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.

dermatophagia pictures

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

dermatophagia image
Dermatophagia pictures

 Picture 3 – Fingerbites as a symptom of Dermatophagia

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11 comments on “Dermatophagia – Treatment, Pictures, Causes and Symptoms
  1. Kiki says:

    I have had dermatophagia for almost 6 years and it has gotten worse now if I start the action and have to get something I will choose to continue biting and chewing on my fingers even if I don’t want to this condition is hard to live with I just wish I could get help

  2. Blank says:

    I also have dermatophigia and its so difficult because i cant have my friends paint my nails or look at my nail deigns.Also i hate having my nails done by a professional because they ask and say bad things like don’t do that your nails are ugly and then show it to other nail artists i cant stand the embarrassment

  3. autumn says:

    is there any cure? is there medication? im am 17 and benn doing this for as long as I can remember.

    • sara says:

      Just saw your post. didn t even know there was a medical term for this and I am 51 and have chewed fingers and thumbs since 15 years old. I can only suggest Autumn does what I am going to do and see my gp before I get a blood infection.

      • E.W says:

        Ok so now I know that I am not alone. This disease has taken over my life and now its acting as a obsession. I cant use my hands because my fingers are always bleeding or sore. I hate how my hands look. I’m now at the stage where I have a lot of discoloration and disfiguration in my fingers. My nails grow sideways and I don’t have cuticles and the skin around my fingers have hardened and its very disgusting and embarrassing. I just want to be normal again.I cant be around people because they ask a lot of questions I cant answer. I am now seeing a psychiatrist so hopefully I get help.

    • lauren says:

      I’m 16 and I’ve been doing it since I was 12 of 13 and I didn’t know what I was doing…I only started realizing people thought it was horrible when my science teacher said to me don’t do that it’s disgusting to look at! And that really messed me up. Mine don’t bleed much but they do bleed…and I always hide my hands because of it..it really is hard to live with.

  4. Amanda says:

    I have had this horrible disease since I can remember it started in the fourth grade when I was prescribed Ritalin. Now I’m 29 and I still bite my nails in the skin around them until they bleed. It can get so bad to wear my teeth will hurt because I just continuously bite my fingers. I don’t know how to stop I wish there was some medication that could just be alleviated.

  5. Anonymous says:

    I’m only 12 years old and my fingers look horrible. I can’t get help because my dad becomes infuriated when he sees my nails because he had told me several times to stop to the point of me having a panic attack and crying in the bathroom for a few hours. I need help.

  6. Ericka says:

    I am soooo disgusted to know that I have this disorder. Until today I thought I was losing my mind. Now I see that I’m not the only one suffering from this. I am currently seeing a specialist because I recently reached out for help. I do not want this to define who I am or enable me from being able to do the things normal people do. It has made me isolate from everybody because I’m ashamed of how my fingers look.I can’t use my hands because I’ve caused a lot of damage. I spend about 50.00 a month on bandaids to hide my fingers.They are very sore all the time and they bleed a lot.

  7. Monica L. says:

    I have the same problem but it is not all the time just when I am stressed.. Do not worry too much about the people, try to eat something or drink instead your nails..you will see that works..we can not change many things around us..it is what it is..be happy enjoy life.One step at the time my friends.The older I get the less I care..and I am 52.

  8. Julie says:

    I think there should be a way to stop this the docs do nothing

1 Pings/Trackbacks for "Dermatophagia – Treatment, Pictures, Causes and Symptoms"
  1. Do You Frequently Bite Your Fingers? This Could Be the Reason Why! – Real Food HQ says:

    […] Well, for one, a dermatophagia sufferer’s finger could wind up looking like that if the behavior is extreme. And it’s not just the disfigurement and resulting pain/shame that poses a threat – such breaking of the skin also makes one prone to infections. […]

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