Excoriation Disorder is an obsession with picking at one’s own skin, which can cause permanent disfigurement. This disorder affects both sexes and all races. Skin picking is a common symptom that occurs amongst people with other conditions such as anxiety, depression, stress or Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. It is also often found in combination with eating disorders and substance abuse. A sufferer will pick their skin until it bleeds or forms scabs, which they perceive as ‘flakes’ of dead skin that must be removed.
This disorder is very common with people who have poor self-esteem, people living with chronic pain and people suffering from any type of stress or anxiety. In most cases it is found in young females between the ages 16 to 25 years old.
A recent research study suggests that Excoriation Disorder (ExD) is the result of an overactive cognitive control network linked to higher order cognition such as inner speech. A series of functional neuroimaging experiments have found that patients with Excoriation Disorder (ExD) and other mental conditions show an abnormally increased activity in the brain areas responsible for self-referential thoughts. In particular, the medial prefrontal cortex is significantly overactive during tasks requiring attention to one’s inner speech.
When the disorder is at its most severe, it can lead to permanent disfigurement or disability. This disorder is not yet fully understood by medical science, although its symptoms are easily identified. It can be treated with anti-anxiety medication and cognitive behavioral therapy.
In the modern age, this disorder is a growing problem among adolescents who are constantly exposed to social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram that encourage comparisons with their friends and peers.