Is there A Cure for Dermatophagia?

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When a person bites their nails, it’s considered a bad habit. But when they start biting the skin around the nails, causing bleeding, unsightly scars, and skin discoloration, it’s a symptom of dermatophagia. Image via

In January this year, I wrote an article on Dermatophagia. It’s a form of OCD which involves excessive biting of nails and the skin around. The response I got on that article is amazing! Who knew so many people suffer from this weird condition, right? As someone who also suffers from this, I know how embarrassing ailment can be.

Those who suffer from dermatophagia are sometimes called “wolf biters” because they bite off chunks of flesh. But here’s the twist; unlike wolves, they bite off their own skin. So I thought I will explore the fact whether Dermatophagia can actually be cured.

According to my research, the following ways can help cure you from this condition:

  1. Behavioral therapy, foul-tasting nail polish, mouth guards.
  2. Simple measures may help break the cycle, but if the behaviour becomes extreme, psychotherapy and medication may help.
  3. Topical applications to discourage nail biting
      • Bitter favoured clear polishes marketed to stop nail biting
      • Ordinary nail polishes can act as a deterrent
  1. Mouth guards
  2. Rewards system – especially in children
  3. Distraction techniques
  4. Hypnotherapy
  5. Stimulus control
  6. Self-monitoring
  7. Competing response – providing an alternative to nail biting such as gum chewing etc.
  8. Medication – choices are similar to those used in obsessive-compulsive disorder and include antidepressants such as SSRI’s

According to, “Dermatophagia is classified as a Body-Focused Repetitive Behavior (BFRB), an umbrella term for impulse control behaviors, also containing dermatillomania (skin picking) and trich (hair pulling). All these conditions can generally be described as compulsive behaviors with similar traits. BFRBs tend to start in a period of life where a person experiences heightened anxiety and stress. This nervousness is then reduced by compulsive behaviors – picking on skin in dermatillomania, pulling and sometimes eating hair in trichotillomania or biting nails and skin in dermatophagia. The compulsive behavior reduces anxiety, but causes physical harm”.

But I have a different approach. This condition is mostly triggered in me when I am in anxiety inducing situation. Eg; Interview, meeting, family dinner (lol!) and without even realizing and start biting and tearing my nails apart, and often get scolded as well.

So what’s the solution?

Staying calm is centered is the key. Take a deep breath and let the anxiety out. Trust me, it helps. Once you release all that’s pent-up inside you the urge to bite fades, well sort of. Daily 10 minute mediation works wonders and if you manage to avoid stressful people, even better.

It takes a while to get a grip on this condition but its possible. I am still trying and hopefully but I learnt to live with Dermatophagia.

Also Read: 5 Signs That You Suffer from Dermatophagia


  1. Anonymous

    It’s hard to believe that what caused all this can last for so long that it takes such a toll on your life that it just becomes a daily habit/routine… I’ve never really been diagnosed with this but…I can definitely tell that I have it (lol). I’ve been doing this for 23 years… It’s hard to discuss these sort of things, finding the source of where things went wrong and discovering the reason behind it all……. That’s stress right there… remembering everything…. It’s rough but I do remember chewing on pencils, the popsicle sticks, I chewed my fingernails and then I would try and stop chewing my nails by putting nail polish on them but I would eat the nail polish….I want long beautiful nails but…. it’s hard with having to deal with it for this long….



  2. Hemendra patar

    Dermatophagia seems to me a dreadful condition of OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder). There are many approaches to treat it. But in my point of view, the first thing is to consult a psychologist or therapist to get rid of this awful habit.
    But I will also give emphasis on the fact that it is the lack of will power and self-confidence which leads to Dermatophagia. Therefore you have to practice yoga and meditation along with pranayama to increase your will power. Then only you would be able to overcome any type of OCD.


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