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Monday, October 1, 2012

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Obsessed, Nervous, or Just Hungry?

I can tell you the exact moment I became a nail biter. I was 6 years old, watching my mom get dressed for work. She paused to mull something over, chewing on a nail. My reaction: "How cool! How grown-up! I think I'll try it."

I never stopped. It was embarrassing — like wearing your neuroses on your sleeve. At parties, I learned to wrap my fingers all the way around my wine glass, so that my nails faced my chest.

Amy Standen considers the recent proposal to add "pathological grooming" to the OCD section of the DSM — the manual used to diagnose mental disorders. Not considered: the relative tastiness of different folks' fingernails.



85 Comments / Post A Comment

ebgb

Hatred of nail clippers and long nails!

vittoriama

impressed by your efforts.@v

redheaded&crazy

I love these articles because all my fellow picker-types come out of the woodwork and make me feel less alone and like a total freak of nature and god nothing workkkkkkkkkkkkkks.

Right now I'm trying the "wear lipstick so you don't pick" strategy. So far it has worked exactly 0 days out of the 2 weeks since I began this strategy (but sometimes I forget to put on the lipstick).

Amphora

@redheaded&crazie You just made me realize I've replaced skin picking with lip skin-biting. No wonder my lips always hurt. Dammit!

SarahP

@redheaded&crazie I do this with lip balm. I rarely actually need lip balm, I just use it to stop myself from biting my lips to shreds. Though of course that just means I move on to the inside of my lips/cheeks and bite that to shreds. Ugh.

Scandyhoovian

@SarahP I do that! I bite the inside of my lip and cheeks instead of my lips because they get all chapped and if left to my own devices, I pick at the chappy bits because they drive me insane when I rub my lips together and can feel the parts that aren't smooth.

HeyThatsMyBike

I am guessing my incessant checking for/removal of split ends would also qualify as pathological grooming? (I'm gross)

Ophelia

@HeyThatsMyBike You are not alone, my friend. I basically know it's time to get a haircut when I'm spending too much time picking at my split ends.

HeyThatsMyBike

@Ophelia Same here! Although I have very fine hair but a lot of it, so I never really have a shortage. And it definitely happens more when I'm stressed or bored. (I'm still gross)

Ophelia

@HeyThatsMyBike Ah, mine is kind of coarse, and curly, so it usually takes a while to become truly split-tastic, but when it does, it's like KAPOW! SPLIT ENDS! A never-ending smorgasbord of pathological grooming.

theotherginger

@Ophelia bahahaha. I think my split ends never go away - I have fine, curly, coarse hair (different on different parts of my head). I needed to go for a trim like 2 weeks ago but I am studying abroad and so where do I get my hair cut? I know not.

thatgirl

I am definitely an obsessive groomer. I've been a nailbiter all my life, and I pick at any imperfections in my skin. The only reason I don't hairpull is because my nails are too short to do it properly, and it doesn't provide as good an emotional payoff as (for example) biting off a hangnail.

It is definitely a compulsive thing, I hardly notice I'm doing it until I catch myself in the act. Here's hoping this addition helps me get effective treatment when I finally get over my heart-pounding anxiety about finding a therapist in NYC.

fondue with cheddar

@thatgirl I am too, but my other neurosis is being overly conscientious, so I'm very careful about how I do it. I used to bite my nails when I was a kid but somehow broke myself of the habit. Now I obsessively pluck out gray hairs and nipple hairs. It's not a vanity thing in either case, because I don't have a problem with gray hair and my nipple hairs are not that noticeable. But I get a strange satisfaction from hunting them down. I've got enough gray hairs now that I can almost always find one, but it's actually disappointing when I can't find any nipple hairs to pluck.

I had chicken pox really bad when I was 16, and I had such a strong urge to pick but I didn't want to mar my appearance (especially because it was shortly before the prom). So I satisfied that urge by picking at the ones on my scalp. Unfortunately that means now I've got a ton of raised, itchy scars all over my head.

