“Pick one scab and leave the rather alone. Do the one her friend." As bizarre together these words might seem to some people, others will discover a great deal the relief, camaraderie, also wisdom in them. Castle come from advice one sister provided to an additional when discussing their mutual compulsions to pick obsessively at the scabs that type on your bodies. 

Scab picking is a type of excoriation, simply as picking at the skin is. As soon as picking scabs, however, all scabs are a target, including those from trauma, accident, or resulting from earlier picking episodes. Sometimes picking scabs starts together pure coincidence. If the very first behavior occurs when the human is under tension or vulnerable. The picking can have a soothing effect, and also then it becomes a self-perpetuating behavior that both relieves anxiety and increases the anxiety since the constant picking is painful. However, this script is no the only means picking at scabs starts or continues due to the fact that every human being experiences the differently.

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Although occasional scab picking might be harmless, when the severity increases to the suggest of repeat injury, it may be diagnosed together a body-focused repetitive habits resulting in far-ranging impairment.

How usual is this? 

The precise prevalence that compulsive scab picking is unknown. However, surveys indicate that 90% of Americans choose scabs, and 20% - 35% eat lock afterward. When taken into consideration as component of the general group of skin picking disorders, the prevalence hovers native 1.4% - 6% depending on the populace surveyed. Countless of those surveys perform not differentiate between skin picking and also scab picking due to the fact that scabs are component of the skin. Therefore, in spite of the limited information, more people likely experience compulsive scab picking than originally thought.

Bad habit or disorder?

Scab picking is favor the other body-focused repetitive actions in the in some human being it is only an occasional bad habit, if in others, it becomes a life-impairing problem. There are additionally different manifestations of the behaviors. Some world pick in ~ scabs intentionally and with focus. Once they do this, they endure gratification, relief, pleasure, or other reaction the reinforces the behavior. Other civilization pick at scabs without mindful awareness, such together those that run your fingers over your skin and also pick at anything that is not smooth.

Diagnostically, scab picking drops within the spectrum that skin picking disorders and is labeled together a specifier as soon as it exists. Therefore, the diagnostic criteria because that skin choose disorder, officially recognized as excoriation disorder, is offered for scab picking. To satisfy criteria because that a disorder, the behavior must accomplish the adhering to criteria:

Much time is invested pickingBehavior outcomes in repeated injuryMultiple failed attempts to stop the behavior Negatively influence social, occupational, and also relational life

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Co-morbid Disorders

Scab picking often occurs with other disorders.

Trauma historyAnxietyObsessive-compulsive disorderOther body-focused recurring behaviors

Physical Complications

Scab choose creates boosted physical danger. After the skin barrier is broken and a wound forms, the scab is an essential for healing. Below the scab, the body repairs skin and also blood cells while death infection v a heavy dose the white blood cells. Therefore, to pick off the scab destroys the protective barrier and also opens the wound to infection. Furthermore, the fingers and fingernails, which are frequently used to pick off the scabs, save on computer high level of bacteria. As shortly as the scab is off, the bacteria from the fingers get in the wound.

Ineffective wound healingBleeding soresIncreased risk of infectionIncreased pain, swelling, inflammationScarring

Impact on quality of Life

For people with compulsive scab picking one of two people on its own or in conjunction through skin choose disorder, the habits interfere through the high quality of life in several respects. 

Because so much of daily task involves the hands, a human being who picks at scabs needs to prevent other activities to connect in the behavior. Further, attention shifts from whatever a human being is doing to the action of packing at a scab. Occasionally this results in frequent starting and preventing of tasks as well together disrupting others. 

The i can not qualify to regulate the behaviors often leads human being to believe they are weak, which leads to embarrassment, guilt, and shame. Scab picking, in particular, deserve to lead to included embarrassment if unhealed wounds inspire undesirable attention. If wounds continually obtain infected, a same amount that time deserve to be spent attending clinical appointments because that follow-up wound care. If infection sets in, hospitalization may be forced to manage the condition.

When experiencing physical complications due to scab picking, often the exterior appearance of epidemic or condition creates personal discomfort and unwanted inquiries or stigma native others. 

Scab picking and also skin picking deserve to interfere with work and also school either by creating physical discomfort that interferes through functioning or by developing awkward society situations due to the fact that of unhealed wounds.

What treatment choices are available?

Treatment because that scab picking adheres to the same approaches as compulsive skin picking. Intervention kind depends on the level that impairment, the complications, and also the form of behavior. Therefore, a full assessment is a an important tool because that determining treatment options. A clinical assessment is crucial to recognize the results of symptom while a mental or mental wellness assessment can narrow behavior treatments come an efficient method. 

Like skin picking disorder, there room multiple treatment options available, including behavioral, pharmacological, and mechanical. 


The score of behavior treatment is to unlearn habits and also create healthier behaviors, i m sorry is why evaluate is crucial. Therapy for unfocused scab choose will job-related on improving self-awareness and identifying triggers for the behavior. When triggers and also habits room identified, therapies such as habit reversal cultivate can help a person build other behaviors. Cognitive-behavioral therapy and also acceptance and also commitment therapy are various other non-pharmacological treatments obtainable through mental health and wellness providers. 


There is no much easily accessible for pharmacological treatment of skin choose disorder. Because that those that pick scabs in solution to anxiety, sometimes anti-anxiety medications deserve to ease the problems leading come the behaviors. For those that pick due to the fact that the scab and also the skin about feels strange, periodically numbing agents can reduce those sensations.

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Mechanical therapies develop a obstacle between the hands and also the scab. One method is to save wounds and scabs spanned at every times, either v bandaging or clothing. Also, adjust bandages frequently to mitigate the hazard of epidemic from dirty bandages. Also, sometimes applying a wound cream such together Neosporin have the right to reduce the pain or sensations associated with scabs and it can aid wounds cure faster, thereby reducing the access of scabs come pick.

Scab picking deserve to cause far-ranging impairment, physically, emotionally, and socially. A considerable assessment can aid determine a person"s choose habits and triggers which informs the treatment alternatives that may be most effective. Some human being grow the end of the behaviors, however, early on treatment intervention makes restore possible. 



Education, experience, and compassion for people informs Trudi"s research and writing about mental health. She stop a master of Science degree in Clinical Mental health and wellness Counseling: Addictions and also Mental health and wellness from Marquette University, through Bachelor’s degrees in Communications and also Psychology indigenous the university of Wisconsin eco-friendly Bay. Prior to committing to permanent research and also writing, she exercised as a Licensed skilled Counselor offering therapy to people of all periods who struggled v addictions, mental health and wellness problems, and trauma recovery in ar health settings and private practice.