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Avatar universal

Skin chewing

Hello everyone,
I've experenced anxiety since I was around 15 I would say.  I'm now 26.  I've always felt that my anxiety has stemed from being a shy child, and it is like something that I haven't deep down over come although I act really confident on the outside.  I decided enough was enough and I needed to sort my anxiety out.  I would dwell on things over and over, I should have done this or I should have done that.  Constant worry and over analizing.  Winding myself up to the point where I was physically sick, and couldn't breathe.  I d get up in the night and make a meal and eat anything sugary. (I ve done that for years) so I was exausted during the day.  I chew the skin off the cuticles of my nails.  I have done that for a long time also and they are calosed and bleed.  I enjoy doing it, especially when I get a big bit.  It sounds odd but addictive.  I wanted to know if anybody else does this... and does anyone have ideas on stoping it.  I saw my doctor who put me on 75mg of pristque.  I'm seeing a pshychologist who says that I have stress, anxiety, and depression.  I'm finding the sessions really helpful.  I have not told people close to me about this.  I feel there is a stigma and I don't want to expose any weakness about myself.  Its been hard to hide it from my boyfriend.  Im a strong woman and I won't let my anxiety rule my life.  I'm so glad I had the guts to talk to my doctor because I had thought about it for years.
6 Responses
Avatar universal
Hi, and I too, think it's wonderful that you finally talked to your doctor!  Skin chewing is a habit which you can overcome. There are things that are colorless that you can put on your cuticles that taste bad which may help.  One thing a lot of therapist use is the "rubber band" therapy.  Keep a rubber band on your wrist, and every time you want to chew your cuticles, snap the band, and snap it hard.  It will sting but also stop the thought process of chewing your cuticles. At first it feels like all you are doing is snapping it, but after a week or two, all of a sudden you notice you're not doing it as much or chewing your cuticles.  Also, even though you don't talk about your issues to anyone, they can look at your hands and know that you are experiencing something. So, maybe looking at it from this viewpoint may help you with "not" doing it. Anxiety and depression often has a root cause, and it sounds like you know what this may be  Therapy will help you to deal with all this so that you can move on with a happier life.  The Pristique will also help a lot.  I did the same thing as you when it came to letting people know my problems.  Being in the corporate world, I felt if word got out, I would be viewed differently.  But in reality, most of them were suffering too. You do sound very strong, and have taken the necessary steps to getting over all this, good for you!  Take care....
1297063 tn?1272572689
It's a type of self harm. I would know. I cut and burn myself.
Avatar universal
I know what you're saying about the cuticle thing, especially the big bits - I do it myself! I did it just a few hours ago, as a matter of fact :/

I would recommend talking to your BF about what you're going through. It will help him understand more about who you are and deepen your relationship. By NOT talking to him, you're not allowing him to be there to help support you with this, and you're doing it all on your own. It's good that you feel strong enough to handle this, but it's perfectly OK to ask for help and comfort from the person you love. Asking for help isn't weak, it means you're human - we're not perfect infallible creatures! I'm glad to hear you're talking to a therapist about your feelings, it will really help!

One thing one of my past therapists told me that helped me with anxiety and worrying:

Give yourself a time, say, 8 PM, and a time limit, say, an hour. When you notice yourself worrying about something and getting all; worked up about it, tell yourself "I can't do anything about this right now, but I am still worrying about it. I have things I need to do besides worry, so I will allow myself to worry about this at 8 PM tonight for an hour". Tell yourself this every time you notice yourself worrying about something - don't beat yourself up for worrying, just notice, accept it, and give yourself permission to worry about it at 8 PM for an hour. By the time 8 PM rolls around, if you haven't already forgotten all about it, well, you promised yourself you could worry, so go for it! Write down your fears and concerns in a notebook, draw them in flowchart and diagrams if that helps, and let your mind go with it. You'll eventually lose steam as your mind runs out of circles to run itself around in and can't find anything else to focus on with that particular subject. You might move onto another worry, and that's OK, because you gave yourself an hour. When your hour is up, it's up. You're done until 8 PM tomorrow night.