I won't tell you how I manage to hairpull when my nails are short because I don't want to be responsible for your starting a new compulsion.

I used Psychology Today to find my therapist. They've got a pretty good database with lots of valuable info (specialties, treatment styles, insurance) that should at least help you narrow down your choices to a manageable number.

noReally

I am a nailbiter. I have one sibling who is and one uncle who is. My child started when he was three and I swear to god I never do it in front of him.

And yeah, I hate that people can look at my hands and think they see my neuroses, because I'm not particularly neurotic, but god the feeling of a fingernail growing out toward the end of my finger makes me wild. Get it off of there. My son feels the same way. It's like having a hair at the edge of your vision that you've got to push out of sight.

I sure has hell donn't think of it as "grooming" though. It's much more like mutilation.

Hekatompedon

@noReally "It's much more like mutilation."
THIS. I compulsively (/pathologically?) trim my toenails and the skin around the nails. It icks me out just thinking about them and the feeling of my nails touching my socks. But it's definitely on the mutilation scale.

falconet

@noReally Yup. I used to hide my hands in job interviews to prevent prospective employers from seeing them! Over the last two years, I have slowly, slowly worked to quit it, one finger at a time. (Yes, I am still on the last stupid finger.)

OhMarie

I did this exact thing with thumb sucking--I didn't suck my thumb until I was about 5 and saw a SUPER COOL older cousin doing it. I didn't stop 100% until I was in college and sleeping in my boyfriend's bed every night.

Bloodrocuted

@OhMarie I ground my teeth in my sleep as a kid, (which apparently makes a very irritating sound, audible from rooms away(?)). I used to put my knuckles in my mouth to bite them instead when I tried to grind my teeth. Now I have a nightly ritual of both cramming the day's germs into my sleeping maw, and looking like an idiot.

Inkling

@Bloodrocuted
So, I never heard of teeth grinding and I went to look it up on WebMD.
"Many times people learn that they grind their teeth by their loved one who hears the grinding at night."
--WebMD
As empathetic and mature as I'd like to respond, turns out I can only imagine people getting caught sexy dancing while their partner is trying to sleep.

Inkling

"Avoid alcohol. Grinding tends to intensify after alcohol consumption."

I DIE.

Verity

@OhMarie I don't remember when I started, but I didn't stop until I forced myself to in my late teens. It's been about six years now, and I still want to sometimes. Glad I'm not the only one who did it for ages!

fondue with cheddar

@Bloodrocuted On the plus side, you've probably got a strong immune system.

CinnamonSwirls

I bite my nails too (my mother says that I've had my fingers in my mouth since I was little)... and pick at my skin (a learned trait unfortunately... thanks Mom).

My nails look so bad I don't even know if they would go back to "normal" if I stopped right now.

My mother never wanted me to develop a complex and feel bad about it so she never said anything while I was growing up, but I wish she did sometimes. However, I had an ex who would bat my hands away and I hated that. It felt so patronizing and was, in fact, very shaming.

TattyEmu

@Who's that pill? My boyfriend shames the bejeesus out of me when he catches me biting my nails. But for some reason, it works when he does it, though it never worked and only made me feel terrible when anyone else did it. Maybe its because his remonstration comes from a place of "You're hurting yourself! please stop! I can't stand it!" instead of "You disgusting little neurotic!"

Emby

I think my teeth aren't the right shape or sharpness for biting nails. Even when I try, it doesn't do anything? It feels like trying to cut a wooden beam with safety scissors. How do you actually bite them to the point it does anything??

Ophelia

@Emby You have to kind of pick at an edge with your teeth, and THEN you can bite it. That said, my nails are kind of thin/bendy - my husband has really thick/hard nails, and I'm not actually sure his are bite-able.

Maybe THIS is it. It's not relative tastiness of nails, it's biteability.

(ETA: I am a reformed nail-biter, but this article is making me put my fingers in my mouth...and what if I just...aargh! Pardon me while I fall off the wagon.)

