Skin picking disorder in university students: Health correlates and gender differences

Brian L. Odlaug, Katherine Lust, Liana R.N. Schreiber, Gary Christenson, Katherine Derbyshire, Jon E. Grant

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

56 Scopus citations


Objective: This study sought to examine the prevalence of skin picking disorder (SPD) in a university sample and assess associated physical and mental health correlates. Methods: A 54-item anonymous, voluntary survey was distributed via random email generation to a sample of 6000 university students. Current psychological and physical status was assessed, along with academic performance. Positive screens for SPD were determined based upon individuals meeting full proposed DSM-V criteria. Results: A total of 1916 participants (31.9%; mean age 22.7±5.1; 58.1% female) responded and were included in the analysis. The overall prevalence of SPD was 4.2% (females=5.8%; males=2.0%). SPD was associated with significantly higher lifetime rates of affective, anxiety, eating, substance use and impulse control disorders. Men with SPD had significantly higher BMI ratings and perceived themselves as significantly less attractive to others while women had significantly higher depressive symptoms. Conclusion: SPD is common in both genders and is associated with significant mental and physical health detriments, including higher levels of stress, more psychiatric comorbidity and poorer perceived health. Academic institutions, clinicians and public health officials should be aware of the multimodal presentation of SPD and screen for it in primary care and dermatologic settings.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)168-173
Number of pages6
JournalGeneral Hospital Psychiatry
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2013

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported in part by a Center for Excellence in Gambling Research grant by the National Center for Responsible Gaming , an American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) Grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse ( 1RC1DA028279-01 ) to Dr. Grant, and internal funding from Dr. Grant and Boynton Health Services, University of Minnesota .

Copyright 2014 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Body focused repetitive behaviors
  • Comorbidity
  • Gender
  • Health
  • Skin picking


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