Can you test yourself for dermatillomania?
Dermatillomania is one common name for what is now called excoriation (skin picking) disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5).
So one way to know if you have it is to read the diagnostic criteria in the DSM-5, and see if they apply to you. Here they are posed as questions:
Do you have dermatillomania according to the DSM-5?
1) Do you engage in frequent skin picking, resulting in lesions?
2) Have you tried to stop repeatedly?
3) Does it cause you significant distress or impair your ability to function?
4) Is your picking not caused by a substance (in other words, a drug) or a medical, perhaps dermatological condition?
5) Is your behavior not better explained by another psychiatric disorder?
Question 5 might be difficult to answer on your own, and these questions were designed for mental health professionals to diagnose you, however, overall I think these questions can act as a sort of self-administered dermatillomania test.
Also a note about question 4: Picking is sometimes caused by certain ADHD drugs, but when they are discontinued the picking often continues, so I would still call that dermatillomania. Except that I don’t actually prefer the name dermatillomania, as it makes you sound like you are “crazy” when you are not. I prefer the more descriptive terms “skin picking disorder” or even just “compulsive skin picking”.
The ABC’s of Dermatillomania
Another good method of “self diagnosis” is provided by the OCD Center of Los Angeles post on the ABC’s of Dermatillomania.
A: Something almost Anyone would pick. Examples include an obvious whitehead that is very easily “poppable”, a flake of dry skin hanging off you, or a scab that’s half-hanging off, that’s ready to be detached.
B: A Bump that only a person with a skin picking problem would pick. Maybe it’s a pimple, maybe a scab. Whatever it is, If left alone, a “bump” would go away or else become an “A”. If you are a compulsive skin picker, you tend to pick at “B”s, which makes them worse, and also tends to make them more of an “appealing target” for picking the next time.
C: C is for Create. Here the person picks at completely healthy, normal skin and as a consequence creates blemishes, sores or scabs.
I like the “ABC” method also because, as you recover, it can be used as a form of mindfulness and a way of knowing whether what you are doing is “ok”. If you can cultivate an awareness of what you are tempted to pick, are about to pick, or are picking, then you can label it mentally as an “A, B or C”. You might give yourself a green light for the “A,” remind yourself that a “C” pick is something to definitely stay away from, and that a “B” likewise only leads to more picking and worse looking skin.
ABC’s can be used as a way of daily monitoring your recovery or keeping track of picking in a way that’s different from monitoring time or intensity. It can be like grades at school. First your goal is fewer C’s, then fewer B’s. The more you work at it in a knowledgable way with persistence, the sooner you’ll get “straight A’s”.
Common sense two question dermatillomania test
Simpler than taking a test for dermatillomania is asking the two part question, “Do you pick your skin and does it cause you distress?” If the answers are “yes”, it may not really matter whether you officially qualify for having a skin picking disorder. You can work on it regardless.
A good place to start is to sign up for my free gift, which will tell you a) why you pick your skin and b) how to finally stop.
What do you think? Do you think you have dermatillomania? Please feel free to share and ask questions below.
Love and support,