CBT for Skin-Picking Disorder and Hair-Pulling Disorder

What is Skin-Picking Disorder and Hair-Pulling Disorder?

Skin-Picking Disorder (or Excoriation Disorder) and Hair-Pulling Disorder (or Trichotillomania) are types of body-focused repetitive behaviours that involve excessive grooming that fall under the category of obsessive-compulsive disorders. It is common for people to experience both skin-picking and hair-pulling disorders because they are often comorbid.

What are the symptoms of Skin-Picking Disorder?

Individuals who experience skin-picking disorder may present with the following symptoms:

  • Recurrent skin-picking commonly on the face, arms, hands, or multiple body sites that result in skin lesions
  • Repeated attempts to stop or reduce skin-picking
  • Feeling a loss of control, shame, and embarrassment
  • Avoidance of social situations and everyday activities due to cosmetic damage to the skin
  • Interference with daily functioning due to several hours spent skin-picking

What are the symptoms of Hair-Pulling Disorder?

Individuals who experience hair-pulling disorder may present with the following symptoms:

  • Recurrent pulling out of one’s hair in any region of the body where hair grows that results in hair loss
  • Repeated attempts to stop or reduce hair-pulling
  • Feeling distressed due to hair-pulling
  • Interference with major life domains (e.g., work, school, social interactions) due to avoidance and time consumed by hair-pulling

When is it time to get help?

As humans we naturally engage in self-grooming behaviours on a daily basis, such as cleansing our face, clipping our nails, and cutting our hair. These normal and healthy grooming behaviours can have a positive impact on our sense of self, our social relationships, and our health. We may have on occasion become carried away and done some damage to our skin, cuticles, nails, hair, or scalp. However, if these grooming behaviours become excessive to the extent that they cause significant cosmetic problems or physical damage over a prolonged period of time, and it causes distress or significant interference with daily activities, then it might be time to seek professional help to address these body-focused repetitive behaviours.

How can CBT help Skin-Picking Disorder and Hair-Pulling Disorder?

Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is an evidence-based practice that is widely used in the treatment of both skin-picking and hair-pulling disorder. Individuals will learn to identify their thought patterns, emotions, physical sensations, and behaviours that allow them to get stuck in cycles of compulsive, repetitive behaviours of skin-picking and/or hair-pulling. Treatment may involve:

  • Identifying the triggers and consequences of body-focused repetitive behaviours
  • Finding alternatives to skin-picking and hair-pulling by minimizing sensory triggers and promoting healthy grooming activities
  • Challenging unrealistic thoughts and beliefs that encourage skin-picking and hair-pulling with more helpful, realistic thoughts
  • Managing emotions such as anxiety, depression, shame, boredom, and anger without the engagement in skin-picking and hair-pulling
  • Creating physical barriers to body-focused repetitive behaviours
  • Modifying our environment to discourage skin-picking and hair-pulling

How can the team at Oakville Centre for Cognitive Therapy help?

At the Oakville Centre for Cognitive Therapy, we have trained psychologists with experience in body-focused repetitive behaviours of skin-picking and hair-pulling. If you experience these symptoms and are interested in receiving evidence-based treatment, please contact us at 905-338-1397 or email us via the Contact Us page of our website.

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