Update on pathological skin picking

Jon E. Grant, Brian L. Odlaug

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


Pathological skin picking (PSP) is a disabling disorder characterized by repetitive picking of the skin that causes tissue damage. Estimated to affect 2% to 5.4% of the population, PSP is currently listed as an impulse control disorder not otherwise specified. However, the repetitive and compulsive behaviors seen in PSP are phenomenologically and clinically similar to the behaviors seen in obsessive-compulsive disorder and other body-focused repetitive behaviors, such as trichotillomania and pathological nail biting. Animal neuroimaging research in related disorders such as obsessive-compulsive disorder and trichotillomania provides useful information for understanding PSP. Recent cognitive testing of individuals with PSP demonstrated impaired inhibitory control; these findings may assist in the proper characterization of PSP and aid in the development of effective treatment options. Although the disorder is common, appropriate treatments for PSP are limited. Pharmacotherapeutic and certain cognitive-behavioral interventions have demonstrated promise in treating this disorder and need to be explored further.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)283-288
Number of pages6
JournalCurrent psychiatry reports
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2009

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported in part by a National Institute of Mental Health Career Development Award (K23 MH069754-01A1) to Dr. Grant.

Funding Information:
Dr. Grant has received unrestricted educational grants from GlaxoSmithKline and Forest Pharmaceuticals. No other potential conflicts of interest relevant to this article were reported.

Copyright 2012 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


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