Ask the Expert: What Is Dermatillomania?

November 02, 2017
Kate Marin
By: Kate Marin | by L'Oréal
Ask the Expert: What Is Dermatillomania?

There’s something weirdly satisfying about watching a pimple get popped. We know, we know it’s ill-advised to do so (think of the scarring that could happen!), but that doesn’t change the fact that scores of people have become addicted to watching gunk squeezed out of a zit on the Internet. Just take a look at social media, where pimple-popping videos (extractions and all) have gone viral and truly taken on a life of their own. For some, watching a stranger’s pimple get popped is nothing short of nauseating, but we can’t deny that many are in fact a fan of not just watching the act on screen, but also committing it on their own skin.

On the outside, pimple-popping seems pretty harmless—especially if it’s done very rarely, or on a case by case basis. But what many people may not realize is that there’s a dark side to this common practice, and it’s called dermatillomania. Derma-who? Stick with us, and we’ll share everything you need to know about the condition.

What Is Dermatillomania?

According to The TLC Foundation for Body-Focused Repetitive Behaviors, dermatillomania—also known as excoriation disorder—is characterized by the repetitive picking of one’s skin, in an attempt to improve the appearance of perceived imperfections. These repetitive motions can include pulling, picking, scraping, or even biting of one’s skin (think: scabs, pimples, or calluses), for several hours per day, which often results in tissue damage, lesions, discoloration, or scarring. Aside from the physical side effects, dermatillomania can cause significant disruption to one’s daily life.

570How to cover up a pimple

Who Can Get Dermatillomania?

Dermatillomania isn’t something you can “catch,” it’s a body-focused repetitive behavior that typically begins during adolescence following the onset of puberty around ages 13-15. That said, it could also occur among children under 10 years old, or adults between the ages of 30 and 45. According to Mental Health America, dermatillomania affects approximately 1.4% of American adults, and is experienced by women more often than men.

What Causes Dermatillomania?

As of now, there is no specific cause identified for dermatillomania. However, evidence has demonstrated that dermatillomania is more common in individuals or their family members with obsessive-compulsive disorder. This correlation suggests that there is a genetic predisposition to the condition.

How to Address Dermatillomania

For the best advice, always consult your healthcare provider.   

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