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How Do I Stop?

After suffering from this for over 20 years today I have found out that me biting and picking at my skin is a condition that has a name!

I cannot tell you how happy I am that there are more sufferers out there and that its a medical and not purely a mental thing that I do.

My history is that I bit my nails until I was about 13 when I started on the picking thing then at 16 I stopped biting my nails yet carried on biting the skin around my nails.

Since 18 I have severely bitten the skin around the fingers on my right hand, and over the years less and less the left.  I'm at the stage where I don't feel much pain even when there is blood with my right hand yet my left hurts at the lightest 'nibble'.  Recently I have moved onto some toes which is repulsive.  I pick at them as I am no longer able to get my feet close to my mouth - which I guess is a relief.

The only times I get reprieve is on holiday as my hands are too coated in sunscreen to chew them.  My kids have even commented on my poorly fingers and they say I need cream etc for them as they are sore. 

So I need and would like some help on what works and what doesn't

Gloves?  How can you function with gloves on your hands 24 / 7?  Plus I find that certain man made materials hurt my hands as the broken dry skin flakes catch on it.

Are there any creams, lotions or potions I can put on my hands that taste bad yet aren't harmful of ingested?

Other than that - hypnosis, hypnotherapy, CBT, medication......WHAT?

I'm not at the end of my tether but I am an educated 'grown up' person who can't stop biting and picking.  I also have an obsession with making skin smooth i.e. picking at scabs, spots and I find myself doing it to the kids and don't want them to be affected by this too.

Any help greatly appreciated! 

redfish08 redfish08 31-35 87 Responses Aug 24, 2008

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This has been my little secret since I was like 6-7, I'm now 29. It started innocent enough, just biting my nails, then as I got older and my anxiety & depression grew, and so did my condition. I began biting & eating my nails, the skin around my nails and scabs. It grew even worse, and this is the part that worries me the most, I eat whatever comes out of my pimples/blackheads. Its almost like if it comes off my body (besides excrement) its fair game. I never told a soul, in fear of judgements, rejection & being misunderstood. But after reading your story, I felt like 1000lbs was lifted off my shoulders, I'm not alone. Thank you for your courage and strength in sharing your story! Good luck!

I've been doing this for years, I first saw my friend doing it whilst in primary school and wondered why she did it, so tried it for myself and at some point it just became an unconscious habit! I've recently got braces and realised I'm not able to bite my skin anymore, it's a relief and also annoying as everytime I find myself trying to bite my skin, I find my braces getting in the way! I'm hoping having braces will stop me from having the impulses now and I'll finally be able to grow my skin back (I truly hope!) However having braces isn't an option for everyone, obviously it's main purpose is not to stop this behaviours but that is definitely a plus. Good luck to anyone who also does it, I know it's so hard to resist an impulse that just happens unconsciously, that's why it's a problem.

I'm so happy I'm not the only one! In currently doing my gcses and needless to say I'm stressed! It started off as something I did in my sleep but now I occasionally look at my fingers and decide to chew them. It's awful to say but I feel so much less stressed after! I don't know what to do!

Yea... I have it too and just figured out that it was a medical condition. I'm only 14 so i'm trying to help my skin before it gets harder to repair in the future. Yet, i'm still glad that there are people out there suffering from this condition and I'm not a lunatic :P.

I can't believe that this is an actual condition! I'm only 17 now but have been biting my fingers since I was about 9! I have always been insecure and at first done it when I was extremely nervous or paranoid but then it started to become an everyday thing, I find myself doing it without even thinking which is quite scary! Now I am even more insecure as a result of this because the skin on all of my finger joints (the thumb especially) has a really thick layer of skin that I can't even get all the way into to make it bleed anymore, it is also discoloured in the sense that it is red raw all the time and the skin is always broken! How can I stop doing this? It is really affecting me :(

Me too, and I didn't realise it was a condition. I used to bite my nails in school too until I started wearing nail varnish and didn't want to bite my nails so started on my skin. I still can't help biting and do it more when I'm stressed or angry or there's a particular bit of skin that needs evening out. I didn't realise it was a form of OCD but I did know it was hereditary as my mum and aunty both did it.

I do the same!
So glad I have found this !!

