Picking, scratching, squeezing a zit, pulling at a hangnail -- it's all harmless, right? Well, not always. The addiction to skin picking, also called dermatillomania or pathological skin picking, involves obsessively picking and pulling at the skin, even if it causes harm (like bleeding, scabbing or scarring). Some skin pickers use their fingernails and others even use implements like tweezers or pins. Some addicted skin-pickers say they spend up to 12 hours a day picking at their skin [source: Ries].
The disorder is not specific to one particular area of the body -- skin pickers might pick at their hands, arms, face and pretty much anywhere else, though some people limit their compulsive behavior to one area of their body.
For many of the afflicted, it's a nervous tic -- they pick more frequently when under stress, and it might even be a subconscious behavior that they're not always aware they're doing. Most people engage in picking when alone or only around close family, since there is a social stigma attached to this type of behavior. The majority of skin pickers tend to be women, but men can also be addicted to this behavior as well. Like exercise, picking is sometimes associated with body dysmorphic disorder, especially if the picking is related to grooming