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Skin Picking

Understanding and Coping with Skin Picking: A Guide for Families


Skin picking is a behaviour that can affect individuals of all ages, including disabled children. It involves the repetitive picking or scratching of one's skin, which can lead to physical damage. While it may appear as a seemingly harmless habit, it's essential to recognize that skin picking can be a complex issue, often linked to various underlying factors. Here, we explore skin picking in the context of disabilities, common associated conditions, and ways to approach this behaviour sensitively.

Skin Picking in Disabled Children:

Skin picking in disabled children may occur for a variety of reasons, and it's essential to approach the topic with empathy and understanding. Some possible causes of skin picking in disabled children include:
  • Sensory Issues: Many disabled children have sensory sensitivities, and skin picking can be a way to self-regulate or seek sensory input.
  • Emotional Regulation: Difficulty in managing emotions and stress can lead to skin picking as a coping mechanism.
  • Repetitive Behaviours: Some disabilities are associated with repetitive behaviours, and skin picking can be one such behavior.

Common Disabilities Associated with Skin Picking:

Skin picking is not limited to a specific disability; it can manifest in various conditions. Some common disabilities and conditions where skin picking may be observed include:
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD): Skin picking is often considered a Body-Focused Repetitive Behavior (BFRB) associated with OCD.
  • Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD): Individuals with ADHD may engage in skin picking as a way to focus or manage restlessness.
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD): Skin picking can be a sensory self-regulation behavior for some individuals with ASD.
Common Body-Focused Repetitive Behaviors (BFRBs):

Skin picking is just one of several BFRBs, and individuals may exhibit various behaviors affecting different body parts. Some common BFRBs include:
  • Dermatillomania: Excessive skin picking or scratching.
  • Onychophagia: Nail biting.
  • Morsicatio Labiorum, Morsicatio Buccarum, and Morsicatio Linguarum: Biting the lips, inside of the mouth, or tongue.
  • Onychotillomania: Picking the fingernails and skin around them.
  • Dermatophagia: Chewing on the skin or scabs.
  • Rhinotillexomania: Excessive nose picking.
  • Dermatophagy: Skin biting.
  • Trichotillomania: Hair pulling.
  • Trichophagia: Eating hair.
  • Approaching Skin Picking:

Empathy and Understanding: It's crucial to approach skin picking with empathy, recognising that each individual's experience may differ.

Seek Professional Guidance: If skin picking becomes a concern, consult with a healthcare professional or occupational therapist who specialises in behavioural issues or sensory processing.

Behavioural Interventions: Behaviour modification techniques and therapies such as Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy (CBT) can be effective in addressing skin picking.

Sensory Support: Provide alternative sensory activities or tools to help individuals self-regulate without resorting to skin picking.

Stress Management: Teach stress management techniques such as deep breathing or mindfulness to cope with emotional triggers.

Scratch Mittens: Although primariliy used by those suffering with ezcema, this may be an option to look at. Eczema Clothing Collection.


Skin picking is a complex behaviour that can affect individuals with disabilities, among others. Understanding the underlying causes, seeking professional guidance, and providing support and empathy are essential steps in addressing and managing this behaviour. By approaching skin picking sensitively, we can help individuals develop healthier coping strategies and improve their overall well-being.
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