Gender differences in skin picking behaviour and relations to health in a German community sample

  • J. Vöhringer
  • J. Schmidt
  • A. Martin


Background: Skin picking (SP) is a widespread behaviour that may cause significant skin damage. Its pathological variation is termed skin picking disorder (SPD). Women are more prone to show SPD than men. There is substantial evidence concerning relations of SPD and state of health. However, less is known about the relations of non-clinical SP and health and respective gender differences. Method: Based on a German community sample (n=629, age: 18-76 years, M=28.9), we investigated the presence of SP and its prevalence in women and men. We analysed gender effects in SP severity and consequences. Further, we computed correlations between SP severity and impulsivity, compulsions, body-focused security behaviours (BFSB), and pain. Findings: Nearly 50% of the participants reported SP behaviour. It was unequally prevalent in women and men (p=.03) and differed regarding the degree of severity and consequences (ps<.01). Compulsions, BFSB, and pain - but not impulsivity - showed small to medium correlations with SP severity (.45 < rs < .24; ps<.01). However, additional analyses showed that correlations of SP and compulsions were specific for women. Further, relations between SP and BFSB were stronger in women than in men (p=.02). Discussion: SP was highly prevalent in a German community sample, with substantial gender differences in extent, severity, and associations of SP behaviour. While SP may constitute a usual grooming routine in men, it is more likely to be part of a pathological cluster in women. This matches the findings for SPD and emphasises possible consequences of SP on health.
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