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WolfBiterGigi , 05 Jul 2016

I had no idea this was a disorder

Hi everyone.

So yesterday I Googled "what is it called when you eat your finger skin". And came up with dermatophagia. This is very new to me. Its awesome to read other people's stories. Any comments will help....

Ps I'm so anxious to send this I'm eating my lip.

I was recently cautioned by people close to me that I was exhibiting dangerous behaviours that may lead to eating disorders... These are people that care about me and love me so I thought let me do some introspection. I did some reading and got on to ocd etc. It seemed like anything could be a flag for a disorder. And I have always always chewed at the skin around my fingers. So i thought let's see if there's anything.

I was shocked to find out this is a real disorder. I am a 24yo female, I have probably gnawed at myself since I was 5! This was just some funny quirky thing that I did that annoyed everyone and was a bit odd... Right?? Dermatophagia. Its a thing. I only found this term yesterday and so I am still reeling a little bit. Im shocked, confused, relieved, self aware, scared and tearful.

I tried a few years ago to stop the biting... Mostly because some stupid ex boyfriend commented that it 'looked really ugly' (thanks, you fool) I was pretty successful at stopping, so for about a year my fingers got to heal! However.... One obsession prepared another. I started chewing my lips and the inside of my cheeks. I guess in hindsight the mouth chewing was easier because I can hide it. So i still do both but less on my hands. My mouth is always a chewed mess. My hands are probably also a mess but in phases.

I can't even read a book without going into a frenzy. I thought it was a concentration thing. I also am increasingly aware of phases of eating normally and starving myself, exercising to burn off fat. These things are linked, I see that. Its all about control right? We are trying to control ourselves. How do you just let go? How can I just stop and listen to my inner voice without trying to distract myself? I'm pretty amazed I've become this person. I was always very in tune with my emotions and always confronted an issue head on. Now I seem to want to hide from problems or feelings that become overwhelming. I guess I'm realising that I haven't given myself permission to just deal. I haven't allowed myself to be mindful.

So I guess I need to make some moves. I'm just not sure what the first steps are. Could anyone answer some of these for me?
Is a self diagnosis sufficient in this scenario?
Should I get a medical opinion? (I am suspicious of psychologists because none of my doctors have ever picked up any of these issues)
How do I talk about this to people who don't believe in disorders?

It would be awsome go hear from some people. Even just to have some say it's ok it's all normal.


3 Answers
July 07, 2016

Well I can't offer much advice, because cheek-chewing is still a struggle for me. But I can definitely tell you it's okay, and that you're not alone. It's great that you've discovered what it is though. For a lot of people simply recognizing it as a disorder is enough to help them stop. Now that you're aware of it, maybe try using the chewing as a cue to ask yourself what's really stressing you. Maybe that can help you snap out of the act and assess the underlying issue. -----------------------------Personally, I've used manicures to stop myself from chewing my fingers. I'll rub aloe or vit e on my cuticles, file and paint my nails. Even if they look gnarly when I first paint them, it'll give me a reason to lay off for a while. Chewing my mouth was always harder to stop. People suggested gum, but I'd just move it out of the way to get to my cheek. The only thing that got me to stop for a while was when my dentist casually mentioned that it could cause mouth cancer down the road. That definitely scared me into reevaluating my habits. -----------------------Whatever you try, I hope you find a positive way to deal with your habit. And don't be too hard on yourself, plenty of us munch on ourselves when we're nervous. Good luck!

July 07, 2016

In reply to by 28_Years_Later

That's so funny, Ive started doing my nails again! Its difficult because I'm a ceramic artist so my hands are always in clay or something, so I had stopped painting and bothering with my nails. But youre right. Just paying attention to my hands- cuticles, creams and sometimes polish is enough I think for now. The mouth thing is a problem. Especially health wise. I am always aware of the potential bacteria etc. Didn't think cancer was on the cards though so that's worth a think. You are also right about awareness. I am more aware of my actions. I have actually caught myself chewing this week and sometimes I say the hell with it and sometimes I say stop. So its a process. Moving forward. Thank you! :)

July 09, 2016

I too didn't know this horrible thing has a name. I have been biting my nails for as long as I can remember. At the moment I have Elastoplast on three fingers. These three have been bitten until they bleed, even when the pain was excruciating whilst I was doing it. As soon as the plasters come off my fingers are half way to healing I start all over again. My husband tells me twenty times a night, he doesn't understand that I can't help it. I have mutilated my fingers like this for over 40 years, I am so embarrassed at the state of my fingers. I wish to god there was a cure for it.

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