Belly Button Picking: Is it a Disorder?

This blog will answer the question, “Belly Button Picking: Is it a Disorder?” and also cover topics like what is excoriation, its types, treatment for the condition, and answer frequently asked questions.

Belly Button Picking: Is it a Disorder?

At first, when we hear the term belly button picking disorder, it may seem very bizarre and gross to us. The idea of someone picking their skin or belly button is unsettling to our brains.

People often indulge in picking their noses and even belly buttons but when the habit gets completely out of hand, causes your skin to bleed, it can be associated with the excoriation disorder.  

However, many people experience this obsession of picking their skin till the time it bleeds, let us explore excoriation disorder in detail.

What is excoriation disorder?

Excoriation disorder (also known as skin-picking) is a mental health problem in which people constantly pick at their skin. Children with an excoriation disorder pick at their skin so much that the areas they pick at become inflamed and unpleasant. 

No matter how hard they try to stop, they aren’t able to. Picking at one’s skin can make them feel better, as it can help relieve stress or anxiety. 

Many children or even adults are completely unaware of their actions. Picking at your skin can result in bleeding, scabs, infection, and scarring. If other people notice the damage, it can also create humiliation and embarrassment. Excoriation disorder commonly begins in early adolescence but can affect people of all ages.

Excoriation disorder is more common in children with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

Signs and Symptoms of skin picking disorder 

Understanding the signs and symptoms of the skin-picking disorder might help you determine if certain habits are “typical” picking or indicate something more serious.

Picking on occasion is rarely an issue. Scabs itch a lot when they recover, which causes a lot of people to scratch their skin. Many people pick at pimples and blackheads, despite advice to the contrary. 

Skin-picking disorder, on the other hand, causes people to pick at scabs, lumps, pimples, and other skin lesions until they bleed or become inflamed. Picking at the skin surrounding their fingernails and toenails is also a possibility.

People with the disorder will sometimes let the selected areas heal before picking them again. It then becomes a vicious cycle that is very difficult to break. 

Other signs and symptoms of the skin-picking disorder include:

Some people think that their skin is ‘imperfect’. So they scratch their skin repeatedly or try to rub out “imperfections” they believe they perceive. This can also result in more lesions, wounds, and sores.

Picking at the skin for long periods of time: Some patients with this disorder pick at their skin multiple times a day. Others may pick for a long period of time. In either case, their actions may cause a major disturbance in their personal and professional life.

Frequent picking can result in infections, lesions, and long-term scarring.   Antibiotics may be required to treat infections.

Frequent picking can leave skin covered in sores and scars, therefore some people avoid going to public gatherings because of the way their skin looks. They avoid going places which require wearing fewer clothes like the beach, gym, etc. 

Causes of excoriation

Excoriation disorder or skin-picking disorder is characterized by a pattern of “self-grooming.” It’s also called a body-focused repetitive behaviour (BFRB). Hair pulling and nail picking are two other BFRBs.

Skin-picking disorder is categorised as a type of obsessive compulsive disorder. For many people, the compulsive need to pick is far too strong to overcome on their own. A person’s ability to control their behaviour decreases as they pick at their skin more.

What causes a person to develop this illness is still unknown but a combination or interaction between different factors can result in a disorder like this where a person picks their skin or belly button till it starts bleeding. 

One of two events or circumstances frequently triggers the disorder:

A scab forms when an infection, injury, or wound begins to heal. Scratching and picking are common responses to itching. The new wound or lesion begins to heal and a new scab forms. This restarts the picking process.

During times of stress, the behavior is a stress-relieving habit. Skin plucking, with its repetitive motion and control, may provide comfort from other uncontrollable events.

Both children and adults suffer from the skin-picking disorder. It can start at any age, but it is most common during adolescence or at the start of puberty. It is also more common in women than in men.

Types of skin picking disorder or excoriation

Onychophagia (Nail-biting)

Onychophagia is commonly known as “nail biting.” Up to 30% of people engage in this behaviour, and some aren’t even aware of it. In addition to harming your skin and nails, this can harm your teeth and cause infections.

Morsicatio Buccarum (Chewing insides of mouth)

It causes people to bite the insides of their mouths. This results in sores and swelling over time. Your mouth’s inner lining may also begin to feel rough, making you want to chew it more.

Morsicatio Linguarum (Chewing side of tongues)

Some people chew on the sides of their tongues, which is known as morsicatio linguarum. It’s more common than you might believe, and it’s frequently brought on by stress.

Onychotillomania (Picking/pulling nails and skin around them)

it is characterised by the continuous obsession of picking or pulling at your fingernails and toenails, as well as the skin around them. This causes hangnails and open sores over time, and you can spread germs from your mouth to your skin.

Trichotillomania (hair-pulling)

It is a condition in which patients rip hair off their heads, eyelashes, eyebrows, and other body parts. It might be triggered by anxiety or boredom. People don’t always realise they’re pulling their hair. Trichotillomania usually begins between the ages of 10 and 13, but it can last a lifetime.

