Ask the Experts

Is Her ADHD Medication Making My Daughter Pick at Her Skin?

“My nine-year-old daughter has ADHD and is constantly picking at her skin. Her arms and legs are covered with scars, and now she is picking at her beautiful face. Can this be caused by Concerta?”

The most common cause of picking at the skin is obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). Some studies suggest that the picking might be similar to a tic-like behavior. It is called tic/OCD disorder. The stimulant medications used to treat ADHD can exacerbate a tic disorder.

First, stop the ADHD medication and focus on treating the picking disorder. The treatment of choice is cognitive behavioral therapy combined with an SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor), like Prozac. The ADHD medication can be reintroduced later, after the picking is under control.

One other thought to explore with your physician: Substitute a stimulant that lasts only four hours for Concerta, which is effective for 10 to 12 hours. If ADHD medication is playing a role in the tic disorder, the shorter-duration medication will cause her to pick at her skin less during the day.

Consult with a child and adolescent psychiatrist to work out the best medication plan that addresses both the OCD and the ADHD.

Updated on July 7, 2017

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  1. Ah, I had this problem with my son but actually realized that he was picking at himself because he had dry skin in places. So, what I did was get him a light exfoliating bar of soap with extra moisturizer (in fact we had made our own also as a project during Christmas and it was fun for him to get involved and so he brought into the process). I told him that when he picked at his skin he was opening a hole where infection would come in and then he would get sick. Instead, I said, let’s remove that itchy skin so it doesn’t bother you anymore. So, every time he picks, I remind him of the soap (no holes for germs!) we chant. He goes to soap himself up and while he is doing that, he’s also moisturizing his skin and it stops the picking behavior. I’m basically just replacing a bad habit with a better one because I know that certain ADHD meds bring on picking for him. Maybe it will help your child.

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