Inkling

@Emby
I KNOW. I read about a character nail-biting in a book, and I was like hah, this shall be my neurosis, but I was so puzzled over it. I just had my thumbnail in my teeth for a few minutes--Am I doing it? Is this successful?

fondue with cheddar

@Ophelia I think you're right about biteability. I used to be a nail-biter too, and my nails are just like yours. I do still bite my hangnails obsessively, but my TMJ is getting worse and now biting hangnails hurts like hell. I still do it, though. Just goes to show how strong compulsions can be.

supernintendochalmers

Ex-nail biter here. I'm two or three months clean, but now my nails HAVE to be short, even, and polished or it's over. This blog entry really helped me. I realized biting is about being bothered by a raggedy edge and not, like, enjoying the taste of nails.

EpWs

@supernintendochalmers YES. Nail polish. Once I started polishing my nails on a regular basis, I got a lot, lot better about not biting them. Bonus--it helps strengthen the superweakness of my nails, which will chip and then I have to try and even them out and then boom NO NAILS. Must have polish at all times. (Bonus bonus--if I have to pick at something, better my nail polish than my nails.) I know the next week's going to be tough at work so I'm putting new polish on every night and picking it off during the day. The system works, yo.

Bittersweet

@supernintendochalmers Yep. I gave up nail-biting for Lent 3 years ago after 30 years with the habit, and the only way it worked was to get regular manicures and have clippers on hand to (neatly) dispense with the raggedy cuticles.

fondue with cheddar

@Bittersweet I'm bothered by a ragged edge more than anything also, and my nails are really soft so they get them often. I carry around a pair of nail clippers all the time for the same reason.

nonvolleyball

I managed to stop biting my nails at some point in elementary school, but I replaced that with the (arguably grosser) habit of picking away the skin on the sides of my thumbs. right now they're not bad, but it's something I'll just find myself unconsciously doing--usually only noticeable when I've drawn blood or actually manage to cause myself pain. over the years, I've fashioned so many makeshift bandages out of strips of cocktail napkins...

polka dots vs stripes

@nonvolleyball ahhh yes this is what I do and it KILLS my father. I've gotten better since I'm not in school anymore (hm never made that connection until now) and don't pick until I bleed, but I definitely read this whole thread while picking at my pinky finger. I just started keeping bandaids in my purse.

Wearing nail polish sometimes helps, but not always.

Cat named Virtute

@nonvolleyball Ahhhhh, I am a side of the thumbs picker too! MY PEOPLE. Like Emby up there my nails are to strong to bite, but oh man, I can pick that skin forever.

Puppy in a cup

@nonvolleyball YES. Thank you hairpin for reminding me that I am not alone!

nonvolleyball

@polka dots vs stripes, @Cat named Virtute, @Fingers Crossed--let's all sit together tightly clutching something so that our idle hands don't start self-destructing! I feel you on the bandaids in the purse, & the "why did I do this to myself--OH RIGHT STRESS," & the parental shame (my mom is a germaphobe, but she's probably not wrong that it's unsanitary to have giant gaping wounds on your thumbs; I always try to be on my best behavior before I see her, but sometimes seeing her is stressful, & then...)

it's such a goofy, gross, ridiculous habit, but it does make me feel better to know that I'm not the only one who's inexplicably fond of tearing their thumbs to pieces. I will think of you the next time I'm trying not to pick, in the hopes that the solidarity will give me strength. :)

KatnotCat

@nonvolleyball I'm a picker too. It hurts so much sometimes and it's hard to stop. Applying a balm regularly so the skin doesn't look as horrible and tempting to pick helps me a bit, not as much as I'd like, but a bit. I also always worry about giving myself a gross infection.
Stay strong! One day we can be stress-free individuals with lovely hands!

maybe partying will help

All I can say to this is YES. Having begun biting my nails at a very early age (8? maybe earlier?), it wasn't until last year that I was able to stop gnawing them for long enough to get a manicure for a wedding. The only way I can manage to not chew them is to keep them painted at all times, so basically I've swapped pathological nail-biting for pathological nail-painting. Why isn't there a patch for this?

