How to Treat Scalp Picking? Is Scalp Picking a Sign of Anxiety?

Skin picking in men and women has become of those weird bad habits that feel immensely satisfying, much like plucking a stray gray or popping a pimple, but this habit can anytime go intense if not taken care of. 

It’s possible for some casually mentioned “beauty concerns” to also be signs of mental health issues. There are strong links and synergies between mental health and beauty.

Your emotional health affects your skin, which in turn impacts your mental health, dermatillomania being one.

According to studies, 1.4% to 5.4% of adults engage in excessive skin picking, also known as dermatillomania, a form of self-grooming behavior where people pluck, pick, scrape, or bite their hair, skin, or nails, causing harm to the body.

What is Scalp Picking or Dermatillomania?

Scalp Picking the act of rubbing and pulling at your scalp is known as “scalp picking.” There are several causes for why someone could do this.

It’s probably nothing to worry about if you pick at your scalp because of product buildup, tight hairstyles, or itching from a new hair or scalp product. If this is the case, simply be aware of the cause and attempt to modify your hair-care practices as necessary.

Scalp Picking at small nail flaws, acne, or small scabs is a behavior associated with the disease that can damage surrounding tissue and leave scarring and discoloration.

Some individuals may even feel ashamed of their actions and avoid situations where they might be judged by others for their perceived flaws.

People who are simultaneously dealing with other mental health issues are more likely to engage in skin plucking. In the same prevalence investigation:

  • In 63.4% of people with dermatillomania, anxiety also existed.
  • Depression affected 53.1% of people.
  • PTD was present in 27.7% of the population (PTSD).
  • OCD was present in 26.3% of 

Symptoms of Scalp Picking

Skin picking may show these signs and symptoms:

  • Picking at scabs, scars, or healthy skin frequently can result in cuts, sores, bleeding, scarring, or infections that may need medical attention.
  • Plucking over a prolonged period could interfere with one’s social or professional life.
  • Avoidance of social or public settings as a result of skin self-consciousness.

What Causes Scalp Picking

Often known as dermatillomania, qualifies as an “adaptive” activity since people utilize it as a coping mechanism to deal with their challenges. However, it is maladaptive since the response eventually has a detrimental effect on long-term health and well-being.

The reasons that cause Scalp Picking are as follows:

  • Boredom
  • Worry or tension
  • Unpleasant feelings like shame or remorse skin issues like eczema or acne and other imperfections that the person wants to get rid of.
  • It is sometimes described as a repetitive behavior that is body-focused and is comparable to repetitive hair-pulling disorder (trichotillomania).

Research indicates a hereditary association, but the exact origin of compulsive skin-plucking illnesses like dermatillomania is yet unknown.

Body-focused repetitive behaviors typically start in early adolescence, usually at the same time as puberty, and they frequently run in families.

Those who target the scalp frequently pick at perceived flaws with the assumption that doing so would make them disappear. But picking frequently results in wounds that scab over, giving rise to yet another flaw. 

Other times, a medical reason such as a skin condition causes discomfort or irritability that makes someone desire to pick.

How Scalp Picking is a Sign of Anxiety?

Mental Health and skin go hand in hand; there are multiple possibilities that stress, pressure, and anxiousness lead to skin conditions like scalp picking in men and women.

Mental health issues like Self-efficacy, self-esteem, self-image issues, Anxiety, Continually thinking, disorders of compulsive behavior (OCD), Violence, or abuse may result in post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and Character Disorders Caused by Boredom or Habit lead to skin-picking issues.

Anxiety may cause someone to start picking at their skin as a means to decompress. However, when it happens frequently and intensely, it can develop into a condition known as skin-picking disorder or excoriation.

How to Treat Scalp Picking? Is Scalp Picking a Sign of Anxiety?

People who suffer from the skin-picking problem may find it difficult to suppress the urge and do it out of habit. Some individuals may even feel ashamed of their actions and avoid situations where they might be judged by others for their perceived flaws.

“Compulsive picking is often preceded or accompanied by a high level of anxiety or stress that may trigger skin-picking episodes,” Pirok says.

People may also choose to do so to cope with unpleasant feelings (such as worry, depression, or anger), as well as in response to feelings of increasing stress and tension. People could experience relief while choosing. But sentiments of relief are frequently followed by regret or guilt.

Skin-picking Vs. Hair Pulling

Dermatillomania on the scalp may eventually lead to hair loss, but it is distinct from obsessive hair pulling, often known as trichotillomania3.

Nevertheless, trichotillomania (which can affect the head, lashes, brows, etc.) and dermatillomania are compulsive diseases that are frequently brought on by mental health issues including stress and anxiety.

Additionally, the prevalence study found that 12.7% of individuals with dermatillomania also have trichotillomania, so if you pull your hair or pick at your skin or scalp, you’re not alone.

How to Treat Scalp Picking 

Scabs on the scalp typically heal on their own without the need for medical attention. To stop scabs from getting worse and to speed up healing, one should strive to stop picking at them.

The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) advises people to follow these procedures for minor wounds:

  • Keep the area tidy.
  • To help keep the scab or wound wet, apply petroleum jelly.
  • If at all feasible, bandage the affected region and replace it every day.
  • To stop the scab from turning brown or redder, wear sunscreen or keep your head covered.
  • Working with a doctor to identify the underlying condition that is causing the scabs is recommended if they are caused by scabs to treat and avoid future ones.

When to Contact a Doctor 

If someone has scalp scabs and the following signs and symptoms appear, they should see a doctor:

  • Fever and other signs of infection, such as irritated or swollen scabs
  • Scabs that reappear frequently or do not disappear
  • scabs that intensify in itching or discomfort
  • avoid picking at scabs that do not disappear after a few days.

Habits That Will Reduce Continuous Scalp Picking

Here are some of the things you can do if you notice yourself involved in continuous scalp picking:

  • Excoriation disorder, a type of obsessive-compulsive disorder, causes you to experience the impulse to incessantly pick at your skin. Beyond a strong impulse to pick at your skin, compulsive skin-picking involves other behaviors as well.
  • Pay attention to trigger points, worrying ideas, or demanding circumstances that could trigger urges to pick at your head. Determine whether there are particular locations or times of day where the cravings are more frequent. All triggers cannot be avoided, but knowing them can help you control the temptation to pick your scalp.
  • Inhaling exercises work tremendously. Close your eyes and unwind if you’re feeling worried or discover that you’ve been picking. Deeply inhale, filling your tummy with oxygen. Count to four as you inhale, hold your breath for seven counts, and then slowly count to eight as you exhale.  


One of the bases of scalp plucking is mental health, notwithstanding the possibility that it can bring physical, beauty-related difficulties.

A mental health professional can help you limit picking, and a trichologist or dermatologist can treat your scalp if you or someone you know frequently.

Additionally, seeing a dermatologist or trichologist can be good for the health of your scalp if you’re focusing on your mental well-being and trying to reduce picking.

Experts can assist you in selecting topical medicines that are both safe and effective to promote healing and reduce discomfort.

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