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Onychophagia and Excoriation Disorder

Onychophagia and Excoriation DisorderIt is said that the hands are our calling card, and to have healthy nails and manicured fingers and can also influence our relations with others. However, there are many people (almost 25% of adults) suffering from obsessive-compulsive disorders affecting the hands, particularly in the area of ​​nails. Nibbling a fingernail occasionally can be considered a fairly common practice but when the damage reaches significant levels it is necessary to seek help from a specialist.


Among the disorders that affect the health of hands the most widespread is without doubt the onicofagia. Technically, the term refers to the fact nail biting nail biting, but often used to mean bite to tear it without eating them later.

Biting and nail biting is a phenomenon that affects all of us at least once in life. Despite being a fairly common habit that usually does not concern particularly for some, the risk that be transformed into self-injurious behavior is very high. Onychophagia becomes pathological when it endangers the health of your hands and it is impossible to stop martyring nails.

Excoriation Disorder

The second most widespread obsessive compulsive pathology associated with your hands is the excoriation disorder. This disorder is very complex and not only affects the hands but also the face, arms and other body parts. People suffering from excoriation disorder are scratching and tear the skin continuously, the skin and crusts, even to self-mutilation.

The difference is that the onicofagia excoriation disorder leads people to find a part of your body full of imperfections, in this case hands, and to have to intervene to eliminate them.

Patients suffering excoriation disorder focused on hands notice itching and discomfort in the area of ​​nails and feel satisfaction when they get remove skin. In severe cases, subjects reach such a level of compulsion that require surgically intervene them to preserve the functionality of the fingers.

The causes of nail biting and excoriation disorder

Most of the obsessive-compulsive disorders are rooted in the inability of the sufferer to face serenely anxiety and stress. Freud, one of the first to analyze the onicofagia in psychiatric terms, he believed that the source of nail biting was a problem associated with oral fixation.

Instead, modern theories consider the onicofagia and excoriation disorder are psychosomatic problems derived origin of a particular psychological condition. People suffering onicofagia and excoriation disorder often have great difficulties (sometimes expressed but often unconscious) to manage their emotions.

Not only facing the wrong way negative emotions like anger, fear and pain, but also have extreme difficulty managing even positive emotions like love or a sudden joy.

People suffering from obsessive-compulsive disorder focused on hands, often have very low self-esteem and a wrong perception of themselves. In the end it usually happens that nail biting and excoriation disorder end up being just a symptom of a larger problem personally, perhaps associated with a traumatic event or a state of depression.

Onicofagia risks and health excoriation disorder

Many people think that the obsessive-compulsive disorders related to hands only deal with a problem of an aesthetic nature. Although this is the most obvious aspect is not the most dangerous.

Always have open wounds on the fingers favors the passage of bacteria and other harmful to health into the body pathogens. One of the biggest risks is that of contracting a viral infection oral-fecal transmission due to the absence of the security barrier that provides nails and skin.

Another common problem associated with onicofagia is tooth decay and other problems in the tooth and gum, also due to bacteria in the fingers. The excoriation disorder, meanwhile, can also cause arthritis in the bones and joints of the fingers, reaching genuine cause malformations.

Remedies to stop Martyring Hands

Prior to combat onicofagia and excoriation disorder was the action itself, trying to prevent the subject to eat or nails or skin. Almost all remember glazes and hand creams with an unpleasant taste, whose effectiveness was demonstrated only in milder cases. In severe cases, especially in children and adolescents, patients sometimes forced to wear gloves even indoors.

However, most physicians are convinced that to treat this type of obsessive-compulsive disorders is necessary to treat the person and the motivations that have led to the development of this pathology. This is possible thanks to psychotherapy: to eliminate the problem usually sufficient a few behavioral therapy sessions.

When do you need help?

The line between normal behaviors associated with the passenger stress of true pathology is very subtle. Often, who he has onicofagia or excoriation disorder does not recognize their dependence on the pathology even seeing wounds on the hands.

When hands are full of wounds, nails have been reduced to a few millimeters long and the person finds it impossible to stop hurting, it’s time to seek help from a specialist.

It is necessary to intervene as soon as possible to prevent the situation from worsening and become dangerous not only for health but hands and to prevent the disorder is too entrenched and requires a psychological and longer and more complicated behavior therapy.

Onychophagia and excoriation disorder in children

Obsessive-compulsive disorders related to hands most affect children and adolescents. Especially in the latter it has been estimated to reach onicofagia and excoriation disorder affecting almost 50%.

The disorder then tends to decrease over the years to disappear completely. It was once thought that children were beginning to put their hands in the mouth by a problem associated with breastfeeding (problems latch on too short lactation, etc.).

In fact, also in case the causes are associated with psychological disorder grow up and have to face the others. For teenagers can be useful behavioral therapy linked to a psychological, while for children is usually enough the first. It is always advisable to talk to your pediatrician to understand what the best way is and intervene in a timely manner about the problem.

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