Scalp picking has different causes. Sometimes it starts because of a skin condition and turns into a habit over time. Some cases fall under the heading of chronic skin picking, which is a body-focused repetitive behavior, according to the Trichotillomania Learning Center. Scalp picking may become a problem if you cannot stop and it is causing physical damage and is interfering with your daily life. You can often successfully battle it on your own with behavior modification techniques.
Fix any physical problems that are making the scalp itch—dry skin and medical conditions like dandruff cause itchiness. Look for symptoms of a physical issue like redness or flakes. Dandruff is treatable with store-bought shampoos. A doctor can diagnose and treat other problems.
Choose a symbol to use when you want to pick your scalp. Smart Recovery, an addiction self-help website, explains this is part of a thought stopping technique. The symbol is used to halt unwanted behaviors, so choose a stop sign, red light or other image that you associate with stopping.
Imagine the chosen symbol whenever you feel an urge to pick your scalp. Bring it up as soon as possible even if you have already started picking. It is your reminder to stop the automatic behavior and turn it into a choice.
Tell yourself, "I do not want to pick my scalp. I don't have to do it. It's a choice, and I am choosing to do something else now." This names the problem behavior and reminds you that you can willfully choose a different action.
Redirect yourself to something else that keeps your hands busy without harming you physically. For example, the Trichotillomania Learning Center recommends squeezing a ball. Wearing a rubber band around your wrist and playing with it is a convenient alternative.
The New Zealand Dermatological Society states that skin picking is often accompanied by anxiety or stress. Picking the scalp relieves the tension. You may be able to reduce your urges by practicing general stress management. The self-help website Help Guide recommends techniques like regular exercise and massages.
You may need professional help if you are unable to refrain from picking your scalp and are making sores or causing hair loss. The Trichotillomania Learning Center explains that counselors often use cognitive behavioral therapy and physicians can prescribe medication. There are also support groups for people who pick their skin or have similar physical compulsions, like hair pulling.
Based in Kissimmee, Fla., Barb Nefer is a freelance writer with over 20 years of experience. She is a mental health counselor, finance coach and travel agency owner. Her work has appeared in such magazines as "The Writer" and "Grit" and she authored the book, "So You Want to Be a Counselor."