My heart nearly stopped after reading this! I thought I was the only one. I'm only 21 but literally the exact same thing word for word has been happening to me for as long as I can remember: I've been continuously gnawing away at my fingers on my right hand for years and years - each time saying "this will be the last". It's in no way painful, unless I actually tear too deep or accidentally shed blood, sometimes it isn't even painful when there's any blood. Don't get me wrong, I don't do it for any self-harm-related reasons, but it always feels like some kind of "relief" when I do? I do suffer from pretty severe OCD, and before coming across this I read that this condition of biting is usually, but not always, related to Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. It freaks me out a little how I am also obsessed with "making my skin smooth" and have been picking off scabs for as long as I can remember, basically leading to me causing my own facial acne for the last few years and leaving an un-countable number of small (and a few large) scars covering pretty much my entire body. In the last 5 years or so I've also moved onto my toes; I know it sounds vile, but it's just that same "relief" I get from that of biting my fingers as picking around hardening skin on my toes and heels. After looking this up a few minutes ago for the first time in my life and to discover there are people out there with (pretty much word for word) the same habits I do, it definitely makes me want to stop! I'm sure you've experienced those awkward, heart-wrenching conversations when people ask you "what's wrong with your hands?" and it's near-impossible to give a straight answer out of pure embarrassment?! I've gotten to the stage where all my right-hand fingers (except my ring finger - for unexplainable/unknown reasons) have the skin repeatedly bitten down so far that it's moving towards the actual palm of my hand! I just keep visioning in about a year or two my whole palm being raw and brittle, and who's to say I'll ever be able to stop at that stage??Anyway I just wanted to share my story too, and maybe give a bit of relief/support that there are probably a lot of people similar to us, who too, want to just stop and have the "normal" hands we long for when we look down them in shame or stare at the held up in them mirror. (I know I do, anyway!)

hello my name is jake and I have been biting my hands since I was 5-6 I am 17 now and lately I've been really proactive about fixing it , okeefes working hands has saved my life ... I use it once in the morning for two hours a light coating in the afternoon around 2-4 for 2 hours heavier coating and at night with gloves my hands were really bad and there almost perfect now , also dial gold soap has helped keep them clean and moisturized hope this helps

I too have suffered from this for my entire 42 years. I first really started to fight back when my kids were born 10 years ago and have done pretty well...at this moment my nails look great. The thing that helps me the most is having Silly Putty in my hands. When I feel the urge to rip or pick at my cuticles, I play with the Silly Putty and it gives me the relief from the tension and occupies my hands. Also, use plenty of hand cream to keep the dead skin soft and less of a target.

I am so relieved that this "thing" is classified as a medical term. I've had dermatophagia for as long as I can remember. I too started out biting my nails and moved on to the skin around it. It's gotten so bad that I even eat the skin around my toes! I sometimes don't even recognize when my fingers are bleeding from it. For me, it feels like a second nature. I even do it in public or at school. I need help please

I've had this for as long as I can remember I think it started when I was 10 which is now 10 years ago. The ONLY time my fingers have been scab free and clean was 2 years ago when I broke my leg and I was on morphine for a week, I literally did not bite the skin on a single finger for a whole week, and as soon as I left the morphine drip in the hospital, I was back to biting. It's weird the connection there eh?

I started to eat the skin off my fingers when I was ten years old. I am now 23 and I still have that habit. After 13 years of abuse my fingers look awful. About a month ago I decided to stop and I haven't eaten them ever since. To keep on going I get my nails done every week. Because I am spending money on them I try not to ruin them. Plus whenever I have the urge to bite them I rub them with a moistmoisturizer to get them all oily. Also I am putting this nail polish that tastes really bad in case I get them close to my mouth. The thing that is helping me the most is taking pictures of my nails every day. That way I can see them getting better and feel motived to keep up the good job. I haven't eaten them ever since and hopefully never will. I hope this helps!!

Wow, I'm 52 years old and just found out this picking has a name. What a relief. I knew I was ocd but had no idea it was connected to my picking. I will now talk to my doctor about possible solutions. THANK YOU

Dear redfish, I too suffer from this problem, but it comes and goes depending on the problems I am going through. The way I am able to stop is to do a holistic approach. I keep a bottle of cuticle oil available at all times and apply it to my fingers as often as possible. The reason is the drier your skin is, the more you feel like biting it (it starts peeling). Then with a cuticle tool I cut the loose skins I might want to eat and when it is a little healed I "sand"my skin with a nail file to make it smooth and get the flakes out. And I keep on moisturizing the skin. At night I apply a heavy dose of a petroleum jelly cream and sleep with gloves. By keeping my hands moisturized I reduce the urge a lot. I also use a prayer rosary or mala that I can manipulate when the urge comes. You can find them online and some come as bracelets, available to you at all times. Again, with these steps I can stop but with stress and anxiety I will start again. Maybe if I keep on doing these things for a long time I will stop for good. Another thing I tried and worked in the past is to put a rubber band on your wrist and slap yourself every time you reach your fingers to your mouth. I hope it helps and I am sure you will find a way that works for you ! :)

I've been chewing around my nails for as long as I can remember. I've modeled over the past three years and my fingers have been an embarrassment to me. I found out probably a year or so ago that Dermatophagia actually had a name and that there are other people with this... disorder, I guess you could call it. This has affected my life tremendously and I would REALLY like to figure out how to overcome it. If anyone has any suggestions, help us out.

