Picking Scabs and Want to Stop? Try This Instead (Easy)
How to Stop Picking Your Scabs
Picking scabs is a hard-to-break habit that can lead to unsightly and harmful conditions, like infection, blemishes, or scarring. If done compulsively, it can also be a sign of a Body-Focused Repetitive Disorder (BFRD) called "Skin Picking Disorder". While difficult, it is possible for you to rid yourself of this behavior through patience, effort, and, if need be, outside assistance.
Treating Your Scabs
Disinfect the wound.Open wounds and sores can develop infections. Always wash a new wound thoroughly with soap and water as soon as you obtain it. Then clean it up with an antiseptic wipe or a bit of Neosporin and apply a bandage to protect it while it heals. You can also try using betadine or peroxide on the wound to clean and remove unwanted bacteria. These basic precautions will help to keep it clean and prevent infection.
Keep the scab protected.Scabs form over wounds to keep out germs while the body repairs skin cells and tissue. It is important to help the healing process by protecting this barrier.
- If you cannot bandage it, try applying moisturizer or lotion as it heals. Scabs kept protected will usually leave less scarring. The slight skin massage that comes with applying moisturizer will also increase circulation and help it to heal properly.
- Take a fingernail file and smooth the scab down to the surrounding skin. Then, when your hand rubs across the area, it will be less of a temptation and harder to pick.
Be proactive.Ensure fewer scabs by using healthy products to properly cleanse your skin. Make sure that skin products aren't causing blemishes that tempt you to pick.
Breaking the Habit
Study yourself.There may be reasons why you are picking at your scabs, ranging from purely physical (they itch) to mental or emotional (perhaps as a way to relieve tension). Understanding the root cause can help you to break the habit.
- Not everyone who picks their scabs has a behavioral problem. Some amount is normal. Other times it is a sign of skin problems, drug use of withdrawal, or other conditions. It only becomes a behavioral disorder when it is so frequent that it impacts other aspects of your daily life.
- People pick their skin for various reasons. For some it is boredom, while for others it can be a way to relieve negative feelings, depression, or stress. Sometimes it is unconscious; at other times the picker experiences feelings of guilt.
- Keeping a log can make you aware of when, where, and how often you are picking, especially when it happens unconsciously. Whenever you catch yourself, record it in a notebook.
Develop effective coping strategies.Once you have an idea of when and why you are picking your scabs, try things that divert your attention or remind you not to pick. It may take one or more different ways to control your behavior. Be strategic and use methods that suit your own situation.
Try challenging yourself.If you are a self-motivated and competitive person, make breaking your habit into a sort of contest. Set a number of days or hours to go without picking and gradually increase this. Then reward yourself for significant progress.
Make picking more difficult.One way to stop is to make the habit physically hard. Cut your nails, wear gloves, or cover the scabs. Having shorter fingernails will make it harder for you to pick. Keeping scabs bandaged will prevent you from looking at them and help you resist the urge to pick.
- Try soft cotton gloves. Not only do they act as a barrier, but they should make you even more conscious of the behavior and help you to reduce it.
- If you tend to pick at your arms or legs, wear long sleeves and pants whenever possible. If the scabs are on your ankle, wear high socks. This way, even if you give in, you will pick at the fabric rather than the skin itself.
Apply acrylic fingernails.This is another way of making your picking harder — and also a fashion-sensible one. It will be more difficult because you will have to scrape with thicker nails, which won't catch the skin as easily. Thin nails are sharp and can slice off the scab.
- If you go this route, have the manicurist make the nails as short and thick as possible. This will be added insurance against damaging the skin.
Replace your habit with something less destructive.When you feel the urge, distract yourself or channel your energy into something else. Try reading books, going for a walk, or watching television when you feel the urge to pick.
- Finding a habit that occupies your hands is even better and is something that is commonly used to quit smoking. You might try drawing, gardening, knitting, doing a puzzle, playing the piano, or crocheting. You can even just hold a coin or paperclip. If nothing else works, sit on your hands.
Practice positive affirmation.Remember to respect yourself whenever you catch yourself picking. Press on the scabbed area or wave your hand over the scabs, with a reminder that you love yourself and want to protect your skin. Try this technique before bed and when you wake up.
Don’t give up!It will take a long time to undo the habit at first. But if you are successful just once, you can do it again and will eventually reduce your picking. Be proud of your progress. With care and time, you can gradually free yourself of the habit.
Getting Medical Help
Recognize a problem.If out of control, scab picking can be a sign of a bigger behavioral problem called "Skin Picking Disorder." People with Skin Picking Disorder compulsively touch, scratch, pick, or rub their skin, which can result in scarring or worse.Try asking yourself the following questions:
- Does your skin picking take a lot of your time up?
- Do you have noticeable scars from skin picking?
- Do you feel guilty when you think about your skin picking?
- Does your skin picking cause significant disability socially or professionally?
