Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Onichophagia Anonymous

If you don't know what onichophagia is, you probably don't struggle with it. Or maybe you do, but never knew there was a clinical term. Anyway. It's the technical term for nail biting. Ongoing, long term, difficult to stop nail biting is CHRONIC onichophagia. I know all about the chronic kind, because I have it myself.
In case you're curious as to the causes of onichophagia, or if you think it's just a dirty, disgusting habit, please know that it's linked to a variety of psychological issues, like all body-focused repetitive behaviors (think hair pulling, skin picking, etc.) It has been linked to OCD, bi-polar, depression, and anxiety disorders. It isn't often a matter of just stopping because you know you should or because you know it's a gross behavior. It is entirely damaging to one's self esteem, given how people look at nail biting, and how obvious bitten nails are.
I can't say exactly when I started biting my nails, but I CAN tell you that I was VERY young. It goes back as far as I can remember. A few years back, I managed to quit. And then I relapsed. Then I quit again. Then I relapsed again. I imagine you can see where this is going.
I'm pretty down tonight (can't sleep, getting over a miserable cold) because I really thought I had this kicked, but suddenly I'm in the midst of the worst biting relapse I've had since quitting biting in the first place. It makes me wonder if I will either never be able to kick it altogether, or if I'm going to have to go on some sort of med to knock down the anxiety that makes me bite.
I've long thought that nail biting was my internal response to high levels of anxiety, and having a bad response to stressful situations. Now I feel that's been pretty much confirmed, and it sucks, because I feel like unless I seek help, I will ALWAYS relapse into nail biting when things are difficult. And I hate it SO much. I've been looked down on, ridiculed, made to feel like a disgusting person, and more because of this DISORDER. And that's all nothing compared to what I do to myself in my head over it. Because nail biting is somewhat common, no one looks at the chronic kind as a disorder. It's just something you should be able to stop doing, to most people. I won't gross you out with pics of my hands, but I can tell you that when I bite my nails, I do so with fervor. My fingertips ache and my nails look absolutely awful. And when I've just had my nails nice for the past two years? It hurts even worse to fall back into this.
I wish I had a better handle on my options, other than obviously trying to stop again, which of course I will. I've done it before, but when will it stick for good?
I just have to wonder, if I seek treatment. .. Will I be treated for the DISORDER of onichophagia, or will be I told to use more willpower and "just stop" the gross HABIT?

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