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Gen Hosp Psychiatry. 2013 Mar-Apr;35(2):168-73. doi: 10.1016/j.genhosppsych.2012.08.006. Epub 2012 Nov 2.

Skin picking disorder in university students: health correlates and gender differences.

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Department of Public Health, Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark.



This study sought to examine the prevalence of skin picking disorder (SPD) in a university sample and assess associated physical and mental health correlates.


A 54-item anonymous, voluntary survey was distributed via random email generation to a sample of 6000 university students. Current psychological and physical status was assessed, along with academic performance. Positive screens for SPD were determined based upon individuals meeting full proposed DSM-V criteria.


A total of 1916 participants (31.9%; mean age 22.7 ± 5.1; 58.1% female) responded and were included in the analysis. The overall prevalence of SPD was 4.2% (females=5.8%; males=2.0%). SPD was associated with significantly higher lifetime rates of affective, anxiety, eating, substance use and impulse control disorders. Men with SPD had significantly higher BMI ratings and perceived themselves as significantly less attractive to others while women had significantly higher depressive symptoms.


SPD is common in both genders and is associated with significant mental and physical health detriments, including higher levels of stress, more psychiatric comorbidity and poorer perceived health. Academic institutions, clinicians and public health officials should be aware of the multimodal presentation of SPD and screen for it in primary care and dermatologic settings.

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