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Excoriation (skin picking) disorder in Israeli University students: prevalence and associated mental health correlates.

OBJECTIVE: The purpose of the study was to examine the prevalence of excoriation (skin picking) disorder (SPD) and associated physical and mental health correlates in a sample of Israeli university students.

METHODS: Five thousand Israeli students were given questionnaires screening for SPD, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, body dysmorphic disorder and disruptive, impulse control and conduct disorders. A total of 2176 participants (43.6%) responded and were included in the analysis. Mean age was 25.1 ± 4.8 (range 17-60) years, and 64.3% were female.

RESULTS: The proportion of students who were screened positive for SPD was 3.03%, with a nearly equal gender distribution (3.0% in females and 3.1% in males). There was a trend toward significantly higher rates of psychiatric problems such as generalized anxiety, compulsive sexual behavior and eating disorders in these students. Within the group of students screening positive for SPD, alcohol intake was higher in male students, while female students perceived themselves as less attractive. No association was found between depression and SPD. A high prevalence rate of skin picking was found within first-degree family members of the participants screening positive for SPD.

CONCLUSIONS: Clinicians and public health officials within university settings should screen for SPD as it is common and associated with psychosocial dysfunction.

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