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hula88 , 08 Apr 2012

i eat and pick at the skin on my fingers. desperately need help quitting

Hi everyone, I just discovered this forum after spending the last 3 hours researching my condition and hoping there was some magical cure to stopping. I am a 21 year old college student who has been obsessively eating and picking the skin on my fingers for the past 7 years. I am so tired of going through each day with the fear of people seeing my fingers. I don't even have a social life anymore due to the embarrassment and shame that this disorder has caused me. I have tried to hide the truth of my skin picking by claiming that I have severe eczema, and have even gone as far as saying that I just got over having "frostbite." Despite my efforts to hide it, I still find myself eating and picking at them when in public. For instance, if I'm standing in line at a coffee shop, I notice myself feeling my fingers for any skin falling off that I can pick at. Whenever I go home for vacations, the first thing my parents will say is, "let me see your hands." They think that the reason I pick is because I'm overly stressed or depressed. I told them that I was fine, but my dad still says, "the day you can stop eating yourself is that day i will believe that." This disorder has taken away so much of my self esteem, while interfering with relationships, school, and family life. I should probably add that I have been on various anti depression and anxiety medications (Zoloft and lexapro) for the past 2 years and nothing has seemed to help with my picking. I am so desperate to put an end to this once and for all, and reclaim my life. I don't want this to be what holds me back from achieving what I want out of life. I want to stop and finally be happy. Thanks for helping out:)
9 Answers
April 29, 2012
I am 15, and I have been doing this since I was about 7 when I gave up my nail biting habit. I bite, eat, tear, and pick at the skin and cuticles around my fingers and even toes. It is incredibly embarrassing and has recently begun to get worse. my fingers are constantly swollen, bleeding, and red. I do it subconsciously when I am anxious or nervous, which is all most all the time. I am beginning to become concerned about the permanence of the swelling and scarring and have decided to try and make an effort to really quit. Does anyone have any suggestions?
May 01, 2012

In reply to by Irishgirl

I'm in the exact same boat as you are. we should try to beat this together. MAybe every 3 days we send each other a picture of our progress! Hopefully this while create a sense of accomplishment every time we see the improvements we've made. Reply back and tell me what you think!
September 14, 2012

In reply to by Stop_The_Chewing

me 2 i know im just 10 but is started since i was 4 and i really do a good job hiding it but i come home a shamed and look at the cloth i want to wear but cant and say when i stop ill wear this :'(
September 14, 2012

In reply to by shylittelgirl

shylittlegirl, you dear, sweet thing, to be 10 years old and mature enough to realize you have a problem and want to improve yourself! You are mature for your age at least in that area! :) Keep at this forum, you'll find lots of people in the same boat as you and some (more every day) who are beating it! Good luck to can do it!
August 15, 2012
Hi Hula 88, I used to be super embarrassed about my cuticle biting as well. It wasn't just that, however, I would literally eat my cuticles and the skin on my fingers and the skin on the crease of my thumb. Gross, I know. Not sure when it started because it used to be only my nails but once I started eating the skin it was something I couldn't quit and it was going on for probably ten years? I had the same issues that you are discussing with parents, but also my skin was very noticeable when i went swimming or showered for awhile. People would be like "what's wrong with your finger? Why is it red?" which I always lied about. Finally one day I decided I'd had enough. Here is what you can do to stop: First, go out and buy yourself a set of nail clippers and also a cuticle cutter. Next, clip every loose bit of skin off of each finger. Any skin that you would be tempted to want to chew off. Make sure there aren't any hanging cuticles or "tough skin" that you would be able to pick at. Once you have that done, cut all your cuticles with the cuticle cutter. Along the top of your nails closest to your fingers. Then retrim any skin that it might've made tempting to bite. Once that's done, it's all mental. Anytime you look at a piece of skin you are tempted to bite, pull out your clippers and cut it off. If you happen to bite it off (try not to) then immediately take it out of your mouth and discard it. This for me was key. After becoming conscious of the fact that I wasn't getting the reward of eating that little bit of skin, every time it would end up on my tongue I'd discard it. Seriously, this is what fixed me. Sometimes I'll bite off a cuticle that I haven't cut yet and I'll make sure I instantly pull it off my tongue. Then I'll go over and cut all the little pieces of hanging skin off my fingers to make sure I am not tempted. It's been a good six months since I have eaten anything and my fingers are healed and look great! I also feel so much better about myself
August 18, 2012
Hi hula88. Chitown27 has some great advice. I have been picking at my cuticles since I can remember, well over 10 or 15 years. I used to bite it off and sometimes eat it, but it got to where I just needed to dig at it and get it off. I have been struggling with trying to stop on and off for the past couple of years, and for the second time my nails/cuticles look normal (I was able to hold off for my wedding, but relapsed shortly after). Like Chitown27 said, the cuticle clippers are a MUST. Also, if your fingers/cuticles have open sores, cut the hangnails and put neosporin and a bandaid on them, and leave it there as long as you can. Let them heal up, especially before you keep trimming with the cuticle clippers. Beware though - the cuticle trimming is a slippery slope. Once I was able to quit picking my cuticles (especially my thumbs) with my own fingernails, I started using the clippers instead. It was like trading one compulsion for another. I would excessively over-trim, and would bleed and sometimes get infections, and when I was in the shower or pool they would look weird - all white and mottled...just like when I was picking. I decided to stop cutting my cuticles too, and instead I exfoliate around my fingernails in the shower with a pumice stone, then push my cuticles back with a rubber cuticle pusher (I used to use a metal one, but it was actually damaging my fingernails). I also put on lotion several times a day, and use cuticle cream every morning after I wash up and get ready, and every night when I'm lying in bed. Another trick has been to keep nail polish on my nails pretty much at all times - it keeps me from messing up my mani with picking (although it hasn't stopped me from picking my face), and it may help you with the chewing since nail polish doesn't taste very nice. Also, having lotion on, especially scented lotion, will help since it doesn't taste very good either. Like Chitown27 said, it is all willpower. It is just as hard to stop as compulsive overeating, and honestly the urge never really goes away. (Or, it hasn't with me so far, I still pick my skin and scalp). But having fingers that look normal is motivation to not ruin them (it hasn't solved my skin picking problem, but at least my cuticles look normal now!). Also, I have noticed that even though my thumbs were pretty much one big open sore for years, the scarring really isn't that bad - it just looks like a couple of tiny wrinkles that no one even notices but me! If I can stop, anyone can. I believe in you! Just be patient, it will take time. And don't be hard on yourself if you accidentally find yourself mindlessly doing it (I put a big gaping hole in mine when I went to see the new Batman movie, and didn't realize I was doing it until it was too late). Just stop once you realize you are doing it, and keep moving forward, you will get there.
August 19, 2012

