i've never admitted this, but i think i have dermatophasia. like a few other people posting lately, i saw "obsessed" on a&e realized that i have a problem. i didn't appreciate how severe it was, but after seeing the show, i saw for the first time with new eyes how badly damaged and scarred my fingers really were.
i'm 29, but i've been picking, biting (and eating) skin on my fingers as long as i can remember - at least since i was 6. i ignored my parents admonitions and kept on picking my fingers, thinking that it was "just a bad habit" and that it wasn't a big deal. the pain, sensitivity and the inevitable bleeding was secondary to how deeply satisfying was to pick out a rough, dry shard of skin, or to bite a loose cuticle. there have only been a handful of people who even noticed my fingers enough to speak up about it (partly because i've become adept at hiding my fingers, but i guess because most people are too polite to speak up), but when i'm called out on it, i'm absolutely mortified. just thinking about that boy in 7th grade who derisively asked if i was eating my skin, or the complete stranger on a plane who warned me to "stop gnawing on my finger because it's not ladylike" still makes my stomach turn from shame and humiliation. i learned to deflect the attention by glibly explaining that "it's just a bad habit" and then i try to shift the conversation away. actually, i used to do the same to the skin on the balls of my feet until i was in college. when i realized that it would be impossible to be intimate without explaining why my feet were all torn up, i was at least able to myself to stop and haven't picked there since.
of course, even now, while i'm typing here, i have a spotted bloody napkin on my desk as proof of my compulsion. i get anxious about things other people probably think are trivial, but i pick because that repetition is soothing. sometimes i just pick when i'm bored. i guess i don't really know why i pick. i'm just glad that i've found other people like me and that i'm not alone in all this.