I have been a "wolf biter" for the past 21 years and after reading an article on this forum I believe I have finally cured my dermatophagia. I will explain how I did it but first let me give you a background of how bad it was. Firstly, I have had this disorder for my entire life, for as long as I can remember I have had a severe oral fixation. When I was very young (maybe 5 or 6) I used to literally chew the wood off of my bedpost like a beaver. A consequence of this action was terrible buck beaver-like teeth, which fortunately was fixed after 2 years of braces. I also used to chew the collar off my shirts when I was little, virtually ruining them, you can image how mad my parents were having to buy me new shirts all the time because I would literally eat them. Next, I would chew the inside of my lip, and the nails and skin on my fingers almost to the bone. Drawing blood was a daily occurrence and my fingers were often extremely sore, but for some reason I could not stop doing it. I tried many of the bitter tasting nail polish but to no avail. The habit was so bad that I would suffer through the nasty taste in order to bite my fingers until they bled. I was soon completely used to the bitter taste and it didn't bother me. Sometimes I would stop biting my nails for a week, but I always made the mistake of continuing to bite the skin on my fingers, so my nails would start to get long but I would still have fingers that looked like they have been chewed by a dog. Needless to say this was extremely embarrassing considering I would get blood on the keyboard at work that numerous people used.
I am happy to announce however that I am on about day 10 of not biting whatsoever and even though the cravings to bite are intense, they are getting better each day. Its a weird feeling having hands that actually look normal (besides the slight discoloration of some parts from 21 years of extreme wolf biting). I have also stopped biting the inside of my lip. So how did I do it? Cold Turkey... it is the ONLY way.
I am a strong believer that in order to quit an addictive habit you must do it cold turkey (unless its dangerous such as the case with alcohol). This is because any tiny taste of the habit throws you into a spiral. I quit smoking and chewing tobacco once and for all cold turkey after many failed attempts to ween myself off of it. I would have one cigarette and promise myself I wouldn't have another for, lets say, another 3 hours. In those 3 hours I would smoke about 5 more. I also tried to stop biting my nails in a similar fashion.. only biting the nails that were uneven to make them look better... After biting one nail it was literally a matter of two minutes before several of my fingers were bleeding and sore.
So how do you quit biting cold turkey? Most of you are probably saying you do it subconsciously, not even realizing you are doing it and that's exactly how I was. It is hard to stop if your subconscious mind wont let you. I am not a psychologist nor do I claim to be, but after doing my own extensive research I believe that all wolf biters share a similar way of thinking. We have minds that tend to wonder more than normal people, maybe people characterize as as "spacey." We can often forget what we are doing or things people normally don't forget. We constantly have to double check stuff because our brain is usually always on autopilot. Does that sound like you? I don't think this is a disorder but instead a different style of thinking. I believe this way of thinking actually suggests high intelligence as the brain is always analyzing events and problems of the day, regardless of if we want to or not. Many wolf biters are diagnosed with OCD or ADHD and this way of thinking comes with those disorders.
Let me stress here, and this is my OWN opinion, that ADHD and OCD are only disorders because our society labels them as such. The great ancient philosophers shared this disorder, but because we live in such a fast paced society where constant pondering is discouraged, we have a slight disadvantage. This is why our subconscious takes over and automatic habits such as nail biting are hard to stop.
So this still doesn't answer the question how to quit nail biting with this mindset, and the answer is to stop that mindset. Not forever, but until your brain gets used to the fact that the nail biting habit is gone. Once you stop for an extensive period of time, you will not bite even when on autopilot. I believe I am very close to being there and breaking the habit forever. This is how to do it: give you full 100% attention to everything you are doing and break out of daydreams. Daydreams are your enemy. When you are walking down the street think about your walking motion and always keep a conscious check on were your hands are (NOT IN YOUR MOUTH). Don't bite ANYTHING, not your inside bottom lip, not the skin around your fingers, NOTHING. I cannot stress this enough because any little taste of the habit before it is fully cured will throw you into a downward spiral. Also, DO NOT pick at your nails or skin.
This whole strategy is difficult and will be extremely uncomfortable so it is necessary to say you must be 100% committed. You WILL have almost irresistible feelings to bite, WHATEVER YOU DO, DO NOT GIVE IN. I PROMISE it will get easier with time and the cravings come and go throughout the day. ANY biting is RELAPSING, keep that in mind.
So to summarize this method, force yourself to pay attention to EVERYTHING you do, all day long, at least until the habit is gone (you will also realize you forget to do important things less).