Skin picking behaviors: An examination of the prevalence and severity in a community sample

J Anxiety Disord. 2009 Apr;23(3):314-9. doi: 10.1016/j.janxdis.2009.01.008. Epub 2009 Jan 23.


Body-focused repetitive behaviors such as skin picking have gained recent attention in the psychiatric literature. Prevalence of skin picking has not been well researched and is difficult to estimate; however, consequences of such behaviors can include severe medical complications and impaired social and occupational functioning. Given this, this study examined: (1) the prevalence and severity of skin picking in a nonclinical community sample, and (2) associations between skin picking and other measures of psychological functioning. Three hundred and fifty-four participants completed measures of psychological functioning and skin picking frequency and severity. A total of 62.7% endorsed some form of skin picking and 5.4% reported clinical levels of skin picking and associated distress/impact. Direct associations were found between skin picking and depressive, anxiety, and obsessive-compulsive symptoms, which may support the emotional regulation model of pathological skin picking. To establish proper diagnostic classification of pathological skin picking and optimize treatment planning and outcome, further investigation of functional relationships between skin picking and affective distress is needed.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Depressive Disorder / diagnosis
  • Depressive Disorder / epidemiology
  • Depressive Disorder / psychology
  • Disruptive, Impulse Control, and Conduct Disorders / diagnosis
  • Disruptive, Impulse Control, and Conduct Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Disruptive, Impulse Control, and Conduct Disorders / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder / diagnosis
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder / epidemiology*
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder / psychology*
  • Prevalence
  • Residence Characteristics*
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Skin*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Young Adult