Skin Picking

Hypnosis in Manchester to stop skin picking and break bad habits

Compulsive Skin Picking (CSP)

Compulsive Skin Picking (CSP) – or dermatillomania – is the repetitive picking of your own skin. It varies in severity. You might just have a bad habit. But it can also be similar to OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder).

At its worst it causes pain, injury and permanent scarring. It also requires a large amount of time and attention. This is hugely disruptive to your life. It stops you from living live life to the full.

Hypnosis helps both the bad habit of skin picking and the more severe OCD form. We treat the bad habit in the same way we use hypnosis for nail biting and other repetitive behaviours, weight loss, or to stop smoking.

More severe skin picking

We treat the more severe compulsion by helping you overcome underlying anxiety and stress. You may also struggle with perfectionism and body issues. If so, we’ll help with this too. A technique called Exposure and Response Prevention – ERP – is also used. This is particularly useful when your skin picking is a symptom of OCD . If you scroll down the page there’s more info about ERP. Skin picking is more common in women than in men, and it is thought to affect about 2% of patients who see a dermatologist. Between 2 and 4% of students are affected.

Skin picking, anxiety and OCD

You might pick your skin because it provides – temporary – relief from anxiety, stress or boredom. Or maybe it distracts you from emotional problems or other worries. Many people start skin picking to make their skin as perfect as possible. You pick your skin to remove (real or imaginary) spots, scabs, blemishes. You want perfectly smooth skin, not lumps and bumps.

Of course, the more you pick, the worse the imperfections appear. This leads to a vicious circle of further skin picking. More severe cases of Compulsive Skin Picking have obsessive compulsive aspects that are similar to OCD, Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) and compulsive hair pulling (or trichotillomania – TTM).

Skin picking is ritualistic, compulsive, repetitive. It temporarily relieves stress, anxiety and tension, but it’s ultimately self destructive. Around a quarter of people diagnosed with OCD or BDD also pick their skin.

Exposure and Response Prevention for Skin Picking when it’s a symptom of OCD

If your skin picking is more severe and is part of your OCD, then Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) can help. Although you feel the compulsion to pick your skin (or whatever your own compulsion is), you stop yourself from doing it, for a given period of time. This period of time gradually gets longer. So rather than relieving the anxiety you feel by skin picking, you learn to live with the feeling of anxiety.

Usually, if you suffer with OCD, you don’t allow yourself to remain feeling uncomfortable or anxious for long enough to realise that, even if you don’t carry out your compulsion, the anxiety will subside on its own. You concentrate on feeling better in the short term, rather than on dealing with the larger problem of the OCD. ERP encourages OCD sufferers to expose themselves to their obsessions and anxieties, but without resorting to the compulsions which normally make them those thoughts and anxieties go away.

This type of therapy works extremely well. Hypnotherapy is used at the same time you’re practising ERP. This keeps your general levels of anxiety lower than normally be the case, so that when you try ERP your anxiety does not become overwhelming.

What are the symptoms of Compulsive Skin Picking?

The most commonly affected areas are the face, gums, lips, back, shoulders, and arms. Many sufferers also pick their scalp, stomach, and chest. Finger and toe nails (and cuticles) are also often affected. This in turn causes pain, scarring, swelling, bleeding, and callusing. Some damage is irreversible.

Most sufferers of skin picking disorder experience stress or tension before picking, which is decreased by skin picking. If your skin picking is merely a habit you may not even be aware that you are doing it. It goes on beneath the level of consciousness. Many habits are like this, and there is more information below in the paragraph headed “What are the most common bad habits?”

With severe skin picking, you may use your fingers or nails for skin picking, or perhaps tweezers, needles, pins or toothpicks.

Your skin picking can cause you further problems. These include a dislike of being looked at, self consciousness, even your relationships going badly because of it. You may hate the way you look, and stop going out because it takes you so long to get ready. If you pick your skin, you may feel the need to camouflage your scars of blemishes with make-up. Or you cover up affected areas with clothing, even in summer.

Skin Picking can make Social Anxiety worse

Compulsive skin picking can cause or worsen social anxiety, making you feel self conscious, perhaps leading you to stay at home and avoid your friends. Or maybe you’re constantly late as your skin picking and subsequent camouflaging routine takes up so much time. Skin picking interferes with your everyday life.

What are the most common bad habits ?

When skin picking is in its milder form, it is really best described as just a bad habit. Bad habits come in all shapes and sizes, and hypnosis is a very effective and powerful treatment for any habit. Not just skin picking but hair pulling (trichotillomania)nail biting, and teeth grinding.