Ophelia

@maybe partying will help There is that stuff you can paint on them that tastes gross. Like Bitter Apple for humans.

tiny bookbot

@maybe partying will help "basically I've swapped pathological nail-biting for pathological nail-painting" ME TOO. Though, at least I have cool nail polish and hands like a grown-up lady, more or less?

When I started my grad program, my friends were shocked to learn I paint my nails to keep from biting them. Apparently I now just seem like one of those girls who paints her nails all the time? I don't know how to feel about that.

fondue with cheddar

@Ophelia I used that stuff when I was a kid, but I became desensitized to the taste and ended up biting them anyway.

maybe partying will help

@fondue with cheddar (formerly jen325)

SAME. Aaaagh. There is apparently not a substance nasty enough to keep my fingers out of my mouth. However, admiring my pretty nails/painting them obsessively seems to work better. I still wish there was a way to actually "kick" the habit, rather than just putting another habit on top of it as a distraction. :/

fondue with cheddar

@maybe partying will help Yeah, I had a great and varied bunch of compulsions and tics when I was a kid, and I was proud to have kicked most of them until I realized I'd replaced them with other ones. I've only ever had one tic at a time but always something. They all drove my parents and/or me nuts, so I would keep coming up with new things
1. near-silent repetition of final consonants
2. tooth-clicking
3. smooshing up my upper lip as if I were trying to hold a pencil under my nose
4. sniffling
5. tossing my hair
I thought I'd kicked tics completely until just now, when I realized that my current habit of wrinkling my nose is a tic. Oh well, at least it's not as annoying or noticeable.

Hekatompedon

I'm not a nail biter (much) but I'm a compulsive toenail trimmer (down to and past the quick) and an eyelash/ eyebrow puller-- I'm starting to get better since I started meds for anxiety but it's still an unconscious habit. Especially the toenails since feeling them touch my socks or the inside of my shoes icks me out hard.
@nonvolleyball yes I do that too, on all my fingers, and come to think of it I bite the skin rather than the nails. Hmm.

SarahP

@Hekatompedon I used to pull out the majority of my eyelashes and eyebrows in my teens, so I started wearing eye makeup to stop myself, and it worked pretty well--I rarely do it anymore.

area@twitter

Trichitillomaniacs, holla.

BoozinSusan

@area@twitter We need to start a Trich Hairpin group! 'Sup, sistas.

Megasus

I used to be a pretty bad nail biter when I was a kid. Like, parents put gloves on me and stuff that tasted bad in an effort to stop it bad. I just kind of grew out of it though? (I probably just switched to obsessively picking at my acne, lol) Now I just keep my nails really short cuz I don't like the look of long nails anyway, but I don't chew them anymore.

fondue with cheddar

@Megano! You know what...I never understood how I managed to stop biting my nails, but I think that's why. Acne.

falafelwaffle

I was a terrible nail-biter as a kid. To the point where my fingers would be red and raw. Somehow, I gave that up and have turned my sights to hair-pulling as an anxious/bored habit. I search for "good ones", aka coarse/curly in my otherwise straightish hair, and pull them out and examine them. Apparently I have a textbook case of trichotillomania. SSRIs have helped some.

4and20blkbirds

@falafelwaffle Same here. Except I think of the coarse hairs as the "bad ones". I have to put my hair up when I'm writing an essay or things like that so I don't just pull hair out instead of writing.

falafelwaffle

@4and20blkbirds I have to wear a hat.

