Skin picking is, according to the DSM-IV-TR (2000), an impulsecontrol disorder not otherwise specified (NOS), which means it meets the criteria for an impulse-control disorder, but there are not specific diagnostic criteria for skin picking.
Impulse-control disorders are defined as disorders in which individuals have difficulty in resisting the performance of an impulse or drive that is harmful to themselves or someone else. Typically, there is a sense of tension prior to performing the act and then a sense of relief or pleasure after the act is completed. Some impulse-control disorders are kleptomania (stealing objects that are not actually needed), pyromania (fire setting), or trichotillomania, as discussed previously.
In skin picking, individuals pick at their skin, causing damage to it, as a way to relieve tension and experience relief from that tension. One possible reason for this behavior is that it is distracting, in the sense that it is easier to focus on the skin picking than some other stressors in life. Also, some people feel that skin picking is under their control, versus external stressors that are not, and they would rather be involved in a behavior that they can control versus something that they cannot.
For individuals who do meet the criteria for impulse-control disorder NOS with a focus on skin picking, there is a 22 percent chance that they will also have OCD, according to the most recent research.