Freedom from Biting Nails

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The Hidden Pain of Nail Biting

Many people bite their nails occasionally when feeling stressed, however, for many others, nail biting is an absolute compulsion. This Body-Focused Repetitive Behaviour (BFRB) is commonly known as dermatophagia and is a disorder that compels individuals to bite, chew and gnaw at not just their nails, but their fingers as well. Unfortunately, many people dismiss this condition by believing it’s nothing more than a harmless habit, however, when left unchecked it can lead to many deadly consequences. Knowing that it’s essential to nip this disorder in the bud, it’s time to find out everything you need to know about dermatophagia and how you can stop it.



The common symptoms of dermatophagia


When it comes to dermatophagia, there are a few physical and psychological symptoms that you should watch out for.




Physical symptoms


  • One of the main symptoms of dermatophagia is the inability to stop biting your nails. Even when you’re actively taking measures to prevent nail biting, you find yourself doing it nevertheless. In this sense, nail biting can manifest as an addiction.

  • You frequently find yourself gnawing at your skin or chewing it, especially when there are hangnails on your fingers.

  • Excessive nail biting and finger chewing can lead to signs of damage such as scarring, redness, discolouration and even calluses.

  • You bite your nails to the extent of causing bleeding.


Psychological/behavioural symptoms


  • You experience heightened levels of anxiety if you do not succumb to the urge to bite your nails.

  • You cannot stop thinking about biting your nails

  • You isolate yourself from friends and family so that they cannot see your fingers and nails


What causes dermatophagia?


Nail biting and finger chewing are activities that one undertakes in order to soothe oneself. Therefore, many experts link BFRBs with stress and anxiety, believing that individuals that are either genetically predisposed to stress or live in an environment that induces high stress are more likely to develop this disorder. Other risk factors for developing dermatophagia include:



  • Sex – females are more prone to developing this disorder than males

  • Age – most commonly, BFRDs like dermatophagia develop around puberty

  • Temperament – one’s inability to deal with external factors can also lead to the development of this disorder as a coping mechanism

It is essential to note that though dermatophagia presents with compulsive behaviour, it is not a form of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and should not be confused with the same.




What are the complications associated with this condition?


Now, if you think that biting your nails and chewing your fingers are harmless habits, you must think again as there are dire consequences associated with this disorder. Some of these include the following:




Infections


When you bite your fingers and nails to the extent of creating open wounds and causing bleeding, it leaves you susceptible to infections. Repeatedly tearing open the same wound can increase your chances of the same. When you develop a skin infection due to your dermatophagia, you can expect the following signs:



- A wound that is filled with (and discharges) pus - Fever or chills due to an infection that has been left untreated for long - Tenderness or pain in the area - Swelling or a sense of heat around the area

Do keep in mind that an untreated infection can also lead to bacteria seeping into the bloodstream, which can be deadly. This is why it is absolutely vital to seek help from a professional if you or a loved one suffers from this disorder!




Isolation


Most individuals shy away from admitting that they have a problem, and as a result, they’d rather lock themselves in their homes than have anyone catch a glimpse of their hands! Social isolation is not something you should take lightly as you can end up feeling depressed, ashamed and even have low self-esteem.




It’s not just a habit, it’s a disorder!


Many people avoid speaking to professionals about their dermatophagia as they believe it’s just a harmless habit that they’ll eventually outgrow. However, this is a common misconception as chronic nail biting is actually a disorder that can only be treated via professional help!



What makes dermatophagia even more dangerous is the fact that it is not easy to diagnose. In fact, the Diagnostics and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) does not offer physicians any insight specifically into BFRBs, and the conditions associated with the same are generally classified under a broader category of other “obsessive compulsive and related disorders”. As a result, many patients who speak to professionals sometimes find themselves walking away with a mis-diagnosis and grow even more disheartened regarding seeking help in the future.



With over 3% of the global population suffering from BFRDs, it is important to know that you are not alone, and that you can certainly seek help for this condition.




How can you treat dermatophagia?


Hypnotherapy treatments are used to help individuals come to term with their demons to cure most anxiety related disorders. When it comes to dermatophagia, hypnotherapy is one of the leading treatments out there and is lauded for helping a multitude of patients throughout the world. Of course, as dermatophagia is a pervasive disorder, it takes a few hypnotherapy sessions for patients to be able to manage the condition sufficiently. By helping you identify triggers and develop healthier coping mechanisms, a hypnotherapist can actually do wonders for you!



One of the biggest advantages of hypnosis is that it makes patients grow more open to conversations and self-exploration, which helps you get a better understanding of why you indulge in the behaviours that you do. In this sense, hypnotherapy does not only aim to treat the behaviour that is bothering you (such as nail biting), but also help you address the cause behind it in the first place (such as a stressful home environment, traumatic event in your childhood, and so on). As a result, this treatment serves as a highly comprehensive one, helping patients develop a stronger resistance to their problems.





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Ronal Shah

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Ronal is fully dedicated to powering you forward to achieving your ambitious goals. He trained listeners at the Samaritans to help callers in desperate, often suicidal, situations to move onwards and upwards with their lives. Prior to coaching, Ronal was General Manager at a mid sized company helping his staff get over their internal barriers and get massive results. Born in London, he has lived and worked all over the world, including Japan, Netherlands and the US. He is a Master Hypnotist.

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