Also, there was something I tried a few months ago... It's called Hoof Hands Kick The Habit Nail-Biting Deterrent. It's a clear bottle with a red label. I know for sure can find it at Walmart. Basically it's this clear nail polish... which tastes absolutely awful. But here's the thing: I bite AROUND my nails... not my actual nails. So every once in a while I would get an unpleasant taste of it while biting, but that's very seldom, considering the polish goes on your nails, not around them. I've never put it around my nails, who wants a sticky mess all over their fingers? ...Oh, and it washed off very easily; in the shower, even washing your hands in a restroom. One more thing: If you touch your food with your hands while eating, you ruin your whole meal. And let's say you squeeze a lemon into your tea. The whole drink is ruined. It didn't work at all for me, obviously. I couldn't bring myself to put that crap on my nails, knowing it practically contaminates everything I touch. I guess if anyone has enough self-motivation to actually put it on your nails every day, there's a chance it could work. So... as you can see, I just don't like the stuff. But feel free to give it a try...

I'm Daniel, from Sweden. I am 30 years old and I have benen biting my nails and skin on my fingers as long as I can remember. I actually dont have any fingerprints on my fingers any more. I also tought I was the only one with this condition, I am in a way glad i'm not the only one. Love from Sweden

Im so happy to hear im not the only person who is obsessed with biting the skin around my fingers. Its completely embarassing. Im actually going to make an appt. With my doctor tomorrow. Ive been doing this for almost 20 years. Not only am I biting my skin I chew up the inside of my mouth and tear off the skin on my bottom lip with my teeth. The only way I can get myself to slow down on biting my skin is by painting my fingernails knowing that it will draw attention and I dont want people asking me what happend. Its kind of like tough love on yourself. I dont ever completely stop but my fingers start healing up a little more. The worst for me is when im in a situation that makes me anxious or stressed. I did it one time in a job interview to the point that my finger started bleeding so bad and it wouldnt stop. I was so embarassed and my interviewer who was actually a psychologist told me to seek help for this. I read everyones comments and I think the only thing that will help me would either be CBT or medication such as prozac or citalopram. I really hope it helps im tired of hiding my hands in my sleeves or pockets all the time.

I thought I was the only one who's doing this. With my 22 years I searched on the Internet today and found out that this "thing" even has a name. Anyone who suffers from the same symptoms, try hot pepper flavored nail polish - yes, it's a real thing and it didn't help me though, but for someone else certainly did...

I've been biting the skin around my fingers from the age of 8.... Over the years I have even bit that far up that I came to the beginning of my nail.... The last few years I have managed to stop biting so much and my fingers can look nearly normal. Although still very red! 😢 I went to the doctors a few year back for help and was told it was a Mental condition and that I was harming myself intentionally..... I have found that constantly moisturising and filing etc does help and I can go weeks without biting or picking but as soon as i bite 1 without realising then I start all over again..... This obviously isn't helping my nails as there are growing very bumpy..... Any advice would be welcome... 😄

If it is possible, try out gel nails or simply porcelain nails. (I assume you're a girl..) Just a short for start. It is impossible to bite. Literally impossible. Your teeth regret it otherwise. It helped me, I stopped biting for a couple of weeks. It came back though. I don't think there is a permanent solution for this condition.

I too have been doing this nearly my whole life. I started biting my nails and fingers when I was three, and I didn't stop biting my nails until I was 30. Once I stopped long enough for them to grow in longer and thicker, the urge to bite them just disappeared. I do still bite the skin, often to the point of bleeding, and I'm 32, and I fidget with my nails still, rubbing them on the sides of adjacent fingers to the point of having calluses on the sides of my fingers. My problem is that because I bite the fingers and destroy the edges of my nailbeds, the nails grow in warped and misshapen, and the sides that would normally be protected by skin are exposed and very sharp and annoying. Bitter polish, like Mavalo Stop, doesn't keep me from picking, and usually picking results in worse damage than biting as it's less precise. I feel like, as with my nails, if I could just stop long enough for them to fully heal that I'd have no reason to bite them as it's the irregularities that drive me bonkers and lead me to bite them.

hi my name is Mandy. Im 25 years old and im from holland. im biting my fingers, and chewing the skin for over 15 years.
I just found out.. (10 minutes ago) that there is a name for what i have!
its an amazing feeling. so happy. just wanted to say thank you all for sharing your stories! in going to read all of them. hopefully i will stop biting and picking my fingers soon.
ive bin to the doctor a lot. but they always said was its because of stress but i don't think that this it true..

