There it is, a healing wound with a scab over it and almost subconsciously our hand would reach out and pick it, despite knowing it could cause scarring, cause bleeding and slow down the healing. But have you ever wondered why we feel tempted to pick scabs?
With the rising heat, we cannot help but be a little nostalgic about all our summer activities as kids. Calling our friends and waking them up early in the morning and going for a bike ride, skating around, playing numerous games till we were covered in sweat and dirt. The daily ice-creams and swinging so hard on the swings just to feel the wind in our face after an intense session of playing were definitely some of the memories that we call cherish and crave to experience again.
With all that playing, came our mothers scolding about how absolutely dirty our clothes were from all our activities throughout the day. Playing so much meant falling just as much. It is said that if you don’t have any scar from your childhood, then you had a very dull childhood. As painful as it was when we fell, remember being absolutely thrilled and satisfied when the scab appeared and we picked at it. Have you ever wondered why it was so satisfying?
The Psychology Behind It
It’s not just scabs, many people find bliss when picking bumps, blemishes, and even healthy skin at times. It is absolutely tempting picking at scabs, especially when they start to dry and peel off the edge. While picking at any bumps on our skin is satisfying, it does leave a mark and increases the risk of developing a skin infection.
How can something so bad for the skin be so satisfying at the same time? The answer to this is our natural self-grooming behavior. Historians and scientists have proved that we evolved from apes. If you have noticed, apes are constantly checking for ticks, dirt, and small wounds. Luis Villazon, a science and technology educator says that the urge to pick at our scabs and such wound comes from the apes. He also says that people suffering from obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) may find it difficult to stop picking at the unevenness of their skins.
It Hits The Rewards Centres
Emily Ricketts, a clinical specialist at the psychiatry and biobehavioural sciences at UCLA says that it could be a result of “deficits in the areas of the brain related to reward processing.” According to a study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry, picking scabs starts off as an unconscious activity which then becomes a conscious and prominent activity.
Like almost all the behaviors and phenomena in the world, this habit of constantly picking at our skin is termed excoriation disorder. It is classified as an “obsessive-compulsive and related disorder” in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition. Emily also says that “this psychiatric condition refers to repeated picking, squeezing, digging and/or scratching at the skin, with resultant skin damage.”
People who suffer from this disorder can sometimes find it hard to stop picking at the scab or even reducing their scab picking habit. They may feel ashamed, guilty, anxious, and even depressed due to their condition. This skin picking activity can occur multiple times in one’s life. There is no age limit to it. The conditions that trigger these people range from stress, anxiety, boredom, fatigue, anger, or the mere feeling or the look of the bump that forms on the skin.
Keep your hands off the scabs you guys it really does have a lot of side effects which we do not realize at the time. When a person develops a habit of picking at their skin very frequently, they can face physical and psychological problems. It can cause bleeding, sores, and infections which could spin out of control and may require medical treatment or even hospitalization.
Why Do We Get Scabs?
The reason we get scabs is that the scab provides protection against infections. In fact, underneath the scab, the body keeps working day and night to heal the wound. The white blood cells are found under the scab as they help destroy the germs that might have been left behind. Therefore, when you pick at the scab open up the healing found, you make it vulnerable to infections to set in.
If you ever find yourself picking at scabs or just your skin unnecessarily, you might need professional help. You could try covering up the wound so that it is out of your sight. Out of sight out of mind, correct? Covering it up also helps in protecting the wound from catching any infection. You could even go to a dermatologist as some of the scabs on the skin might be because of a pimple or a blemish you popped. As picking at scabs is also a sign of anxiety, loneliness, stress, or even boredom, it is safe to say that keeping your hands busy somewhere else, like popping bubble wrap could also help prevent your hands to subconsciously pick at your skin.
Keep Your Hands Off
We all know the desire to have a perfectly symmetrical, clean, and fair face and skin. Sadly, those are the standards of beauty for a lot of people in the world. While there is nothing wrong with wanting to look a certain way, why risk the skin by trying to remove the unevenness ourselves? If you want the skin to be flawless, you can always get laser treatment.
We do agree that occasionally picking at a scab or a pimple is satisfying, but only as long as it does not cause even more trouble to the skin. We are guilty of doing it at some point in our lives and at multiple occasions. But do you remember the pain when we pulled the scab too far away and it would start bleeding again? It would take double the time to recover. We do not mean to scare you but if you find yourself or someone else picking at their skin excessively, do consult a professional. Try to be comfortable in your skin and love yourselves.