Harvard Medical School

Anti-depressant can help break itch-scratch-itch cycle

Q: I've been suffering from a skin rash for many years. Patches of my skin constantly itch. And the skin has become thick and leathery. I've tried everything, but nothing helps. Recently, I saw a new doctor and he diagnosed this problem as neurodermatitis. He suggested an anti-depressant. How can that help?

A: Yes, an anti-depressant can be very effective. In the last few years, doctors have started using the term skin picking disorder (SPD) instead of neurodermatitis. It's also been called lichen simplex chronicus, psychogenic excoriation, or neurotic excoriation.

SPD is a chronic skin condition caused by repetitive picking, scratching, or rubbing of the skin that results...