We also treat binge drinking, compulsive eating,smoking, wasting hours playing computer games on or Instagram when there’s really something else you should be doing, and compulsive eating.

Many bad habits are subconscious. You don’t know you’re doing it!

What all of these bad habits have in common is that you find yourself doing them, or wanting to do them, subconsciously. In other words, you don’t consciously go through a thought process of telling yourself to do it. You may not even notice that you’re picking your skin until someone tells you you’re doing it.

Similarly, if you have a nail biting habit, you suddenly find that you are biting your nails without having thought “I should put my hand towards my mouth now”. Or you find yourself twisting or pulling your hair, seemingly unaware of what you are doing until you have actually pulled the hair out or made it snap. It just seems to happen without you really noticing, until it’s too late.

Or perhaps you suddenly find that a thought appears from nowhere. For example – “I really want a packet of crisps” – but you’re not at all hungry. In fact you’re trying to lose weight and eat well. But the thought just seems to pop up. Bad habits are things that you find ourselves doing or thinking when in fact you really want NOT to do, or think, those things.

Hypnosis to treat skin picking; and CBT, medication and other treatments which help

Hypnosis is very well regarded in the treatment of compulsive skin picking. It can be used alone or in conjunction with either or both medication and CBT.

Medications used for OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) and depression have proved very effective for some sufferers. Medication should not be seen as a stand alone treatment. However it can makes it easier for you to do the therapeutic work needed to overcome your problem.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy – CBT – is also used very effectively to treat skin picking. CBT is a broad term for all therapies dealing with thoughts, beliefs, behaviours and assumptions. These thoughts cause, and are otherwise linked with, negative and unhelpful emotions like anxiety, stress and depression. 

CBT and “Faulty Thinking”

CBT teaches you to recognise faulty thinking. Faulty thinking means, for example, panicking, worrying, always assuming the worst, and over-generalising. Other “faulty thoughts” include being negative, taking things too personally, and jumping to conclusions. You’ll be taught to replace these with positive, realistic, and helpful thoughts. 

This type of therapy can help you to overcome the anxiety and stress which are the underlying causes of your skin picking. It helps you understand that the skin picking doesn’t in fact help you to feel better, but worsens your situation. CBT helps you stop exaggerating any imperfections in your appearance.

When do bad habits strike? And how do habits start?

Skin picking usually starts in childhood or adolescence, but can start any time. In common with many bad habits, skin picking is more likely to happen when you are feeling anxious or stressed, restless, tired, or stressed at work. You pick your skin to distract yourself, to take a moment out, to think about fewer than five things at once. You’re trying to make yourself feel better.

Chances are that back when it started, you got something out of your bad habit. It probably DID make you feel better for a while. The first time you bite your nails, or pull your hair, it succeeds in distracting you from whatever is you stressed or anxious. Grinding your teeth probably made you feel stronger, in control, more determined to beat whatever problem was bothering you. But as you repeat the habit which made you feel better when you first tried it, it brings its own problems.

Bad Habits cause other problems

Comfort eating and binge eating eventually leads you to put weight on; you’re embarrassed by the way your bitten nails look; you begin to get headaches or earache because of the teeth grinding, or it stops you from sleeping properly; your family worry about your health because you can’t stop smoking; your head is sore and you are ashamed that patches of hair are missing.

Skin picking doesn’t make you feel one bit better in the long run. In fact you feel worse, because it’s painful, it takes up increasing amounts of time, your appearance suffers and you feel that you cannot control what is happening. But you CAN control your actions, stop skin picking, stop nail biting, stop hair pulling, stop smoking, lose weight – you can break your bad habits. This is where hypnosis is so effective.

How does hypnosis break bad habits?

Hypnosis speaks directly to your subconscious and makes you more aware of what you are doing when you pick your skin. Rather than subconsciously – unthinkingly – indulging your bad habit, hypnosis makes you become very mindful of what you’re doing. This means you notice your hand reaching towards your mouth, or towards the plate of biscuits. You realise that you are clenching your jaw and grinding your teeth, or hair pulling, rather than just automatically doing it.

Your bad habit is subconscious. You don’t even think about it or make a choice when you do it. So no wonder it’s hard to control it! Hypnosis makes you aware of what you are doing. One of the hypnosis techniques used to stop skin picking is a suggestion that whenever you want to pick your skin, you must turn your hand upside down to do it; there are many variations on this. This technique is known as Habit Reversal Training.

