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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 99 Responses Aug 24, 2008

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Iv been biting and also eating my skin and nails ever since I remember....As well as scabs which should be repulsive... but for me it's not.

Both finger and toe nails, scabs, and skin.

I usually start with the nail, then go to the skin around then furather down skipping the nucklles and eating the skin at the base of my fingers on the inside hands.

My finger tips have lost a lot of feeling. And heat seems to take a longer time to relay.

My hands are mostly calloused which works out pretty well giving what I do for a living with working with tools, and metal.
And carpentry here and there.

But I do remember being called "nubs" growing up and to this day hate swimming in front of strangers because my hands look madddd radddd when pruney.

I had no idea so many people had this issue. I do fine if I have nails put on but, as soon as I do not have them I start chewing. I did not do this for about 10 years, ( biting the sides of my nails ) than I quit getting my nails done and here I am again. I have been trying to find something else to help as I cannot really get any where after my stroke.

Wow I can't believe that your story is so similar to mine but I'm only 23 now. I bit my nails for as long as I can remember then when I turned about 18 started with my skin & now I can't stop. They're disgusting and always bleeding. I am at a loss of what to do. It's embaressing because I am a nanny and work with kids so I'm sure the mom is concerned with my hands as well. I need to stop and can't figure out how!

I have eczema breakouts on my fingers. I will bite and tear or pick the flaky skin off my fingertips. In the winter, they crack and bleed. It looks like I have a miniature Grand Canyon on my tips.
I've been washing my hands with an organic apple cider vinegar called Bragg's. I don't know if this is what has been healing them or the olive leaf extract that I've been taking. I can tell you, the vinegar doesn't taste great but it has healing properties. It kills lots of bacteria and some viruses. It absolutely stings the skin but nowadays it doesn't sting anymore. Maybe this will help you?

Wow I have been suffering with this for aslong as I can remember. I chew and pick on the skin around my nails to the point that my fingers are at all times swollen and broken. Just now finally researched and found out its a compulsive disorder. As a female my best solution is to get acrylic nails as they're quite thick and indestructible so I'm simply not capable of picking on them. Whenever I get the nails done my fingers heal nicely..

Try carrying grapes with you and eat them every time you get the urge. I used to have the problem in 4th grade and I realized it was not only because I was stressed but it was because I was hungry. But that's just me. I just found it helped for me.

My bf chews all the time and the sound of it is so irritating it sounds worse than a nibbling rat.... Getting him to stop is nearly impossible because when he chews he's so anxious that he doesn't want to try anything to fix the problem

Jessica's Nibble No More is your solution.

Ive been biting my fingers since I started going to school I tried talking to doctors but they dont give me help they just boys wouldn't holf my hand if I kept at it. Well im 18 now and I really really want to stop

I have this too... But my mum said that I don't. I clearly do- seing as my fingers bleed everyday, and they're all red. I feel SO much better knowing that there are other people that have this. That for once, I'm not alone. I'm 12 though. I've been chewing my fingers and nails since I was about 10. My nails are all short and my fingers are all red and bloody. I'm not sure how to get rid of this addiction. Even when I'm ocupied, I get caught biting.... Doing it in public and at school can be SO embarresing, so... And what's worse - I started to bite my feet and the inside of my mouth. Eating all the skin. :( please can someone help.

I've had a major case of Dermatophagia since I was very little. I was always made fun of by some of my "friends" because they had long beautiful nails and I had short little stumps. I am still trying to figure out how to cure this bad habit.

I do this too, all the time, in fact I was just doing it. I find that people who are right handed bite their right hand more and vise versa because it is your dominate hand. I find painting my nails is very helpful because when my nails are nicely painted I won't want to bite the nail or skin in fear of ruining my nails. Keeping busy helps ALOT. try to avoid situations that make you stressed or nervous for a while (it takes 3 days to break a habit so preferably 3 days) as being in those states can trigger you. If you get an urge, sit on your hands, breath, count to 10 and resume what it was you were doing. Also band-aids! and plenty! put those suckers on and leave them on or replace them because if you fingers are covered you can't get to them. These are all things that friends, family, and myself do to stop biting the skin or nails

My 8 year old daughter has been doing this for the past 6 months it's getting worse - we will be visiting the GP about it - any tips would be great

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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 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.