I didn't know there was a name for this thing I've done all my life, until last year. I can't remember a time that I haven't done it, I've always gone through phases of it being really bad and then nothing for a few weeks. I bite and pick the skin around my fingernails resulting in red, painful, and bleeding fingers. I despise my hands.
I've never talked about this before because I'm genuinely ashamed of how ugly my fingers look.
For as long as I can remember my Mum's stock phrase has been, 'Sarah, stop biting.' And I immediately take my fingers out of my mouth only to put them straight back in. Then she tells me again, and the cycle continues.
Dermatophagia, also known as 'wolf-biting' is a compulsion or habit of biting skin, (your own of course, I don't go gnaw on random people). It's most common for wolf-biters to bite their fingers, but I bite my fingers, lips and occasionally my inner cheek. I bite my fingers a lot more than anywhere else, I only bite my lips if they're really dry but I'm trying to get into the habit of applying a lot of lip balm so there's no dryness to chew on. My fingers are always the first thing I bite, they're sore and discoloured as I've been doing it for so long. All the way around my nail on every finger is red raw, and even if it's bleeding, I'll still bite.
There's a massive correlation between dermatophagia, OCD and anxiety. You could say I've been anxious most of my life and my release is through biting. I don't really know why, I've never talked to anyone about it but I am concerned that my fingers will never heal because as soon as I'm stressed I begin to bite.
I get my nails done every two weeks because I can't look after them myself due to my chronic illness, and although my nails look gorgeous, my fingers look painful. I've never been a nail-biter, just a wolf-biter. And I'm embarrassed. People compliment my nails all the time and I instantly hide my hands because of the inflamed skin.
When I lived up north, my nail tech put this picture of my nails on her Facebook page to show her followers a new colour, but everyone commented on how sore my fingers looked. There was literally no mention of my nails, just my fingers, and I felt awful. They look disgusting.
I photoshopped the shit out of the below pic to hide the redness but you can still see some of it, and the scar on my thumb. If my hands looked like that I'd be happy, but they don't, they look like the one above.
I've seen images online of other people that bite and I'm nowhere near on the same level of severity but there's times when my hands are so bad, every finger is bleeding but I'll still bite them. Even when I get to the point that it really stings and I know I've bitten too deep, I'll move on to another finger.
I don't know why I do it. I don't know how to stop. Is it just as simple as stop biting? I've used various deterrents and applied hideous tasting lotions to my hands, but nothing works. Maybe I should mention it to my therapist and see what she suggests.