You wouldn’t think it to look at these nails, but I have a terrible habit……..
This terrible habit has been an ongoing issue for me since Childhood. Its almost become an obsession over time, an addiction if you will. It’s a habit of picking at the skin along the side of my nails. I continuously pick until I create a skin tag, then I pull it and it bleeds. The pain stops me in my tracks for a few minutes and then I start again, even though I have just made my skin bleed.
As a rule I don’t like long nails and I’ve always kept mine short, but I have noticed that I am less able to cause damaged to my skin when my nails are longer. I still do the picking and feeling motion but there seems to be less skin there to pick at.
I have looked this up so many times over the years trying to find an answer as to why I do this and why I can’t stop myself, my husband tried for a long time to remind me every time he saw me picking but within seconds I’d be doing it again. I do it CONSTANTLY. When I drive, when I watch TV, when I’m in meetings, when I’m with my family, or with friends
It’s an incredibly frustrating cycle, I cut my nails, within days I’m picking at the skin along the sides, I make my fingers bleed and hurt, I regret picking but I can’t help myself, I keep picking, I try to stop but I can’t, my nails grow out a bit and my skin starts to heal. I cut my nails and it starts all over again.
I don’t ever remember a time when I haven’t done this and I have made my fingers very sore over the years. It peaked last year and I was picking more than ever. A day wouldn’t go by when I didn’t have a plaster on one or more of my fingers. My hands were so sore that it hurt to pick up or hold things and I had to wear gloves whenever I cleaned anything as the chemicals made them sting even more.
In addition I also saw my eldest daughter doing it one day (she’s only 4). I told her not to and said that she would make her fingers sore and she replied “like yours” my heart sank, I didn’t think she knew. I try so hard not to show my anxieties so that I won’t pass any bad habits into her and I ended up doing it anyway.
That prompted me to make a serious attempt to stop this once and for all. I started growing my nails and have been having gel polish manicures. This was completely new territory for me, I didn’t even know what gel polish was or how it worked. I was stunned when they told me it had set in seconds and I didn’t have to wait for it to dry!
However, my nails became very weak after just 3 manicures, and began tearing and bending back, I had all the polish taken off and cut them back, but when they grew again they were so thin and fragile that they just started bending back again, and of course, as they were growing, the picking started up again.
I decided to switch from a salon to a mobile nail technician. She was so lovely and friendly, she listened to my concerns and gave me advice on what I could do to strengthen and hydrate my nails. She has been so helpful, and has enabled my nails to grow so much stronger. They grow ridiculously fast now, and feel so strong!
I have kept this up, and it is working, my skin is completely healed, and my nails look lovely to boot! However, even now I still do the picking and feeling motion, so I know that if I did ever cut my nails back the picking would start up again just where I’d left off………
As I said before I’ve looked this up a number of times over the years, and even spoke to a CBT therapist about it, but could never get a definite answer as to why I do this, what has triggered it, and is it even a thing? Is it something other people do, or am I alone? Am I a freak?
I looked it up again last year when the picking was at its worst and I was at the end of my tether with it, I just wanted to stop and have hands that didn’t hurt anymore, but I couldn’t physically stop myself from doing it, no matter how hard I tried, even with my husband reminding me.
I finally came across a name for this overpowering obsession. It is called Excoriation (skin picking disorder)
From reading articles what I saw really resonated with me, as I read I found myself nodding along with the words. This was me! This was exactly what I do and have done for years! Finally I had an answer! It IS a thing!
I learnt that it a repetitive “self-grooming” behaviour called “Body Focussed Repetitive Behaviour (BFRB) and is classified as a type of OCD because of the compulsive urge to perform repetitive behaviours. This explained why I am unable to stop, even now, without any skin there to pick I still do that repetitive motion, feeling the skin around the sides of my nails.
So now I know. There are other people out there who do this, and it is an actual disorder.
I read that it can be treated with therapy and medication, but I am reluctant to go down that route, and haven’t even seen a GP to have it officially diagnosed. I am just happy to know what it is. I still don’t know what triggered it off, I just know I have always done it. I do think it gets worse during times of stress and I was suffering with very bad anxiety symptoms at its height.
For now I have found a solution, growing my nails and having them manicured, and if that ever stops working I will try and find another solution. I have lived with this disorder for the majority of my life, not even know that it was a disorder. I have found a way to minimise its effects on my life, and now I have beautiful nails and actually look a bit feminine for once!
Thank you to Georgie for giving me such beautiful nails!