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How can itching be psychological?

ANSWER

If your doctor can’t find a physical cause, it may be in your mind. Some mental conditions give people the urge to scratch or pick at themselves. They may feel like their skin is crawling with something. There is no rash, but there may be skin damage from scratching. Compulsive scratching can be a sign of:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Psychosis
  • Trichotillomania

SOURCES:

American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology: “Skin Allergy.”

American Academy of Dermatology.

Jain, S. Current Psychiatry, October 2013.

Moses, S. American Family Physician, September 2003.

National Cancer Institute: “Pruritus.”

National Psoriasis Foundation: “About Psoriasis.”

Oaklander, A. Acta Dermato-Venereologica, March 2012.

The Cleveland Clinic Foundation: “Pruritus.”

Yonova, D. Hippokratia, April-June 2007.

Yosipovitch, G. Dermatologic Therapy, March 2008.

Reviewed by Stephanie S. Gardner on December 9, 2019

SOURCES:

American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology: “Skin Allergy.”

American Academy of Dermatology.

Jain, S. Current Psychiatry, October 2013.

Moses, S. American Family Physician, September 2003.

National Cancer Institute: “Pruritus.”

National Psoriasis Foundation: “About Psoriasis.”

Oaklander, A. Acta Dermato-Venereologica, March 2012.

The Cleveland Clinic Foundation: “Pruritus.”

Yonova, D. Hippokratia, April-June 2007.

Yosipovitch, G. Dermatologic Therapy, March 2008.

Reviewed by Stephanie S. Gardner on December 9, 2019

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