Excoriation: What to Look For

Marks or scabs on the body from a child possibly picking his own skin are key signs that he may be affected by excoriation. The face is the most common target, but young people also pick at arms, legs, back, gums, lips, shoulders, scalp, stomach, chest, fingernails and toenails. Some children pick at one particular part of the body repeatedly, and others “rotate” to allow the previous part of the body to begin to heal. Skin picking is generally done with just a child’s own fingers, though it is not unheard of for children to use tweezers or other implements. Skin picking can be triggered by anxiety or stress, and provide children with a feeling of relief. But the child may experience guilt, shame, and embarrassment about his habit, and attempt to hide or cover up both the act and the resulting evidence of it in the forms of marks or scabs.