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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
1465648 tn?1286328726
this is crazy reading all of everyones posts. i too thiought i was alone with this compulsion disorder. i alwasy thought i was just weird i guess. im 20 years old n i can remeber picking at my scalp since about i was in 8th grade. i pick n scratch at any little imprefection on my scalp. ill pick at it until it turns into a scab. then bleeds.. the next day when i feel the new scab from the dried blood makes me pick n dig even deeper. i know it sounds soo groose n i am embarassed about it. its reallly nice to find out im not the only one who does this n im not as crazy as i though. i have alwasy thought i had add n escpeially ocd. im a totaL NEAT FREAK like badddd... i  cant go to bed or walk up stairs past the kitchen if something is out of place or messy. my bedroom n whole house is AMACULATE 247 because i clean wheneve i have free time.i was wondering if my obsessive cleaning was a form of ocd n if so is my excessive scalp picking a form of ocd also? i pick my scalp in bed, when i drive, watching tv, basicaly anywhere when i feel the urge, and when i do its hard to stop, especialy if i like partly pick off a scab i have to finish it, and when i do i feel good as crazy as it sounds even when my head throbs with pain at times. i do feel like i am constantly stressed out and very anxious. if anyone has advice or comments id love to hear them.
Avatar universal
A POSSIBLE SOLUTION:

For one thing, this condition is definitely Anxiety/depression linked.

What I found extremely helpful and got me to STOP this insanity once and for all is to take Omega-3 fish oil AND Magnesium and Calcium and Vitamin C (Ester-C) everyday.  Also, I lowered my consumption of sugar since I found aggravates the problem.  I also started working out and doing yoga to help my stress and this I found theraputic.

So to everyone suffering from this, don't feel guilty about this problem! Your brain is hard-wired to not be able to handle stress as well as others, and therefore you need to supplement your body with more of these nutrients.  Just talking a multivitamin is not enough btw.

Here's what I recommend:

1000mg-2000mg of Fish oil 2-3 a day (be careful if you are on blood thinners as this thins out the blood)

1000-2000mg of Vitamin C-buy the Ester-C absorable kind. You cannot over dose on Vita C as it is water soluable.

Calcium/Magnesium formula--Make sure it's Magesium Citrate, Calcium Caltrate, which is the more absorbable kind. If you cannot find this combo then just spring for the magnesium as it is extremely helpful for dealing with stress.

I would splurge on the good, quality vitamin brands which does get pricey but it's worth the health benefits.

Vitamin B complex formula is a good addition too.

Good luck!
Avatar universal
A POSSIBLE SOLUTION:

For one thing, this condition is definitely Anxiety/depression linked.

What I found extremely helpful and got me to STOP this insanity once and for all is to take Omega-3 fish oil AND Magnesium and Calcium and Vitamin C (Ester-C) everyday.  Also, I lowered my consumption of sugar since I found aggravates the problem.  I also started working out and doing yoga to help my stress and this I found theraputic.

So to everyone suffering from this, don't feel guilty about this problem! Your brain is hard-wired to not be able to handle stress as well as others, and therefore you need to supplement your body with more of these nutrients.  Just talking a multivitamin is not enough btw.

Here's what I recommend:

1000mg-2000mg of Fish oil 2-3 a day (be careful if you are on blood thinners as this thins out the blood)

1000-2000mg of Vitamin C-buy the Ester-C absorable kind. You cannot over dose on Vita C as it is water soluable.

Calcium/Magnesium formula--Make sure it's Magesium Citrate, Calcium Caltrate, which is the more absorbable kind. If you cannot find this combo then just spring for the magnesium as it is extremely helpful for dealing with stress.

I would splurge on the good, quality vitamin brands which does get pricey but it's worth the health benefits.

Vitamin B complex formula is a good addition too.

Good luck!
Avatar universal
I have this problem, too, its gotten worse over the last 6 months for some reason. My hairdresser noticed the bumps and scabs and mentioned it to me. I was embarrassed, hoping she wouldn't notice. I want to get this cleared up before I go back to see her again. I was picking my head while reading, watching tv and driving. I'd wait until a car would go by and then pick my scalp.  When I worked in a cube where lots of people were constantly walking by, I didn't pick my scalp as much. Now I'm in a cube in the corner and I was picking more, because no one could see me.

I think its a nervous habit. I googled scalp sores and found several lotions and shampoos made for healing scalp sores. I just started using it today. I bought a shampoo, condioner and lotion called Zincplex, I don't know if its going to work or not but today I consciously have stopped picking my scalp, I had to stop myself several times. Tonight I have put the lotion on the scabs.   I like the idea of keeping your hands busy, or eating sunflower seeds when you get the urges to pick.
Avatar universal
I cried when I started to read the comments.  I have never come across any other person who has this condition.  I thought I was the only one!  I dont know why I started to compulsively pick at my scalp, but i too pick until it bleeds/hair loss/scabs/ the whole caboodle!  I just seem to be addicted to doing something, I have been treated for OCD from a very young age ( 4 years old!).  If what you are all experiencing effects you so much, I agree that you should seek advice from a proffesional starting with your doctor/ councellor etc, and i also believe that it it connected to anxiety and in some cases depression and for others mental illness.  
I have also picked at spots bumps and imperfections, I have also used tweezers to pull out hair follicles on my stomach area to the point where there has been a hole, I know it was not to relieve stress  like some of you have mentioned and even though the pain is bad it creates a trance like state and is oddly comforting. I consider myself to be an anxious individual, I also was brought up by grandparents, and found out just recently that my mother/grandmother and other female members of the family have also had mental health problems and OCD type conditions but sadly most went untreated.  I am currently being helped with my condition as I want "time out " from it for a rest. Whatever you all do , make sure it makes you happy.
Avatar universal
Hello.

I started in 5th grade, I remember clearly the first moment I thought to pull a piece of skin off my scalp, where I was, and what feeling was behind it.

I am now 24.

I can go off for long periods, but when the season changes (winter) it comes back like nobody's business. I am a very sensitive person, both to internal and external cues, and I am easily stimulated, to the extent that I am not that social, as a form of balance. (if that helps to know)

I don't feel debilitated by it to the point that I want to cry. Most of the damage, I fear is not on a level where I am conscious of it. I believe definitely that my self-worth and sense of my social self has been affected by this habit, and when I deeply consider this it does make me sad.

What helps is a spiritual practice or religion. I think that if you have faith in something higher, and you exercise this faith in some repetitive way **  with your body *** (whether through praying, chanting, or meditating or prostrating) then it slowly over time takes away your need to pick.

Blessings for everyone. It's hard to be a human.
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