Ellie

@falafelwaffle I have trichotillomania too. Well, I had it. I still pull out my hair a little bit but I look basically normal (I have some patches of thinner and shorter hair, but I definitely look normal and it's getting progressively better). I used to have bald spots and looked like a freak. It is by far, far, far the worst thing that has ever happened to me. I also don't think there's a cure. People go on antipsychotics to try to get rid of it and it still doesn't work. I fervently wish I could figure out how I stopped doing it (beyond a couple hairs a day which I still do) so that I could help other people. I used to wear socks on my hand to the library and I couldn't concentrate on anything for more than a few minutes without taking the sock off and not even realizing I had. Then I couldn't concentrate on my work because all my energy was devoted to trying and failing not to pull out my hair and hating myself about it.

area@twitter

@falafelwaffle Yup to all of this. I have mild trichitillomania- for some reason, I go mostly for my eyebrows (and my eyelashes, to a lesser degree). I'm on SSRIs to treat depression and anxiety, and that's made it a little better. I pick when I'm stressed out, so just generally treating stress also seems to reduce the chances that I'll start picking. I also keep something to drink at my desk- the act of drinking is a good nervous twitch that I can sub in for picking. And yet, I still find myself doing it...Keep up the good fight, y'all.

fondue with cheddar

@EVERYONE Have you seen Dirty Filthy Love? It is SO GOOD, you guys. It stars Michael Sheen as a guy with OCD and Tourette's and Shirley Henderson as a lady with trichotillomania.

BoozinSusan

@area@twitter Way late in responding here, but it's a funny coincidence - right as I was drinking water as a substitute for allowing myself to pull, I read your comment!

sintaxis

It makes me nervous that something that is a very gendered practice- like grooming- is being seen as a potential mental issue. Granted, we're talking about extremes but wouldn't it follow that those neuroses would play out as specific grooming issues more often for the group of people that are told they must be in a state of perfect groomedness?

Danzig!

@sintaxis I don't know, I'm a dude and I get shit from a lot of people for my compulsive nail-biting. My fingers are callouses nubs that tend to bleed intermittently. Makes using hand-sanitizer a pleasantly burn-filled experience.

Ellie

@sintaxis I think there's a huge difference between behavior that is a legit mental illness (I mean, I wouldn't call mild to moderate fingernail biting a mental illness - I am a bit of a fingernail biter but just when I have a rough edge and it doesn't "bother" me that I bite them occasionally - but most of this stuff is) and "grooming behavior" related to the focus that society puts on women's appearance. I agree that it seems like the two ideas should be related, but I think that these kind of "excessive grooming" mental illnesses are much more like a psychosis than like a mis-expressed instinct.

sintaxis

@Ellie Yeah, that's totally true (I'm a nail biter as well!), but what I mean is: would those same mental issues manifest themselves equally across the board for men and women? Because it seems like a very weighted discussion, you know? I mean, we all know dude nail biters, but how many dudes compulsively groom their body hair for split ends or compulsively pluck out their own public hair? I guess what I mean is the EXPRESSION of these compulsions impacts women more than men and that is being taken as "mental illness" without really figuring out the causation and correlations, etc.

fuck fuck fuck

CONFESSION TIME. i obsessively pull out my nose hairs. for the long ones i just use my fingers, but for the ones way in there i use tweezers. i do it absentmindedly while watching tv or reading, then i look down and there's fucking nose hairs all over my laptop! no one should ever touch any of my possessions because i am a gross crazy person.

area@twitter

@fuck fuck fuck Hey. You are not a gross crazy person. You're doing something that a lot of us do.

Amphora

@fuck fuck fuck I do this with my eyebrows. It's okay as long as we're not in public?

theotherginger

@Amphora I hope so!

fondue with cheddar

@fuck fuck fuck OWOWOW okay, I can totally understand your obsession but doesn't it HURT?

Also, if my time on The Hairpin has taught me nothing else it's that we're all gross crazy people, and if so many of us are gross crazy people that must mean that none of us are gross crazy people.

mmwm

I've always bitten my fingernails, when I read - when I'm away on vacation and not reading regularly, they grow out; I've never worried about it or tried to hide it, and no one has ever mentioned my nails to me; I'm not OCD. I heard the interview this morning and can't figure out what the big deal is or why this would ever rise to the level of "pathological" or the DSM. Oh, and the one time I intentionally grew them out, before my sister's wedding so I could get a manicure, I got a fungus from the manicurist that lasted for almost a year. That'll teach me.

area@twitter

@mmwm I think here- as with most mental illnesses (hell, most physical illnesses!)- it's a matter of degree. If someone's nail biting is causing them significant distress and/or interfering with how they want to live their life, then that's worth diagnosis and subsequent guided treatment. I don't know a lot of about the DSM or psych diagnoses in general, but it may be that making a diagnosis like this available makes it easier to study and standardize treatments?