In reply to by stinabb

Hello, michelle here. Have you tried wearing latex gloves?? Not the ones that we wear to clean the dishes but the very thin ones doctors etc use. If you had those on when you were at the movies...its dark no one can see you...then try and pick then. I can guarantee you that its impossible. I carry them everywhere now. Ten dollars (New Zealand) for 100 (50 pairs). Best damn investment I have ever made. I have a pair in my pocket at all times, some in my car..everywhere. and I promise you they work. If you can pick your cuticles through them Id be shocked. Give it a go. xxxxxxxxx P.S. I am a perfectionist too.....the need to have very smooth skin!!!!! Im better than that and who the heck is perfect anyway.???
August 19, 2012
I've been biting at my nails and picking at my cuticles since early childhood. I remember it getting significantly worse in my early teens. It is noted in some sources that it can be a symptom of having overly authoritarian parents, and that was certainly the case with my father. The unfortunate thing about this habit is that it is actually extremely rewarding, though it is a very short-lived feeling of satisfaction. I wouldn't say that I do it only when I'm feeling nervous — it's definitely not the idea of nail-biting anxiety that most people have seen in the media. I do it when I'm in a movie, zoning out, and sometimes when I realize it, it's too late. Another disgusting aspect of it is that I eat my nails and skin after I tear or bite it off with my teeth. My parents still check on me to this day, and my boyfriend (and boyfriends past) have tried to stop me by grabbing my hand away from my mouth. But this usually causes me to feel extremely frustrated and makes me want to pick even more. I do the same thing with the calluses on the bottoms of my feet. Because I've picked at them so much, the skin is hard and dead and easy to tear away big pieces of it at a time, and this causes immense satisfaction. I don't find this to be as terrible of a habit as picking my cuticles, because I can file the rough edges down with a pumice stone when I'm in the shower. It's nicer to not have that layer of skin on the bottoms of my feet, as it's part of a normal pedicure when you go into a nail salon anyway. The problem is when I pull until it hits the point where I begin to bleed, and I feel a shock of actual pain, which is what I did last night. I had to apply a bandage to the bottom of my foot so that it wouldn't sting when I walk. I always pick a little bit no matter what, but I have phases, certain periods of time when it gets out of hand. I really love manicures and pedicures, and mostly I give them to myself since I can't afford to do it weekly, which is how often I do it myself. I also find that they don't remove enough of my cuticles (ha — go figure) so I don't feel like it's worth my money every time, depending on where I go. But when I do give manicures to myself, I know that I am going overboard with the clippers, because when I'm actually ready to apply the polish, my cuticles are bright red from trying to get every little bit out of the crevice between my nail and skin. I am sure it's a mixture of things. I know that I tend to be obsessive compulsive at times, and certainly a perfectionist when it comes to things like cleaning. With skin-picking, it's the same feeling. If I peel one area, and there's a rough edge remaining, it feels "unfinished." So I have to go in and peel what ends up being an entire layer of skin surrounding my nail, until I've reached the very border of my finger where I will start bleeding. That's usually when I stop, with that finger at least. My habit is the only thing that might make me feel like I wish I didn't actually have ten fingers to work with. I have a minor issue with picking at my lips as well. I try to moisturize before I go to sleep, which helps, but I can never heal them completely before I end up chewing them again. This website is incredible because reading about other people's cases makes me feel better about myself, knowing that I'm not alone. But I want to do something more about it, possibly see a pyschotherapist — but like I said, I can't even afford a weekly manicure, so talking to someone about it is out of the question. I don't feel like my case is terrible enough to warrant a trip to a doctor's office. There are definitely times when I've gone from one great manicure to the next and actually began to have nails that I could see from the palm side of my hand (shocking, I know)! But this week, being on a business trip away from home and not being able to bring a cuticle cutter on my carry-on bag has really messed up my prevention routine.
April 03, 2015

In reply to by mmm_mmm

I've never been able to sum it up ..never in 15 years. Reading your comment was the most relieving feeling @ mmm_mmm. You described in perfect detail what I'm going through and you're right, reading others going through similar scenarios is extremely helpful. I'm on day 6. Longest I've ever gone. This is is the fist and only time I really cared to stop and so far so good.

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