- If you answer yes to more than one of these questions, you may have SPD.
Seek professional help.Scab picking may indicate SPD or another medical problem, like psoriasis or eczema. It is important to consult a medical professional to find out what is causing it, and whether it is independent or a symptom of a different, underlying problem.
- There are any number of different therapies available for chronic scab picking. Some might involve medication to relieve physical triggers, while others use behavioral therapy. Once a doctor discovers what is wrong, she can advise you on the best treatment.
- SPD is a variant of Obsessive Compulsive disorder because of the compulsive urge to perform repetitive behaviors.
- Your SPD may be related to depression, bipolar disorder, attention/deficit hyperactivity disorder, and an eating disorder. Other conditions similar to SPD include body dysmorphic disorder, trichotillomania (pulling out hair), and nail biting.
Follow a medical regimen.Your scab picking may be due to a physical problem and not to SPD. It may be dermatological, like eczema, for example, an inflammation of the skin that can cause itching. In this case the doctor may prescribe medication like corticosteroids or other topical creams.
- Remember, the medicine will treat the underlying cause of your scab picking, but it will not address the habit itself. Even if the physical triggers disappear, you may still feel the psychological urge and need help.
Seek psychological treatment.If your picking is not caused by a physical condition and is Skin Picking Disorder, you may need to consult a professional about getting counseling. One common psychological treatment option is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or CBT.
- CBT is often used to help people replace bad habits with good ones. There are different forms of available for scab picking.
- Treatment may involve dermatological therapy, antidepressants, anxiolytics, or antipsychotics.
Consider habit reversal training (HRT).HRT is a form of CBT, for example, based on the idea that scab picking is a conditioned behavior. It helps you recognize situations in which you are likely to pick and discourages the behavior by substituting alternative responses, like balling up your fists, when faced with the urge to pick.
Consider stimulus control (SC), as well.SC is another method that lessens sensory triggers in your environment that lead to picking – that is, “high risk” situations. It teaches you how to avoid circumstances that might lead you to pick, like changing your bathroom behavior if looking in the mirror is your trigger.
QuestionHow do I stop picking at scabs on my face?
Family Medicine PhysicianFamily Medicine PhysicianExpert AnswerYou might want to place a band-aid or covering over it so that you have some physical barrier between the scab and your picking.Thanks!
QuestionI am addicted to picking my scabs. One on my forehead now looks like a burn mark. How do I stop?
Family Medicine PhysicianFamily Medicine PhysicianExpert AnswerYou may want to talk to your doctor about obsessive compulsive disorder or other pathologies like skin picking disorder.Thanks!
QuestionHow long will it take me to stop picking on my scabs? If it takes too long, then I forget that I'm not supposed to pick I start picking again and I can't stop. Any suggestions? What can I do?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerTry putting band-aids on, as this will remind you of your goals. Also, try having something to hold on to, this will keep your hands busy. Remember that it takes some time to change an old habit into a new one.Thanks!
QuestionMy scabs are in my scalp, and I can't keep from picking them. Any suggestions?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerBeen there, done that. What helped me quit was wearing a hat (baseball cap, beanie, etc.) daily. Also, clip your nails regularly. Scalp scabs are harder to pick when one has short nails. A great alternative that satisfies the need to pick scabs is getting a piece of cardboard and putting small lumps of hot glue on it. When the glue dries, it will be hard and you can pick it off.Thanks!
QuestionIf I pick my scab, will this remedy work?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerNo, this remedy will not work because when you pick the scab, It can develop an infection in your body.Thanks!
QuestionI have a scab on my face and a band-aid isn't an option, any suggestions?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerWear makeup during the day while you're out and about, just be sure to use a makeup for sensitive skin and be sure to wash you face as soon as you can when you go in for the night. After washing your face, apply some Neosporin or another healing ointment and cover with a band-aid while you're at home.Thanks!
QuestionMy daughter is 10 and is always picking scabs until they bleed and become infected. Is there any way to stop this?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerTry rewarding her with things she likes, such as an extra half-an-hour of TV or play. If that doesn't work, try a bandage. If it becomes really infected, go to a doctor.Thanks!
QuestionHow can I stop picking my scabs if I am autistic and have ADHD?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerSee your therapist or doctor for advice.Thanks!
QuestionHow do I stop picking at my scabs?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerPut Neosporin or some ointment on the affected part, and when you feel the urge to mess with the scab, you will have to touch the ointment, which should take away the urge to pick.Thanks!
QuestionCan dry skin become a scab?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerYes, if you constantly scratch at it. If you want to get rid of the dry skin, exfoliate by rubbing lotion on it.Thanks!
How long will a scab take to completely come off if I stop picking it?
- Constant picking of scabs increases the likelihood of infection and scars.
- Please seek help if you develop a serious infection or are unable to control your picking.
- As with any medical situation, consult a doctor before acting.
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