Dermatillomania: Why Do We Like To Squeeze Acne?

Date September 25, 2018

When a nasty pimple appears on the skin, most of us tend to get rid of it immediately. However, some people like popping them so much that they simply can’t stop!

What is the reason?

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This disorder is called dermatillomania. This psychological problem can eventually lead to tragic consequences.

How does it manifest itself and can it be dealt with?

Dermatillomania is a mental illness, manifested in constant, intrusive, skin scratching and injuring.

Obsessive desire to scratch your skin isn’t a rare condition. According to statistics, about 4% world population suffers from dermatillomania. Experts believe this percentage is greatly understated: in fact, dermatillomania affects about 15% of the population.

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Usually, the desire to squeeze pimples begins to appear in adolescence, when we first get acquainted with this problem and try to get rid of it as soon as possible.

Girls suffer from dermatillomania more frequently since boys accept the skin shortcomings more calmly.

The second most common age for the disease is from 30 to 45 years. The risk group includes those who have skin problems and constant itching.

Not only acne

Dermatillomania refers to the spectrum of obsessive-compulsive disorders. It is manifested not only by the persistent desire to squeeze acne but also by other obsessions:

  • trichotillomania: tearing off the “excessive” hair (including eyebrows’ plucking);
  • onychophagy: nibbling of nails and burrs;
  • and biting lips and the inner surface of cheeks.

Many people may not even suspect the presence of a psychological illness, believing they suffer only from a bad habit.


Dermatillomania never arises by itself. It's a mental condition, where a person becomes unconsciously happy to find a scratch on the skin, and to be able to deal with it.

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Problems can be hidden so deep that it is almost impossible to identify them independently. These may include:

  • suppressed negative emotions (anger, resentment, disappointment);
  • lack of self-fulfillment, shame, and low self-esteem;
  • feelings of guilt and loneliness;
  • depression, apathy, and stress.

Clinical psychologist Alexandra Rivière-Lecar described the following:

People affected by such a disorder as dermatillomania don’t want to hurt themselves to ease their unbearable feelings or regain control of their bodies, as do those who engage in self-mutilation or self-immolation. By their behavior dermatillomaniacs strive for a pleasant action, which serves as a comfort to them, when they are tormented by remorse or longing.


This disorder can manifest itself in different ways. Nevertheless, therapists named a number of the main symptoms of dermatillomania.

  1. When new acne and other skin problems are discovered, the person experiences a desire to deal with it.
  2. There may be momentary relief during the “procedure.” The person gets excited, pleased and relaxed.
  3. After squeezing, the person immediately goes into a state of frustration, which causes a desire to repeat the “procedure.”
  4. The desire to injure the skin comes spontaneously.
  5. A person who often studies their face meticulously in the mirror, searching for a problem.

The next step is always triggered by a certain set of emotions, depending on the mental state.

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Why dermatillomania is dangerous?

Excessive acne, hair pulling, and picking sores can all signal about the presence of serious psychological problems (such as OCD and clinical depression).

In addition, people with dermatillomania can cause severe damage to their skin. Obsessive people can use not only nails and teeth, but also manicure tools and other sharp objects.

Permanent acne and other similar problems can bring skin infections and cause significant harm to your appearance.

How to understand you have dermatillomania?

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To understand whether you are healthy or suffer from dermatillomania, try to answer a number of questions honestly:

  1. How often do you perform such “procedures?”
  2. How much time do you spend on this every day?
  3. What is the cause of your desire to squeeze acne?
  4. Do you have any lesions, irritations and new skin rashes after that?
  5. Are there scars on your body and other non-healing wounds?
  6. How much this problem affects your communication skills?

Unfortunately, it is impossible to treat dermatillomania alone. You can’t just abandon the scratching obsession.

What should you do?

Dermatillomania isn’t a physical skin disease. It's a psychological problem,and you should resort to a psychotherapist. However, you should first go to the dermatologist to avoid the possibility of skin disease.

In addition, any sport, as well as other hobbies, are just perfect for fighting dermatillomania.

Not everyone who picks their acne suffers from a mental illness. Skin itch may arise from a common allergy or other dermatological problem. So don’t hesitate to contact a specialist for advice!

Source: Skin Pick, Picking Me, Psychology Today

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This article is solely for informational purposes. Before using any of the information provided above, consult a certified specialist. Use of the information outlined above can be harmful to health. The editorial board does not guarantee any results and does not bear any responsibility for harm or other consequences that may result from the use of the information provided above.