Trillium

Threads like these always feel like such a relief to read. I've been a compulsive cuticle-biter/skin-picker/etc for as long as I can remember, and my mom's solution when I was a kid was to constantly comment on how weird and disgusting and embarrasing it was. Unsurprisingly, this totally failed to make me stop, and I had my mind totally blown when I discovered that other people also did this and I wasn't just an aberrant shameful freak! My cuticles are kind of a lost cause at this point, but I've decided that people can just deal with my gnarly hands and started painting my nails again. Now I have gnarly hands with purple fingernails!

area@twitter

@Trillium Not cool, Trillium's mom. Not cool. I remember the same feeling of pure relief when I realized there was a name for what I was doing!

annejumps@twitter

@area@twitter Dermatillomania, woo! *waves jacked-up hands*

Betsy Murgatroyd

I bite, rip, tear my fingernails and cuticles, overtrim my toenails, bite off my finger calluses, overpick my blackheads and to top it all off, I bite off the skin on the tops of my fingers. I know it's an anxiety issue because when I was on anxiety meds, I tapered off to the point where I didn't mutilate myself. It was definitely not grooming, it was a form of self-harm. I still don't overtrim and overpick, and I've stopped overbiting my nails, but I still do the calluses on my fingers. I sometimes relapse, but I just get back right into not doing it. I also trim with nail trimmers so my nails are super short and I can't find an edge to cause destruction.
I'm not on medications now, but the DBT (dialectical behavior therapy) has done wonders for my anxiety.

fondue with cheddar

My sister-in-law is a compulsive nail-biter, and her daughter is a compulsive lip-skin-biter. The fact that she didn't learn this behavior from her mother but yet they're both different manifestations of the same thing. So if your children share your compulsion, please don't blame yourselves. It probably would have happened whether or not you did it in front of them.

Also, I read this on NPR yesterday and I'm SO glad it was posted here because I honestly thought, "I want to talk about this with my 'Pinners!"

ohpioneer

Informally, I have just recently began to view my nail biting/cuticle picking/skin picking as a compulsion, a very "mild" form of OCD. I used to pull my hair out pretty badly, too, until a saw 20/20 episode about hairpullers. Seeing that episode coincided with a slight bald spot forming on my head from the hairpulling and was enough to scare the habit off.

However, my sister's OCD/grooming compulsions have deteriorated into a full blown Trichotillomania over the last 2 years. She is entirely bald and wears a wig. She has no eyelashes and hardly any eyebrows. Moreover, my mother has a tendency to over pick her skin as well. I can't help but think that this neuroses is hereditary in some way.

Anyway, seeing my sister's habit become so bad has helped me see the nail biting as a compulsion, which for some reason has really sort of empowered me. Knowing how to combat a compulsion, I paid close attention to when I found myself picking or biting - What was I doing? What time was it? What was going on around me? What was I thinking about? etc. until I identified the triggers: hanging skin on the cuticles, listening to people talk, driving, feeling as though I might be late, etc. Being aware of these triggers has made a world of difference. I can intercede when I know I might be inclined to pick - walk away, pick up some knitting, refocus. Consequently, I have almost completely shaken the nail biting habit in the last three months. I am looking forward to conquering it totally.

The toughest part, however, is helping my sister.

BoozinSusan

@ohpioneer I think you're lucky that that 20/20 episode was enough to scare you off. For a lot of us, even being aware of the harm we're doing doesn't really prevent our behavior. I learned the "trigger" thing, too, from cognitive behavioral therapy, but the problem is there are sometimes where it's unconscious - before you realize what you're doing, you've pulled out a ton of hair.
From the way you describe her, your sister and I would have a lot to talk about. I do hope she gets better, but I honestly don't know how one gets better - and believe me, I've wracked my brain for years to figure out a way.

