I am 37 and have just experienced a massive breakthrough in my life-long battle with Dermatophagia / Compulsive Skin Biting. I know it is highly suspicious when a new member joins a forum and announces a miracle cure, so let me say this up front:
1) I have "cured" my Dermatophagia by accident as a result of medically-prescribed meditation from the British (NHS) health system, which I am receiving for my tinnitus. There is nothing to buy as part of this "cure". This is a purely personal account.
2) I have an extensive history of posting on medical forums such as dailystrength.org, rnid.org.uk, where you can find me under the user name LondonJason and http://floatertalk.yuku.com/ again using the name LondonJason
Here's my story:
I am 37 and up until two weeks ago I have battled with chronic Dermatophagia / compulsive skin biting for as long as I can remember. When I was younger I had what today would be recognized as a mix of minor OCD issues, but grew out of these like most adults.
My Dermatophagia stayed with me however. It has been an acute and chronic condition. I simply could not stop myself biting away the skin on every finger until I was bleeding. Like most of you on this board I have been in a permanent cycle of having bloody fingers that were painful, disgusting and shameful. I would bite away the skin as both a conscious (compulsive) and unconscious act.
I have tried for years to stop this, including:
Hypnotherapy: I enjoyed a few days break but still had massive compulsive tendencies
EFT (the tapping thing): ditto above
Paint skin with that horrid tasting stuff: zero benefit
The only thing that worked was to bind up all my fingers really tight with micropore tape. Obviously this is nothing more than a short-term measure when my fingers were in a real state.
The "cure" for me
I put the word cure in quotation marks as I know that:
1) OCDs are massively complex and highly personal so my "cure" may not work for anybody else at all
2) I am only two weeks free of Dermatophagia, but I can tell you kow I am looking at my fingers and I feel completely disassociated from them. I have no desire to bite, even though I can see tiny bits of skin that previously I would have to "perfect" by ripping them away.
Two weeks ago I attended a hearing therapy clinic at the Royal National ENT hospital on Gray's Inn Road. I have had tinnitus for 9 months following a Scuba diving incident. I was expecting to receive standard tinnitus retraining therapy, but instead was told that the hospital was pioneering the use of Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy. This has been used to treat patients (primarily in the US) who suffer from chronic pain or depression.
The task I was set by my hearing therapist was to sit cross-legged in a dark room, close my eyes and bring all of my attention to my breathing. Effectively meditation. Obviously I was very surprised this is now being prescribed as mainstream medical treatment within the NHS, but I was very open-minded.
The first thing you notice when you sit on your own and listen to your thoughts is how much rubbish is going on in your head (I suspect this is higher for people with OCD traits ?). In each session I had to gently work though bringng all of my attention on my breathing and become incredibly aware of my body in the present state.
I didn't notice I had stopped biting straight away. The mindfulness meditation which I now do for up to 40 minutes a day is so relaxing that my whole persona felt different. It was about the 3 rd day that I realized that I was no longer biting.
As well as meditation, the MBCT approach requires you to be 'mindful' and to keep you mind in the "present moment" as much as possible during the day and to observer your thoughts in a non-judgemental way. Each time, you bring your mind back to the present moment.
One of the big breakthroughs I had this weekend was...I had forgotten to do my meditation that day (I'd been out drinking with friends) and I caught myself biting my fingers. At that moment I observed that my mind was racing massively around, thinking/worrying of events both in the past and future. The only thing I wasn't doing was being present in the 'current' moment. My therapist had showed me the techniques of how to get back into the present moment and the compulsion faded very quickly. After 2 more days of meditation I am back again feeling no desire whatsoever to bite.
I'm going to post a few links for those that are interested. My Dermatophagia was not just a habit. It was a full-blown compulsion and I am 100% convinced that I have cured it for me. I am very happy to speak more or answer questions if people are interested.
Just one final point, please be assured this is completely secular, the approach used has no religious elements and can be practiced by those of any faith or no faith at all.
Some medical research on its use in suicide risks: http://cebmh.warne.ox.ac.uk/csr/mbct.html
There are free guided meditations you can find on the iTunes store.
Also if people are interested I can post a scan of the documentation and instructions that I have been given by the Royal National Hospital.
I really hope that my breakthrough can help at least one other person. If any doctors / psyc's read this board, I would also be happy to share my account with them.
Best wishes Jason
Contains background on MBCT from its creators in the US. It has a commercial section where you can buy books/CDs but frankly there is so much for free to get started with