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Cold pressor pain in skin picking disorder.

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Grant, JE 
Redden, SA 
Chamberlain, SR 


Excoriation (skin-picking) disorder (SPD) is a disabling, under-recognized condition in which individuals repeatedly pick at their skin, leading to noticeable tissue damage. There has been no examination as to whether individuals with SPD have different pain thresholds or pain tolerances compared to healthy counterparts. Adults with SPD were examined on a variety of clinical measures including symptom severity and functioning. All participants underwent the cold pressor test. Heart rate, blood pressure, and self-reported pain were compared between SPD participants (n=14) and healthy controls (n=14). Adults with SPD demonstrated significantly dampened autonomic response to cold pressor pain as exhibited by reduced heart rate compared to controls (group x time interaction using repeated ANOVA F=3.258, p<0.001). There were no significant differences between the groups in terms of overall pain tolerance (measured in seconds), recovery time, or blood pressure. SPD symptom severity was not significantly associated with autonomic response in the patients. In this study, adults with SPD exhibited a dampened autonomic response to pain while reporting pain intensity similar to that reported by the controls. The lack of an autonomic response may explain why the SPD participants continue a behavior that they cognitively find painful and may offer options for future interventions.



skin picking disorder, cold pressor test, pain, autonomic

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Psychiatry Research

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Wellcome Trust (110049/Z/15/Z)
Dr. Grant has received research grants from NIMH, National Center for Responsible Gaming, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, the TLC Foundation for Body Focused Repetitive Behaviors, Brainsway, Forest, Takeda, and Psyadon Pharmaceuticals. He receives yearly compensation from Springer Publishing for acting as Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Gambling Studies and has received royalties from Oxford University Press, American Psychiatric Publishing, Inc., Norton Press, and McGraw Hill. Dr. Chamberlain's involvement in this research was funded by a grant from the Academy of Medical Sciences, and by a Wellcome Trust Intermediate Clinical Fellowship (110049/Z/15/Z).