Picking Scabs

Causes And Treatment Options For Picking Scabs

Picking scabs is more than just a bad habit; it is associated with obsessive-compulsive disorder.  It is a type of excoriation, similar to skin picking.  It is a self-perpetuating way to signal an underlying anxiety disorder or mood.  While the experience may be painful and unsightly, participants often refer to it as comforting.

Many individuals who engage in scab picking eat the removed scab as well.  Most are aware that it is viewed as repulsive so they will only pick at areas that are easily covered by clothing.  Repeated infections often become a problem that have significant consequences and permanent scarring is almost always a result. Often, the scarring is so severe that it become disfiguring.

Many individuals are aware that this obsessive-compulsive behavior is undesirable but it is virtually impossible for them to stop.  They feel a similar withdrawal that someone would when quitting cigarettes.


Picking scabs is classified as a psychological disorder that is associated with self-harm.  It falls in the same category as skin cutting, burning oneself and head banging.  It is a condition that targets females over males and traditionally begins in the initial teenage years.

Psychological symptoms often associated with scab picking are depression, addiction, low self-esteem, anxiety and eating disorders.  Additionally, a history of some type of abuse or trauma is almost always the root of the cause.

Habits usually begin as a way of relieving built up fear or frustration when the individual has been unsuccessful dealing with their issues or conflict.  The person feels as though verbal communication is ineffective so picking at their scabs is a way for them to deal with whatever emotional turmoil is going on inside of them.

A lot of people do pick at a scab from time to time which is generally not a cause for concern.  You know if what you are doing is a psychological disorder if the act brings you emotional relief, pleasure or desired pain.  If this is the case, intervention is necessary.

Why It's Considered A Disease

Doctors, especially dermatologists and those who work in mental health, acknowledge this compulsion as being not only dangerous but also a deeper sign of emotional turmoil that needs to be dealt with.

The fact that picking scabs is considered an obsessive-compulsive disorder makes it related to a habit as insignificant as nail biting to more severe conditions such as anorexia nervosa, Munchhausen's disease and Tourettes's syndrome.

Stress-provoking situations often trigger the behavior for some while others are unconscious of their picking and do it even while completely relaxed watching television, driving or reading.  Some individuals pick at their scabs as a defense mechanism to deal with bullying from people in their lives while others participate as an act of aggression toward themselves.  Often, to treat the problem, it has to be determined whether the individual is the aggressor or the victim.



Individuals who suffer from this obsessive-compulsive disorder usually find it impossible to stop with the simple use of willpower.  It is highly recommended that if you engage in picking scabs, that you seek out professional help.  You should not try to deal with it yourself.

Fortunately, over the past few years, this condition has received a lot of attention from therapists so more treatment providers are becoming aware of the disorder and how to deal with it.

Therapy is usually needed to reprogram your brain that picking is not something you need to do to receive pleasure or be in control.  Psychologists are always recommended to determine the underlying cause of the disorder, otherwise, just the surface of the problem is being treated.

Drug therapy usually consists of anti-depressant treatment of serotonin reuptake inhibitors or clomipramine.  These are usually prescribed for depression but in smaller dosages.  Drugs can be dangerous so take caution when using them and do your research first.