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Int Clin Psychopharmacol. 2007 Sep;22(5):268-74.

Open-label escitalopram treatment for pathological skin picking.

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  • 1Massachusetts General Hospital/Harvard Medical School, 185 Cambridge Street, Boston, MA 02114, USA.


Pathological skin picking is characterized by dysfunctional, repetitive and excessive manipulation of the skin resulting in noticeable tissue damage. This study sought to assess the effectiveness of escitalopram in treating pathological skin picking. Twenty-nine individuals with pathological skin picking were enrolled in an 18-week, open-label trial of escitalopram. Study measures assessing skin picking severity and impact, anxiety, depression, and quality of life were given at baseline and weeks 2, 4, 6, 10, 14, and 18. The mean maximally tolerated dose was 25.0 mg (standard deviation=8.4). For the 19 study completers, pre-post-treatment analyses revealed significant improvements (P<0.05) on measures of skin picking severity and impact, quality of life, and self-rated anxiety and depression. Completer as well as intent-to-treat analyses indicated that approximately half of the sample satisfied full medication response criteria and one-quarter were partial medication responders. Correlational analyses indicated that changes in depression, anxiety, and quality of life co-occurred with reductions in skin picking severity but not impact. A high percentage of variance in severity, however, remained unexplained. These results suggest that escitalopram can be an effective agent in reducing pathological skin picking. The lack of medication response in a subset of our sample suggests the possibility of pathological skin picking subtypes.

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