Scab Picking



Scab picking is something most people do once in a while, but when picking scabs becomes a habit, something done compulsively, it becomes a psychological disorder known as dermatillomania. People with dermatillomania may pick scabs from accidental injuries or other wounds, but they may also create wounds by picking healthy skin, which then form scabs that they pick.

Why Do Some People Engage in Scab Picking?

No one knows how many people pick their scabs compulsively. The National Institute of Mental Health says that about 2.2 million Americans have obsessive-compulsive disorder, a psychological condition related to dermatillomania, but not everyone with OCD picks their scabs. Many people with the condition may go undiagnosed, though, because they hesitate to talk to a doctor or other health care professional about their scab picking.

People may pick their scabs for many reasons. Most people that pick their scabs compulsively probably do so for a combination of biological or biochemical, psychological, and environmental reasons. For instance:

  • It can be caused by an imbalance of neurotransmitters in the brain, just like depression, anxiety, and other psychological illnesses.
  • It can be caused by anxiety or depression.
  • It can be associated with other forms of obsessive-compulsive disorder, like trichotillomania (a condition in which people compulsively pull out their hair).
  • It can be associated with poor self-esteem, poor body image, or body dysmorphic disorder (a condition in which people perceive flaws in their appearance that other people don’t see).
  • Many people with dermatillomania have a history of trauma or abuse.
  • Some people describe the urge to pick scabs as similar to an itch they just have to scratch.
  • In many people, it becomes a habit and they don’t even realize when they are doing it.

Many people with dermatillomania don’t fully understand why they pick their scabs, they just know they feel a very strong urge to do so. After picking a scab, they usually feel a strong sense of relief. People with the condition often feel embarrassed or ashamed about it. Unfortunately, other people may not understand why they do it and may wonder why they can’t just stop. These feelings of embarrassment and lack of understanding cause some people to avoid seeking treatment for the condition.

How Can You Stop Picking Scabs?

Fortunately, it’s not necessary to know exactly why you pick your scabs in order to get help to stop doing it. Things that help some people stop picking scabs include:

  • Keeping scabs covered, either with clothing or bandages, so they aren’t accessible for picking.
  • Keeping mirrors covered or removing mirrors from the home, if you pick at scabs on your face when looking in the mirror.
  • Keeping fingernails clipped short, so picking at scabs is difficult.
  • Keeping tweezers or other objects used to pick scabs out of reach or out of the home altogether.
  • Practicing relaxation techniques, like progressive relaxation and deep breathing.
  • Getting treatment for other problems that might be related to dermatillomania, like depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, body dysmorphic disorder, or poor self-esteem.
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (a form of counseling that focuses on changing the way people think, which in turn changes behaviors).
  • Habit reversal training (a form of counseling that helps people figure out what things trigger scab picking for them and then helps them come up with alternative behaviors to do instead).
  • Medications (certain types of antidepressants) help some people that feel strongly compelled to pick scabs.

If you find yourself picking your scabs a lot, don’t hesitate to seek help. Effective treatment is available. You can follow this link to learn more about dermatillomania.



Return from scab picking to our dermatillomania page

Quickcare Self Care Home Page




Disclaimer, Copyright and Privacy Notice