Tales of a nail biter

This week I read that nail biting is considered compulsive grooming, a psychological disorder similar to OCD and is being added to the next American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM).

I’ve been a nail biter for as long as I can remember. Until my early twenties I was always biting my short little finger nails until they bled and were a pain to touch, but I just could not stop. It wasn’t until I started painting my nails all the time that I was able to stop the habit. I have a obsession with my nails being perfect, chips were avoided and thus my nails went unbitten. Don’t get me wrong I’d pick up the habit again from time to time, especially during stressful times like exam time in university or when work got particularly stressful.

This year I’ve relapsed once. It was a (drunken) night out with friends and I started picking at a hangnail. Which led to me picking at my now chipped nail polish, because I’d rather pick it off then deal with a small chip (hmmm… maybe that ocd label does fit me?). I then bit off all my nails. The hangnail became bloody and within a few days it was obviously infected. I’ve had gross cuticles before, but not like this…

Yes, I named him.

Gross right? Sorry but I felt the visual was needed and if you’re gross like me you can click on the photo to make it larger (I took multiple pictures to remind me to leave my cuticles alone but honestly it’s not helping). That’s Barney the Barnacle. He was on my thumb for over two weeks. He was painful and woke me up at night. I eventually went to the doctor and had to take antibiotics 4 times a day and soak him twice daily for 20 minutes in salt water.

Lesson: Don’t bite your nails or cuticles.

But do I think this is a psychological disorder? Eh.

Part of me loved bringing this up to my parents who loved to slap my hands out of my mouth as a child. I still hear them saying “get your fingers out of your mouth” any time I have my hand near my face. So telling them that it was a psychological disorder gave me a bit of satisfaction, regardless of whether I believe it or not.

I don’t know if it’s a compulsive thing for me though. The habit of biting isn’t  because my nails are too long, or because they hurt me when I’m scratching an itch. I prefer them shorter because I have a fear of pinching my eye when removing my contact lenses. Still, I’d rather file them rather than bite them.

I do know that I bite out of stress or nervousness, and that there makes me think it is more than simply a bad habit. I think of it more like an addiction. One that will always be a part of me and something that needs to be held at bay but will never be beaten.

I guess it’s a good thing I have an extensive nail polish collection and love creating new nail art. If that’s the only way to keep my nail biting at bay, I guess I can live my life with pretty nails.

Thoughts? Do you think nail biting is more than a bad habit… addiction… worthy of a place in the DSM?


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