Your Compulsive Pimple Picking May Be More Serious Than You Think

Anyone who has dealt with acne knows it isn't an enjoyable experience. There's both physical and emotional pain that sometimes accompanies it. It is a skin condition in which pores become clogged, forming what are known as pimples. Acne appears in different forms or lesions, bumps, or pimples known as whiteheads, blackheads, papules, pustules, or nodules. Unfortunately, many factors such as the environment, stress, or hormones can lead to acne. In fact, 73.3% of adults over 20 reported having acne in a study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology.


These constant lesions or pimples on the skin most commonly occur on the face, neck, or back, but acne can happen anywhere on the body. Because of their pesky presence, many people with acne start forming the habit to pick at or pop their pimples. And while doing it every now and then may seem harmless, building the habit of compulsively picking at your skin can be more harmful than you may think, often identified through a skin condition known as acne excoriée (via DermNet).

What is acne excoriée?

Board-certified multi-specialist physician, Dr. Azza Halim, M.D., tells Women's Health that compulsively picking at your acne can leave behind scabs, scars, and pigmentation. This skin-picking behavior is called acne excoriée where "one compulsively is picking, scratching, or squeezing acne or pimples," Dr. Halim explains. "People are not born with acne excoriée," Dr. Halim adds. "Trait disorders, learned behaviors, life stressors — all can be contributing factors." Most often, acne excoriée is born out of a habitual response to other factors.


Similar to other skin-picking disorders known as dermatillomania or excoriation disorder, per the National Health Service of the United Kingdom, acne excoriée is believed to be a response to stress, depression, or body dysmorphic disorder, or anxiety about the body, per DermNet. Anyone can develop a skin-picking habit, but it is more prevalent among women. According to a study published in the Journal of Psychiatric Research, it was found that 3.1% of women reported a lifetime of dealing with a skin-picking disorder. In general, women are more prone to it.

Can acne excoriée be treated?

Treating acne excoriée is possible, but it requires treatment for both the acne and mental health aspects of it. A study published in the Journal of Psychiatric Research found that people with skin-picking disorders experience other contributing factors. In fact, the research found that 64% reported generalized anxiety disorder, 53.1% had depression, 27.7% with panic disorder, 27.2% with post-traumatic stress disorder, and more. The study describes skin picking disorder as "a prevalent mental health disorder." Because of this, psychological therapy is recommended to tackle a big part of the condition. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or S.S.R.Is, as well as cognitive behavioral therapy, habit reversal therapy, and acceptance-enhanced behavior therapy, have been found to be effective treatments for acne excoriée, according to The American Osteopathic College of Dermatology.


Additionally, the treatment of acne itself can be helpful. Whether it is topicals, antibiotics, or other skin procedures, a dermatologist can help guide you into figuring out your skin's specific needs. Both behavioral and acne skin treatments can help you combat your acne excoriée habits (via Olivia Skin and Hair Clinic).