Monday, August 07, 2006

Confessions of a Compulsive Nail Biter

I chew the shit out of my nails. Not just the nails, either. I gnaw at the skin all around my nails and my cuticles too. Cuticle is one funny looking word! Anyway, I'm 37 years old and I've been chewing my nails for probably 30 years.


It is such an annoying habit. I've had periods of nail-biting abstinence: I recently went almost three months and was regularly using nail clippers rather than my teeth to groom. But at some point, I always regress. Something sparks in me and before I know it, I'm chewing away.

I don't even realize I'm doing it. I should say, I don't realize I'm starting. One minute I'm not biting my nails, the next minute I realize I'm gnawing away.

First, it seems horribly childish, kind of like thumb sucking, bed wetting and being afraid of monsters under the bed. Shouldn't I have outgrown this?

Second, my fingers look like crap. If you look at them now, you'd think, ick, he chews his nails really short. But if my hands were in water for an extended period of time and then you saw them (say, after swimming) you'd run away screaming. Because that shrinky finger thing that happens reveals all the tooth marks in my skin.

Cripes, I've been biting my nails as I write this.

Third, it fucking hurts! I bite them too low or too deep and they hurt.

I'm not alone, you know. Lots of people do it. Hell, Anderson Cooper's one -- he even wrote about it on There's a name for it: onychophagia. According to that Wikipedia entry, onychophagia is possibly related to OCD (which I'll talk about more in a future post, "Confessions of a Dude with OCD") and is sometimes treated by enhancing the activity of serotonin on the brain.

I've not gone so far as to searching for medical help. I've tried all the aversion therapies, however. Like this. And this. I stopped for a while, but eventually, I was back at it.

Stress? Nervous habit? Hunger? OCD? I don't know. But I do know it's a sucky habit and I want no more of it.

Anyone know hypnosis?


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