I'm 32 and never thought that I'd still be doing this. I just started trying to find out about this after I met a woman my age who did the same thing and I caught my two-year-old picking at a hangnail. All my life I felt like a weirdo and knew a boy when I was a kid who did it, but I wasn't biting as much then. I thought that I had it under control because it was mostly nails and sometimes cuticles. Now, it's the other way around.
I have two small beautiful children and each time I was pregnant, I tried to talk myself into stopping. What if it gets infected and harms the baby? What if it's genetic and they do it too? My husband doesn't know I bite my cuticles to the point of bleeding and having cracked, dry hangnails constantly. He thinks I'm biting my nails or haven't lotioned my hands and I never let him look at my nails close up.
I've tried acrylics, Burt's Bees Lemon Cuticle Cream, eating sunflower seeds (probably the best of solutions I've tried), but they're only temporary and after a couple of days (if not hours) I'm back at it again. Nail polish remover and all that other bitter stuff doesn't help. I just ignore the taste because it's more about the texture.
My places or times that I often find myself unconsciously picking and/or biting is in the bathroom, while driving, and while watching tv. I could be biting away and all of a sudden my husband says "stop biting". Most times, I don't even realize it, I've done it so often for so long. I think it's triggered by stress and anxiety, which I'm on the road to get help for. But this is more embarrassing to me than a panic attack.
Another thing is I get grossed out when I see others pick, like my daughter, the woman I met, and my best friend picks under her chin to the point the skin is black. I never count her as a picker for some reason. Maybe because makeup can cover it. Makeup can't cover dried blood in cracked cuticles.
Sometimes it's like a challenge too. Like if there's some hard little piece right next to the nail that's hard to bite. I pick at it for days until it's out enough to bite and it's like a little victory, especially if it's a good little peel.
Can you tell I really need to get this out my system? I see the University of MN is researching this, which isn't far from me. I might have to give them a call but I'm glad I found this site and this forum.
P.S. A little irony for you. People who never get to see my hands really close up, tell me I have beautiful hands. I don't see it. All I see are the cracks and peels. Even my hubs says that my hands were the first thing that attracted him to me (and there's plenty of other attributes than usually get attention first). Maybe that's the body dysmorphia kicking in.