now 46 so I am an expert!) Its started where I would create a scab, the hair would break off, my fingers would enjoy the relaxing sensation of moving my finger end round and round,over the bristle of remaining hair and I would cirle this area until I made it bald, and then pick and pick so as well as that 'attractive bald but, would be the scab that never healed..and unfortunately at that time it was right on my hairline in the middle of my forehead, not great when you are also trying to look fabulous! Nowadays it has a slightly different focus, less the interest in the twisting and feel of damaged hair and more the desperate need to pick at numerous damaged sections on my head, I feel a sense of great pleasure (mixed with sadness) when i find that there is something solid to play with (Gross I know) I pick and pick and move the scab through my hair taking hairs with it as innocent victims and its amazing how this is a NEED not a choice, I have to do it, I feel angry when my kids try and help me by reminding me to stop (despite asking them to tell me!) it feels like my 'dummy' /'soother'..its mine and it is so, so private and personal. I refuse to go to the hairdressers (I am embarrassed), it hurts like hell to brush my hair over the sores, I feel like someone is touching me inappropriately if they 'run their fingers through my hair'..because it has become such a private (although very public in reality) activity. I kind of don't want help because i would miss it so much, but I know its an offensive, ugly, painful and embarrassing (to my kids and me too) activity. I personally am quite well tuned in to the psychological factors, years of anti depressents, and psych' based interventions, lets face it, none of us are fools, we may well be able to rationalise all aspects of our behaviours and make great sense of the process, but...we don't stop, why? Because it is ours, its our choice, it soothes something without a name, it brings shame too... ok maybe not rationalize that well then ha ha. I don't know, I guess I accept myself with the quirks, ok it may suggest some deep and profound inner turmoil but I like my turmoil, I have accepted it and let it feed me in my work and my art (I work with children who are deeply troubled/experiencing issues affecting their lives) Would I accept any of the children or my children displaying this behaviour? Yes I would accept it as a part of the child but indeed I would seek to address the cause and attempt to seek the resources to help the child... the difference is, that at this point in my life, I know who I am and my own idiosyncracies, in some ways I need to embrace these to understand and accept other people without judgement.. I didn't have an opportunity for early intervention to address my issues and reshape me from a square peg to a mainstream perfectly shaped 'one'..(and although this was actually quite terrible, I am now glad :) If it is debilitating and creating a barrier to your life I would always advise seeking help, especially to the younger OCD 'picker' or whatever .. but I would also say love yourself and those quirks and allow your experiences to become positives when seeing the world as a place where every single one of us has a story and is an individual. Be well xxx
Avatar universal
I'm 28 as well and just started with this. I didn't really consider it as OCD at first, having just chalked it up to the increasing hot wheather which makes my skin {and scalp} really itchy from all the sweat but the fact that I can't seem to knock it off makes me question whether or not it could be a compulsive problem. Mostly I end up picking right near the crown of my head and it to gives me this sort of trance-ish like feeling.

It's weird though because it's like, my head feels really gross unless I get all the scabs out of it. I've had issue's before when it came to stress and just isolation in general so a part of me think I might just be substituting one issue for another, less dangerous one.
Avatar universal
I do this too, and when I googled it I was surprised that so many other people have a problem with it!  Mine is usually worse when my hair is longer.  I am a 25 year old female and I have very thick hair that is prone to dandruff.  What I have noticed happens is that my scalp legitimately itches from the dandruff, then when I scratch it I get carried away and want to smooth out my whole scalp.  It can get pretty gross though when it starts to bleed.  I also find it relaxing and trance-like as others have mentioned.  I want my hair to be longer, so I'm going to have to stop this behavior.  I have OCD tendencies in general, but once I become aware that it is a problem I can usually stop.  I also suffer from intermittent anxiety/depression, so maybe these things are related.
1412917 tn?1281754548
OMG. I can not beleive that there are so many people like me.  I am 39 and have been digging in my head since I was a teenager.  I tend to do it more when I am under stress.  But it is starting to interfere with my normal daily activities.  When I am supposed to be doing homework or working on something, I find myself just sitting there digging.  It is starting to consume me.  I need help.  I now have bald spots in two areas of my head and my family is getting really worried.  I do not have any type of health insurance and therefore can not afford to seek medical help.  I was hoping to get some home remedy to help me stop the digging.
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