Punk-assBookJockey

My husband bites his nails and I don't think he realizes it until I say something. I feel bad saying anything but I just CAN NOT handle it for any kind of extended period. He may as well be chewing on my nails for as much as it bothers me. I always have a nail file or fingernail clippers handy and I offer them to him as a way to let him know he is doing it and he usually quits, but I don't want to him to feel like I am shaming him. It's not that it annoys me because of some perceived weakness or anything it's just the sound of it is like nails on a chalkboard or something.

Scandyhoovian

I bit my nails throughout childhood and all of college through two degrees (so to about age 27) and only managed after graduating to kick the habit (I had a few rounds of "I mostly kicked it but then saw a scary movie/had a stressful exam/was studying for comps/had a bad day at work and gnawed them all off without realizing" attempts)... but I didn't kick it entirely. Instead of biting, I now pick at the ends when they start getting dry and peel them when they start to crack. My nails look horrendous if they ever get even a little long 'cause it's the part that's not attached to the nail bed that cracks and peels. I recently sat down with a doctor to talk about a) why my nails are so brittle and b) what to do about it so hopefully the uptick in vitamin intake she suggested will sort of help with this new, weird compulsion.

I also tend to pick at those random coarse hairs that pop up on my jawline now and then (my mom calls them the "you're getting old" hairs) with my newly not-gnawed-to-hell fingernails, so that's a strange new thing as well.

Alli525

I am a nail-biter (although mostly reformed), a cuticle-picker, a scab-picker, I peel the dead skin after sunburns, an eyebrow-plucker to the degree of "too much," I twirl and bite my hair, I chew on my lips, and worst of all, sometimes I take my nail clippers and "cut" off the excess roughage on the heels of my feet.

What's odd is that I am not an "anxious" person in the clinical sense - I don't lie awake at night freaking out about work or whatever... but when I write it all out in a paragraph I feel like I should be popping Xanax once an hour. Maybe there's some subconscious compulsion to look perfect, but my "methods" only make it worse.

I conquered nail-biting after 20 years of the habit (from "developing teeth" stage in early childhood, until late-college) by simply waking up one morning and thinking "gosh, nail-biting is really stupid, I don't want to do it anymore." But until I believed that phrase in my gut that morning, nothing else had worked in quitting... So I guess I'm screwed?

christina inés@twitter

I'm a little disheartened that I am the first to post this, but if you are looking for hope, healing, treatment or simply information regarding compulsive hair pulling and skin picking, visit the Trichotillomania Learning Center at www.trich.org. They are the only organization in the world dedicated to these disorders. They have been fundamental in my own recovery from trichotillomania.

Also, I believe that trich and dermatillomania are currently classified as impulse control disorders, along with things like kleptomania and pyromania, a classification that is at once problematic and somewhat appropriate. More recently they have been referred to as BFRB (body-focused repetitive behaviors). I like to think of my own hair pulling as an addiction, a model which has been effective for me in minimizing my pulling and its effects.

Trich has definitively been shown to be genetic, by the way, and there has been some exciting new research regarding the effects of an amino acid called NAC in diminishing urges. (More information about that study can also be found at trich.org.)

christina inés@twitter

@christina inés@twitter I'd just like to add to my own comment that these BFRBs are not OCD because pullers/pickers do not believe that if they don't pull that something bad will happen, so they are not accompanied by obsessive thoughts. Furthermore, people who have OCD do not want to do the behavior, like wash their hands repetitively, whereas pullers and pickers derive pleasure and satisfaction from the sensation of doing so, it's the shame/guilt/embarrassment/etc. caused by the physical damage of pulling and picking that causes suffering.

TARDIStime

Subconscious hair twirlers, represent!

katiethegreat

@TARDIStime I twirl my hair pretty much constantly: when I'm concentrating/nervous/stressed/bored etc. It is a super annoying habit and my sister is always telling me off for it. Plus people always think I am flirting when I am probably just feeling socially anxious!

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