Skin picking disorder: Does a person’s sex matter?

February 2022

Skin picking disorder: Does a person’s sex matter?

Vol. 34. No. 1
Jon E. Grant, JD, MD, MPH | Samuel R. Chamberlain, MD, PhD

BACKGROUND: Skin picking disorder (SPD) is characterized by recurrent picking with scarring or tissue damage. Although research suggests that less than one-half of people with SPD are male, there is little clinical information about men with SPD.

METHODS: We recruited 95 non–treatment-seeking adults as part of a cross-sectional study of SPD. Men (n = 17) and women (n = 78) with SPD were compared on clinical and cognitive measures. Sex differences in the demographic and clinical characteristics, skin picking sites, and presence of comorbidities were examined using analysis of variance for continuous variables and likelihood ratio Chi-square tests for categorical variables.

RESULTS: Men were significantly more likely than women to report a first degree relative with skin picking or hair pulling disorders (P = .0174). Men were less likely to pick from their scalps and backs and picked from fewer sites. Men and women did not significantly differ on skin picking severity, disability, impulsivity, or quality of life.

CONCLUSIONS: These data indicate that SPD is similarly impairing for men and women, but men may have higher familial loading and a somewhat different distribution and frequency of picking sites. Sex differences in SPD merit more detailed consideration in larger samples, including addressing potentially higher genetic/familial loading in males.