Habit Reversal Training

Habit Reversal Training also involves hypnosis. Habit Reversal Training works by making you very conscious of when your bad habits are happening. It is appropriate when your skin picking is just a bad habit. When your skin picking is severe and is a symptom of OCD, however, then you’ll use Exposure and Response Prevention.

Hypnosis reduces stress and anxiety to break bad habits and stop compulsive behaviour

As well as the specific suggestions which you will be given whilst in hypnosis to help you break your habit, the very deep state of relaxation which hypnosis gives you means that you are far less likely to develop the state of anxiety which leads to your carrying our your bad habit, too. Hypnosis helps you feel calmer and more relaxed, and better at managing stress. It helps you feel more in control of your actions and much more aware of them. You’ll be able to break your bad habits by replacing them with a more positive response.

How quickly does hypnosis break bad habits?

You should notice the change very quickly, particularly if your skin picking is really just a habit. Not everyone can break their habit after just one session, however. It depends on the reasons you started in the first place. Other factors are whether or not you’re anxious generally, and how much you really want to stop. We treat nail biting, hair pulling, and teeth grinding frequently .

Because everyone makes progress at a different speed, you should be wary of any hypnotherapist who promises instant success. Hypnosis is not one size fits all, and what works for one individual may not work for another. If someone absolutely guarantees that they can cure you in one session, the likelihood is that they are just desperate for your business.

Find a qualified, registered hypnotherapist

Look for a properly qualified and registered hypnotherapist. A good hypnotherapist will be happy to meet or speak with you without payment. They’ll get to know you and the background to your problem, and make sure that you feel comfortable with them. They will be honest with you about how long the process is likely to take.

Once you’re a client of Manchester Hypnotherapy we’ll send you downloads. This is to help you to relax and to practice self hypnosis. Breaking bad habits such as skin picking is a process. You may get instant results, of course, but equally it may take some time. Hypnosis gives you the relaxation and peace of mind to be patient with yourself for as long as it takes to stop your habit completely.

Self hypnosis to stop skin picking and bad habits

Ultimately, all hypnosis is self hypnosis. This just means it’s about the thoughts which you repeat to yourself. The most important part of learning self hypnosis is learning to relax, quickly and easily. Most bad habits develop when you are feeling stressed. Bad habits seem to bring an immediate reward. They focus your mind away from stressful situations, distract you, and help you feel a bit better.

Habits have a downside

But these habits have a downside. Skin picking causes painful and unsightly scarring, chocolate and other comfort food makes you gain weight. Bitten nails are embarrassing and painful. You feel fed up just because you have a bad habit. With more severe forms of skin picking, you may feel isolated and ashamed, and unable to tell people about the problem.

So, habits work, a little, at first. But if you are reading this page then the habit isn’t really working for you any more. The deep state of relaxation which you experience whilst in hypnosis lets you feel better, less stressed and more in control. This means that you don’t have to resort to skin picking, or whatever your bad habit is.

What kind of bad habit can hypnosis stop?

We can help you stop any type of habit. We frequently treat nail biting, hair pulling, smoking, over eating, skin picking, fidgeting, teeth grinding, drinking too much caffeine, binge eating and drinking, and swearing. But the techniques used for these bad habits, and for weight loss, are the same hypnosis techniques that work to break all bad habits.

If you have got to the stage where you really want to break your bad habit, then hypnosis will help you stop it for good. Hypnosis helps you to break the cycle of stress and anxiety which often cause bad habits to form, so that you’ll finish your treatment habit free. You’ll also feel generally calmer, more relaxed, and in control.

Hypnosis in Manchester

The therapists at Manchester Hypnotherapy are the UK’s top independently rated hypnotherapists. They specialise in anxiety, insomnia and phobia treatment. To find a hypnotherapist in south Manchester to helpstress and anxiety, claustrophobia, fear of flying, then just get in touch.

For emotional problems such as jealousy and insecurity,panic attacks, or low self esteem, then go to any of the independent websites which list and review hypnotherapists (for example Google also publishes reviews) and see what others say about us.

email or phone Manchester Hypnotherapy

If you’d like further information about hypnosis in Manchester, forinsomnia, to stop smokingself esteem and confidencedepression, then please email

For help with weight loss, to stop  nail bitingteeth grinding, or for any other problem, please call 07779 575 816 for a free, no obligation, confidential discussion.

The Manchester Hypnotherapy clinic is based in lovely, peaceful surroundings in Didsbury. We’re in south Manchester, easily accessible from the centre of Manchester, Hale, Altrincham, and Bowdon. Didsbury is close to Gatley, Cheadle, Chorlton, Stockport, and outlying areas. Further information on how to find us is on our location page.