You find yourself in a tense situation, and the first thing you do to deal with the stress is start biting your nails. It sounds pretty harmless….afterall, many people resort to chewing on their nails when thinking of ways to get out of a tricky situation.
But, what if you have started to not just bite your nails but also the skin around your nails? Does that signify you have a bigger problem on your hands?
What Is Dermatophagia?
The sufferers are termed as ‘wolf biters’ in medical lingo and doctors believe that Dermatophagia is related to OCD.
What is worrying is that biting of one’s nails is not compulsorily a response to a stressful situation for Dermatophagia patients, but becomes more of an obsession that results in compulsive biting till the skin starts to bleed.
And yes, while the bleeding skin hurts, a patient who truly suffers from Dermatophagia still feels a moment of gratification for having given in to the compulsion to bite and tends to believe this is the ideal coping mechanism for stress relief. As is obvious, biting of the skin can cause severe (sometimes permanent) damage, which is why proper diagnosis and timely intervention are crucial.
Are YOU Suffering from Dermatophagia?
There is nothing wrong with biting on that occasional hangnail when a pair of clippers is not handy. It may not be the most hygienically safe way to deal with that ‘excess’ skin, but that doesn’t mean you are a ‘wolf bitter’.
So, here we list the top 5 signs that warrant you could be suffering from Dermatophagia
Discolored Skin – You think that you only tend to bite your nails and the surrounding skin when in a tense situation. But in your line of work, stress is an everyday factor. So look closely at your nails; if the skin around the nail looks discolored by perpetual biting that causes scars, you need to seek help.
Skin damage –If your fingers look like they are fit to be featured in a horror movie, with excessive skin damage and scarring around the nails, you have taken that occasional ‘nail biting’ a tad too far. Think carefully, why are you biting your nails and surrounding skin so often? What are your feelings at the time? Are you consciously doing this to quell anxiety which could signify you have OCD, or is this something you do subconsciously when lost in deep thought?
Bleeding – Sufferers of Dermatophagia are no strangers to bleeding skin. If you are just a normal person who was gnawing at an annoying hangnail but somehow managed to nip the skin and ran to get first aid, everything is fine. But if you constantly bite at your skin and ignore the bleeding wounds just because it provides momentary stress relief, you need to find help.
Calluses and Hangnails – Has biting your nails and skin constantly resulted in ugly calluses on your fingers? If your fingernails look disfigured from obsessive biting and chewing and this has also made you prone to skin infections, you have a serious problem at hand. Ignored, this can result in permanent tissue damage.
Excessive Biting in Stress – You stopped biting your fingernails and surrounding skin because the calluses and scars on your hands started to embarrass you. Yet, in a stressful situation, you have an uncontrollable urge to bite so you resort to self-biting your lips, inside of your mouth and cheeks. Your mouth may bleed, and you know you are inflicting pain upon yourself, yet you feel compelled to continue and at least are relieved that no-one but you will ever find out.
If the above mentioned 5 signs seem a little too familiar, you are suffering from Dermatophagia.
While it isn’t all that hard to give up self-biting nails and surrounding skin by using simple deterrents like foul tasting nail varnish, behavioral therapy and sometimes even mouth guards, make sure that you seek treatment to address the real cause behind your condition.
Dermatophagia can be the reason behind your low self worth, lack of confidence, low self-esteem and embarrassment.
Together, these aggravate the condition in a patient, and can truly wreck havoc on your mental health. What could have started as a minor case of OCD can soon turn in to severe depression, and this is why seeking medical help immediately is important.
Also Read: Are You Developing An OCD?