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Onychotillomania - compulsive picking/removal of nails.


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#1 april_rain

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Posted 22 April 2019 - 04:36 AM

Last night, I couldn't fall asleep.

 

So, naturally, I sat up and removed my toe nail - the second one, next to the big toe, on my left foot.

 

Finally, after my mission was complete, I was able to sleep.

 

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I've compulsively picked at my skin (dermatillomania) and nails (onychotillomania) since at least kindergarten.

 

I have scars all over my body.

 

I've methodically removed the nail on my big toe twice (once on the right foot, once on the left).

 

I've completely removed the nail of the second toe on my right foot several times, but managed to allow it to heal completely.

 

But over the last few years (?), I've attacked the second toe on my left foot to the point where I rarely have a nail on it... and where the nail is permanently damaged.

 

I also compulsively pick/remove/tear the skin off the bottom of my feet.

 

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Sometimes I just use use my finger nails to rip, tear, and remove skin/nails.

 

Sometimes I use a cuticle cutter or nail clippers.

 

More recently, I've included a small x-acto knife to my collection of tools.

 

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It's disgusting.

 

I'm nearly 36 years old. 

 

Why the hell am I still doing this? 

 

 



#2 almostnearly

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Posted 24 April 2019 - 12:00 AM

((((april_rain))))  I have nothing useful to say but wanted to let you know I read and am sorry you're struggling with this, and have been for so long. :( I'm curious if there is any particular form of 'treatment (feel like that's not the right word but can't think of a better one) that's typically offered or recommended for these issues? Have you found anything helpful in the past? Sorry, not sure you're looking for problem-solving type feedback, but yeah.. I hear you. 



#3 april_rain

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Posted 24 April 2019 - 02:41 AM

I don't know if there is specific treatment... from what I've read, it would probably be something similar to what is offered for OCD-type conditions. Dermatillomania and onychotillomania seem to be less known and less studied. 

 

There have been times when I've successfully stopped picking at an area (e.g. my toes), but I found that I just end up re-focusing my compulsive picking on a new area instead. I might not even realize that I've done this until the damage becomes (visually) obvious.

 

Sometimes I'm able to stop myself from causing too much damage in a single picking event if I am able to realize what I'm doing; for example, if I have a mosquito bite, I might mindlessly scratch until I start to bleed, but if I realize that I'm scratching, then I can apply anti-itch cream. 

 

....



#4 almostnearly

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Posted 24 April 2019 - 08:50 PM

I wonder what would happen if you put on gloves? Like at night when you were trying to sleep. Would it make you very anxious to not be able to pick? Just a thought.

That’s good to hear that it sometimes helps if you’re conscious of what you’re doing. Maybe there’s a way to build on that?

I haven’t dealt with exactly what you have but I used to bite my nails and still sometimes pick at them when I’m anxious (fingernails) I’ll pick off the ends and try to make rough edges even, but don’t go any farther than that. It can be an unconscious thing as well.


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Edited by almostnearly, 24 April 2019 - 08:54 PM.


#5 phoenix

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Posted 25 April 2019 - 12:58 AM

(((AR))) I can relate somewhat to what you post, I think. Even as a child, I've removed scars or any wound covering until they bled or produced something more gross, picked at the loose skin around my fingernails (the skin there tears very easily and I'll pick at it even when doing so hurts and causes bleeding), picked at any loose skin (such as when I accidentally scratch my arm on something and it causes some of the skin to come up but isn't a full on scratch), and pull out eyebrows/eyelashes (even though pulling my eyelashes out almost always causes issues with the remaining ones becoming entangled or something that hurts, and causes me to pull on them even more). Why I do all this, I have no idea. It all was probably one of the first signs that I had mental health issues. It's not like someone at age 5 is deliberately trying to harm themselves (at least I hope not!). I think it may be a combo of some unhealthy coping strategy, anxiety, inability to express my emotions in words (I had severe speech issues so it was really hard to understand me even when I was school aged), a sick fascination with blood, and it became an ingrained habit that I partake in even when I don't seem anxious. I'm not sure if any of my rambling is helpful or makes sense or is relateable.

 

Have you ever kept a log of emotions or thoughts that you feel prior to, during, and after you picked or something that happened earlier in the day? You mentioned that you picked your toenail off one night, could it be that you were distracting yourself because your mid was too busy to sleep (I have issues with self injury at night when my mind is on hyper drive and I need to do something so that I can sleep and it has to be something that expends energy).  I'm wondering if that would help. It might not. It's hard when there's not much knowledge about things. 

 

xxx



#6 april_rain

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Posted 25 April 2019 - 02:52 AM

I wonder what would happen if you put on gloves? Like at night when you were trying to sleep. Would it make you very anxious to not be able to pick? Just a thought.

That’s good to hear that it sometimes helps if you’re conscious of what you’re doing. Maybe there’s a way to build on that?

I haven’t dealt with exactly what you have but I used to bite my nails and still sometimes pick at them when I’m anxious (fingernails) I’ll pick off the ends and try to make rough edges even, but don’t go any farther than that. It can be an unconscious thing as well.


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I try to keep my fingernails short, but that doesn't always help. When I was kid / teen, I would bite and tear my fingernails, and rip off some of the skin around them. The bleeding and tenderness made practising piano both difficult and painful; there were multiple occasions where I would get blood all over the keys, and only realized that I was bleeding because the keys felt sticky to the touch. 

 

I was getting too advanced to deal with bleeding and tender fingers, so I would clip my nails short once a week, every week. That limited the chances of me biting and ripping the tips off. I still continue to keep them short.

 

(((AR))) I can relate somewhat to what you post, I think. Even as a child, I've removed scars or any wound covering until they bled or produced something more gross, picked at the loose skin around my fingernails (the skin there tears very easily and I'll pick at it even when doing so hurts and causes bleeding), picked at any loose skin (such as when I accidentally scratch my arm on something and it causes some of the skin to come up but isn't a full on scratch), and pull out eyebrows/eyelashes (even though pulling my eyelashes out almost always causes issues with the remaining ones becoming entangled or something that hurts, and causes me to pull on them even more). Why I do all this, I have no idea. It all was probably one of the first signs that I had mental health issues. It's not like someone at age 5 is deliberately trying to harm themselves (at least I hope not!). I think it may be a combo of some unhealthy coping strategy, anxiety, inability to express my emotions in words (I had severe speech issues so it was really hard to understand me even when I was school aged), a sick fascination with blood, and it became an ingrained habit that I partake in even when I don't seem anxious. I'm not sure if any of my rambling is helpful or makes sense or is relateable.

 

Have you ever kept a log of emotions or thoughts that you feel prior to, during, and after you picked or something that happened earlier in the day? You mentioned that you picked your toenail off one night, could it be that you were distracting yourself because your mid was too busy to sleep (I have issues with self injury at night when my mind is on hyper drive and I need to do something so that I can sleep and it has to be something that expends energy).  I'm wondering if that would help. It might not. It's hard when there's not much knowledge about things. 

 

xxx

 

I can relate to all of that,

 

I remember being in kindergarten and sitting on the steps, thinking about all the nice "picking" projects I had on the go at the time. It was a self-soothing thing... something to feel in control, probably, because a lot of stuff was chaotic and unpredictable. I, too, had trouble with expressing myself; I feared negative emotions (esp. anger). I had some speech issues, but they weren't severe; I later went to speech therapy for it. I was also extremely shy and had severe social anxiety. 

 

I know that stress and anxiety are triggers; either of those things will make me more compulsive. 

 

Distracting myself with pain certainly helps to quiet my head if it's too loud. 




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