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I'm 16 and have bitten and picked at the skin around my fingernails for as long as I can remember; I often make myself bleed, often get infections and my thumbs are really scarred. What help can I get to stop this?

Hi, I applaud your courage in

Hi, I applaud your courage in writing about this problem. When diagnosed, these conditions are called dermatillomania (skin picking) and dermatophagia (skin biting or eating). I encourage you to read the information we have here at the site about these conditions, found at http://www.brainphysics.com/skin-picking.php .

As you will note, therapy and medications are available. It would be helpful for you if you can determine whether you do it out of self-soothing or boredom. If you do it out of boredom, it may be easy to replace it with a less-harmful action. If you do it to self-soothe, you may benefit from therapy or counseling to help you talk out the problems that stress you. You can also learn healthier coping mechanisms.

I also want to add that many young people bite their fingernails or fingers or chew on pencils during their school years but don't continue the practice into adulthood. Your symptoms don't necessarily mean you will be dealing with a serious problem all of your life. Given the fact that you are doing this to the point of bleeding and infecting yourself, however, I would recommend you ask for some help from a psychologist in getting it under control. Best wishes to you!

Lucy Boyd, RN, BSN

Thank you for replying - I'd

Thank you for replying - I'd like to reply to your point of why I do this - I suppose I do it when stressed, feeling upset and when I bored! Although I've never really thought about when or why I do it because I've always done it, even as a child.
But, thank you very much for the advice! I will try and see someone about it.

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