I found this extremely useful, and shared the results (of course) with my therapist every time I saw her. Despite a lifetime of shyness, anxiety, worry, over-analyzing, and depression (exactly like you), I stopped even needing the "worry later" method within just a month or two. It really helped me put the fears and issues I was obsessing over into perspective, and was a step towards learning to "pick my battles".

Every now and again anxiety comes back of course, and usually at the most convenient time - when I'm trying to go to sleep =P I use a similar method as "worry later"; I ask myself what about this situation is important to me and how replaying it over and over with various new endings will benefit me. I ask myself, "am I experiencing a similar situation currently and want to have a better outcome, or am I just replaying this because I don't want to let go of it?". I then tell myself that since the obsession is going on right now, I also want the answer right now, or whatever it is inside me causing me to feel this way can stuff it. It sounds funny when I say it like that, haha, but it's basically approaching an illogical action with a logical reaction. My mind first tries to hold onto it, then tries to bait-and-switch on me by finding another situation since it couldn't overcome the logic of the first. I do the same thing with the new scenario playing out in my head, and eventually my mind will shut up. Sometimes this takes 5 minutes, and sometimes it takes an hour, but I consider it a victory nonetheless.
Avatar universal
Hello Mammo,
The rubber band idea sounds excellent.  I will try that.  About people noticing my hands, people all the time say... oh what happened to your hands?  Ive always got an excuse like I 've been gardening or I've washed my hands alot as I am a nurse.  If I see bitten nails on someone else it always tells me that there is something going on with them.  I agree totally with what you say about being viewed differently, or people will think that you have lost the plot.  Makes me wonder why their opinions are impotantant anyway.  It sounds like you have done alot of searching yourself too.  I told my first friend!  She has bi polar... I feel good about it.  To me its part of my getting over this.  It was funny chatting to her because she has had therapy most of her life and she was just like talking to a theripist! Haha.  It sorta felt like I had been living an act of who I was for so long that I actually wondered.  As a kid it was like... oh shes just shy mum always talking for me.  Trying to break out of this shyness, always stayed deep inside as an adult.  But I considering telling the boyfriend part.  When we met I was the outgoing independent person, I'm not sure if he would want to be with me if I told him.  These are my thoughts and insecurities.  Thanks for your advice it has been priceless :)  I wish you all the best x
Avatar universal
Hello Evanescence

I never considered it self harm, but it has become so obsesive now that I realise.  I can understand your satisfaction in cutting and burning because they are also distructive behaviours. When I saw the doctor she noticed my hands so they must have been bad.  Its hard to break a habit.  Have you tried anything to stop?  There are some great ideas on here.  Do you have a place that you favour to cut?  I found a name for skin chewing and it is Dermatophagia.  My fingers look similar to the pics on wikipedia.  Its amazing to find that there are all sorts of things out their and that you are not alone.  Thanks :)
Avatar universal
Hello Nitya
Thanks for all your wonderful advice.  I'm defenitly going to do that and I will name it "worry" time.  I have a journal and I write down all of my worries and thoughts.  Its like I have the devil on one sholder saying something, then the angle on the other and they are fighting!  We are all human, yes indeed.  The theripist is always asking why are you so hard on yourself.  The quality of your thoughts will determine the quality of your life!  Nobody tell you that you can't do something.  Only yourself hey.  How are you getting past your skin bitting?  I don't need to tell you how satisfying it is.  Its like something deep within me, like a friend haha.  I'm doing it without noticing.  I love getting a nice dry bit and then I chew on it for a while.  My mum says.... gees!  will you stop doing that you are a cannibal eating yourself like that.  Or let me see what you have done to your hands.  My favourites are my thumbs and little fingers.  Never the nail only the cuticle.  Anywayz.... I must stop. My theripist said that I am ready to stop but im not sure because i would have stoped if I were ready.  
I'm not sure my bf understands mental health.  I'm just worried about telling him.  Will he want to be with a person like that?  If he loves me than yes.
You also sound like a deep thinker.  Shyness was always my problem, as you.  Have you had medication to help with your anxiety/depression?  Things that have helped me are the meditation cds, running it out and getting a sweat when you feel anxious, magnesum tablets are good for the nervous system and lavender oil in a burner.  I'm only new with starting to deal with my anxiety, wish that I had some suggestions for you.  It is reasuring that there are others such as yourself who sound similar to me and that your experences can help others so thanks again x
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