i see that this story id posted on aug 2008!!
@redfish08: how are you doing now?

greetings and a good 2014 to eveyone
mandy
from Holland

Over the Christmas break, I had a particularly difficult time with biting. I have been doing this for more than ten years (I'm 25) and I have tried many times to stop with varying degrees of success. The other day, I Googled "Dermatophagia" and found a comment mentioning the use of sandpaper... This along with other comments about biting just to "even things out" or "the rough bits are irresistible" sparked an idea... My girlfriend got (http://www.folica.com/spa-and-body/manicure-and-pedicure-implements/emjoi-micro-pedi?utm_source=GoogleShopping&utm_medium=CSE&utm_campaign=fgl_007090&gclid=CO-HicyX1rsCFYZi7AodtXIAOQ) <---- This Mico Pedi thing for Christmas. I hijacked it. I have been sanding the rough bits off my fingers, and they are smooth. I put lotion on the help with healing, and I haven't had the urge to bite at all.

I hope this helps someone else, it's such a struggle, I know all to well.

I have it as well, and I too just found out there was a name for it. Yeah the foot thing disgusts me, but I still do it. I have calluses on my hands from going on the monkey bars when I was little, and I started chewing them when I was around 7 or 8. It escalated to skin around my nails, on sides of my fingers, on lips, and inside of my mouth. I have quit several times but always seem to start back. I start on the calluses but its always goes further to the palm skin around them. There are times when I bite too deep and it bleeds, which stings because one must chew through several layers of skin in order to draw blood from the palms. I've been eating my scabs since before I started eating my calluses. Products for softening hands are useless if I'm still biting, and they don't work very well because I don't think my hands are what the manufacturers had in mind. It often feels like my life works around it. I rarely ever use hand sanitizer because it doesn't taste very good, and I've gotten used to the tastes of many lotions and creams. I've found that aloe vera helps heal my hands pretty quickly, though they never stay healed for long.

I also have been doing this for as long as I remember. Gloves are usually what I try and use when I'm at home. But when I go to work or need to use my fingers for long periods of time I sometimes resort to band aids. That prevents both picking and biting. Hopefully that helps!

I've Been doing the same. It started when I was only 5 years old and never stopped the skin and biting since then never bite my nails but only skin, Idk why I'm now 21 almost 22 years old and it's never stopped , the constant bleeding pain when moving the fingers all that I also have borderline personality and bipolar , but this picking and chewing started as of a young age and sometimes I don't even know I'm doing it I thought it was just me but I'm so happy that there are others who have the same thing like idk how to explain , like sometimes I'll let the skin harden or pull it off and place it somewhere and then chew after it hardens idk I feel like a freak? Anyone else do this?

Maybe if you spend $ weekly manicures, even 2X a week, you will have less to pick at, and feel somewhat guilty to ruin your newly manicured hands after s[ending that money? I notice I stop for at least 2-3 days after a manicure, although, it usually just takes one little dry sliver of skin to irk me enough that I start chewing it, but I do it less than I used to.

You can also make your finger un-tasty! Did in something oily and bitter, like vicks or something like that?

Wow... Reading all these messages is a revelation to me... I have so many similar experiences. My right hand is worse than the left-particularly the back of my thumb... Sometimes I chew so much that I'm unable to bend my thumb :( It disgusts me but I can't stop. The irony is that my hands are one of my favourite body parts... So why do I mutilate them??? I have to have nail clippers nearby and a nail file-to try and make my fingers normal after I've butchered them :( So comforting to know I'm not the only one.

My son is 12 years old and bites the skin around his nails. Now, he has moved to his foot. He bites the skin around the toes, nail and now his heels! I have tried doctors, medications, chile, garlic, gloves, polish and even rubber bands! He has gotten so many ingrown toe nails! I have lost count! Can anyone HELP US

I've found that putting aloe vera helps me sometimes because it heals it quickly and it tastes awful. You should probably get him to use hand sanitizer often, especially after using money, because hand sanitizer tastes awful. If the taste doesn't deter him, at least he'll be ingesting less germs when he bites his hands.

Hi, I am 31 years old and have been biting my fingers for as long as I can remember. I have tried desperately to stop particularly in the past 2 years, I am due to get married in 6 months time. I often sit on my hands and hide them as much as possible to stop people asking why they are yellow, I'm dreading my wedding day! I feel really emotional to know that this is a condition and that there are others like me! Thank you all so much for sharing your experiences

I also suffer from this and i also suffer from bruxism. I wonder you guys suffer from bruxism too..