Belly button picking

People with this type of excoriation pick their belly buttons till the time they reach the inside of it. This leads to cuts and bleeding. Some people do this as a coping mechanism to hide their nervousness. 

Diagnosis of excoriation disorder

Self-diagnosis is not possible for skin-picking conditions. Even if you suspect the skin-picking disorder, it is crucial to understand the origin of your symptoms, your doctor will want to rule out any other underlying disorders before establishing a diagnosis.

Following a physical examination, your doctor will inquire about your habits and the feelings you have while engaging in them. They can also tell if the sores or scabs you’re picking are caused by a skin disorder or condition like eczema or psoriasis.

If your family doctor or internist suspects you’re picking your skin as a result of stress, anxiety, or OCD, they can refer you to a mental health professional who will be able to guide you better regarding skin picking disorder. 

Treatment of belly button picking excoriation problem

A combination of medications and therapy can help in improving the condition 


The belly button picking must have certain triggers that can be identified with the help of a mental health practitioner or counsellor. 

Then, together, you can figure out how to stop the behaviour when these triggers occur.

Activities you can do to stop picking include: 

  • Squeezing a soft ball
  • Solving a rubik’s cube
  • Wearing gloves 
  • Applying moisturiser on your skin 

All these activities will keep your hands busy. 

Your therapist can also help you to accept your problem, deal with it in a healthy manner, and work through other issues that might be worsening the condition.

If you’re facing this, it may be a good idea to seek the help of a therapist or other mental health professional. You can find a therapist at BetterHelp who can help you learn how to cope and address it.

Accountability partners

You can also ask your friends and family to point out to you whenever they catch you picking your skin. A mental health professional can also assist you in learning to reject triggers in your environment or on your body that cause you to pick. 

You should also avoid growing long nails and should keep objects like tweezers and pins away from yourself. 


Antidepressants may assist to reduce self-picking. SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) are the most widely given medications for this problem.

Other medications, such as anticonvulsants and psychiatric treatments, may be prescribed for “off-label” use. This means that, while the medication is designed to treat a different problem, it can also be used to treat skin picking disorder.


We answered the question, “Belly Button Picking: Is it a disorder”, and discovered that yes belly button picking is a type of excoriation disorder that can deeply impact one’s health, body, and mental well-being, and the person suffering must consult with a professional to receive the right kind of treatment. 

Frequently asked questions (FAQs): Belly Button Picking: Is it a Disorder?

What are the effects of skin picking disorder?

Skin picking disorder can cause problems in social situations, school, and job. Picking can cause mild to severe discomfort, as well as sores, scars, and disfigurement, and other medical issues such as infections. Skin picking can lead to sores that are serious enough to necessitate surgery in some circumstances.

Who suffers from skin picking disorder?

Skin picking disorder affects as many as one out of every twenty people. Despite the fact that it affects both men and women, research suggests that women are more likely to suffer from skin picking disorder. Skin plucking can begin as early as childhood or as late as adulthood.

How is skin picking disorder related to OCD?

Skin picking disorder is now categorised as an impulse control disorder. A “body-focused repetitive behaviour” is another term for skin picking conditions. Because it has traits with OCD, it is frequently referred to as an “obsessive-compulsive spectrum disorder” (or “OC spectrum disorder”). 

People with skin picking disorder, for example, pick at their skin repeatedly, often in reaction to recurring impulses or urges to touch or pick their skin. Skin picking disorder symptoms are comparable to those of OCD, which is defined by urges to do repetitive activities (rituals) in response to persistent thoughts, pictures, and impulses.

Why does skin picking feel good?

Picking gives a person essential sensory input that is rewarding in some way. Many people report that the roughness of their skin before it is picked makes them feel uneasy, but that the smoothness that results is rather pleasant.

What are the co-occurring disorders along with skin picking disorder? 

Skin-picking problems are frequently accompanied by other illnesses. These illnesses or disorders could be signs of a larger problem, or they could share a number of risk factors in common.

The following are examples of co-occurring illnesses:

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD):

Major depressive disorder: 

Body dysmorphic disorder

Trichotillomania (hair-pulling)

Is there a way to get rid of skin picking?

Yes, CBT, especially the specific varieties of CBT known as Habit Reversal Training (HRT) and the Comprehensive Behavioral Model, appears to be the most effective treatment for skin picking disorder. 

Skin picking disorder can potentially benefit from acceptance and commitment treatment (ACT). Skin picking may also be effectively treated with drugs such as SSRIs, according to research (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors). 

Fluvoxamine, fluvoxamine, and escitalopram are examples of SSRIs. According to certain studies, the anti-seizure medication lamotrigine may also aid with skin picking problem. Unfortunately, because many individuals are unaware that skin-picking conditions may be treated, many people continue to suffer from it.


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