Dermatophagia – Treatment, Pictures, Causes and Symptoms



What is Dermatophagia?

Dermatophagia is a kind of disorder particularly an obsessive compulsive disorder or OCD. It is a kind of disorder which is a result of anxiety which also includes obsession, compulsion as well as uneasiness. What happens with people with this kind of disorder is that they bite their skin in a compulsive manner. Other experts would describe it as body focused kind of behavior which is repetitive in nature which leads to the destruction of his or her own body, particularly the skin.

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Others claimed it as a kind of self mutilation which may or may not be serious. Most of them will be able to experience, aside from discoloration and bleeding, as well as infections, scarring, bruises, or if worse comes to worse, damage of their own skin which may become permanent if not managed properly or if not given attention.

They are often called as the “wolf biters”. They are called such because werewolves are known to gnaw on the victim’s flesh. However, in this case or in this kind of disorder, the victim here is the own fingers and skin of the biter himself or herself, for that matter.

They are reported to bite the skin which is located around the nail area which leads to discoloration and bleeding. Although, there are reports that person having this kind of disorder would bite other parts of his or her body such as the lips, cheeks and mouth which will lead to blister formations. It is a Greek word combination which stands for “skin” and “to eat”. According to statistics, this kind of disorder is common in most women than in men. They always complained that they have this irresistible feeling or urge to bite into their skin which happens only when there is a presence of loose or dead skin and also during apprehensive periods or perhaps other events which are unpleasant. This kind of disorder is somewhat similar to trichophagia, wherein it is a disorder where the person is eating and biting compulsively his or her hair.

Dermatophagia Symptoms

Those who have this kind of disorder are known to manifest the following symptoms:

  • Bleeding
  • Discoloration
  • Blisters
  • Uneven skin
  • Low self esteem
  • Anxiety
  • Compulsion
  • Obsession

These are the common symptoms noted that are associated with this kind of disorder. The primary target areas are the calluses, nail folds, hangnails and cuticles. There are a lot of effects that a person with this kind of disorder will encounter; such of these effects are aimed at the emotion and physical implications. They become, as time passes by, embarrassed by their physical appearance which leads to withdrawal behavior and avoidance of the public to be able to avoid scrutiny and perhaps judgment.

Dermatophagia Causes

According to research made the etiological reason why some person experiences Dermatophagia are the following:

  • Genetics
  • Early trauma during childhood years
  • Stress
  • Imbalances in the neurological aspect
  • Boredom
  • Body dysmorphic disorder
  • Nervousness
  • Depression
  • Obsessive compulsive disorder

Also, in addition to that, there are actually many persons who are able to suffer the so called insatiable itch or otherwise termed as urge which is then relieved by the biting episodes or behavior. In addition to that, person engages into Dermatophagia because they believe that it is a self soothing activity, it acts as stimulation or a distraction maneuver.

Dermatophagia Treatment

Since this kind of disorder is a neurotic kind of excoriation wherein it is mostly caused be a neurotic behavior, the treatments needed then for this kind of disorder are the following:

Psychological treatment

Behavior modification therapy - In this kind of therapy, the common action done is painting the person’s finger nails with polish or nail polish that have a smell that is unpleasant to the nose or perhaps encourage him or her to use artificial nails which are made out of gel or acrylic which will lead to discouragement of biting of the nail or skin for that matter.


Cognitive behavioral therapy  - It is an approach wherein the person is encouraged to talk. It is also known as a psychotherapeutic kind of approach or therapy. It is done to be able to resolve problems with regards to cognitions, behaviors and emotions which are dysfunctional. Aside from that, it is known to be the best treatment for mood, personality, anxiety, eating, psychotic disorders and substance abuse. It is a combination of both cognitive and behavioral kind of research. With this kind of therapy, there is a collaboration effort between the patient and his or her therapist. The main goal is to establish the patient’s goals and help them achieve the goals that they have set for themselves. There is a need for the therapist to teach, listen and encourage the patient. Meanwhile, the patient is encouraged to learn, express and implement the things that he or she has learned during the therapeutic sessions.

Medical treatment

Antidepressant medication - It is a common medication prescribed with these patients having this kind of disorder which affects the psychological aspect. Aside from that, it is known to aim or alleviate depression of the patient having this kind of syndrome. When being prescribed with this kind of medication, it is most important that the patient should use this kind of medication under the physician’s, particularly a mental health professional, guidance so as not to abuse the medication.

Dermatophagia Pictures

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 Picture 3 – Fingerbites as a symptom of Dermatophagia


2 Responses to “Dermatophagia – Treatment, Pictures, Causes and Symptoms”

  • Savannah Buxton says:

    I have this disorder and it may be severe in my case. I bite my nails but am quitting and am holding back from biting the skin also. i’d like tips and help on how to quit this habit.

  • Clare Trappet says:

    i think i have this… i chew all around my fingers until sore but i do it subconsciously…and i chew the insides of my mouth too. i want to quit but i find it difficult..it would be good to get some advice on this.


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