Helping My Hands: 6 Tips for the Nail Picker and Biter
Part 1 of 2 Watching the first few episodes of ‘House of the Dragon’ on HBO, something shocked me to the core. It wasn’t the violence, the childbirth scenes, or Matt Smith setting a whole bunch of people on fire. No.
It was seeing myself on the screen.
Well, not exactly myself, per se, but seeing a teenage girl being snapped at by her father for nervously picking at her nails–so much so, that they’re bloody. In this case,www.youtube.com/watch a high ranking lady and main character in the series, chewing and picking her fingers nervously throughout the first season of the show.
In most action packed shows, mental health and neurodivergence aren’t added to a character’s development unless it’s a plot point. But having that quick few scenes of Alicent’s bloody nails and skin not only gave depth to her character, but represented a common issue within mental health–bodily harm. It’s very common amongst disorders, with almost www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3556753 being seen as nail biting before a certain age.
I’m not a fan of Alicent by any stretch of the imagination (Team Black over here!), but if she was around in real life, I’d offer her some help on saving her nails. After all, I’ve struggled with biting and picking at my nails and cuticles since I was in elementary school, due to both nerves and as a habit. Not only that, but before I was medicated, my MDD and hypoplasia caused my hands to tremor incessantly, so much so that I got berated by a classmate in graduate school for having ‘wiggly hands’.
Sometimes, picking them to oblivion was the only thing I could do to calm them down.
I can only do so much in regards to my conditions, but I’ve learned a few things in order to save my hands from when I’m feeling the urge to pick at them, or even bite them (a medical term called onychophagia. Picking your skin is known as dermatillomania).
Here’s what Dr. VV recommends if you bite, tear, and otherwise abuse your fingers, whether it’s due to anxiety, depression, compulsion, or just a bad habit.
Tips for Saving Your Nails/Fingers:
Recognize That You Have a Medical Condition: We don’t associate stimming with addiction. After all, the image of the addict–tragic, dark, with an empty bottle or used needle–is a vast departure from the individual shredding their cuticles for comfort in a classroom or behind the wheel of their Prius. But that wee bit of serotonin drives us. People who shred their nailbeds and chew on their fingers are not doing it because of peer pressure. It’s a comforting activity that is also harmful (Issues like staph infection, ingrown nails, broken teeth, and constant bleeding are some potential medical side effects of onychophagia). In fact, nail biting is even listed as a disorder by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, connecting it to disorders such as OCD, ADHD, and ODD. I have both a learning disability and MDD, so I fit right in with this alphabet soup. Many people are ashamed of their nails if they bite them: remember, if you’re one of them, it is a part of your psychiatric makeup.
Get Glitter Nail Polish: Many well meaning individuals have recommended getting nail polish put on to keep one from chewing on their fingers. The issue with this solution that I’ve found out is that, should you begin the inevitable picking again, the nails will look even worse, driving you to pick and bite even more, your brain overwhelming your senses with the need to modify your nails. However, with glitter nail polish, especially if the polish comes in big, circular flakes, they help with the need to pick, all while leaving your nails alone. After all, you can pick the flakes right off, a soothing effect that leaves your cuticles and nail tips alone. I personally recommend LA Colors in Confetti or Sally Hansen’s Instant Dri in Grape Split.
Wear Driving Gloves: Oh, so corny and so useful! I drive a lot for work, and when my hands and brain are still, the inevitable picking occurs. I recognize this issue, and after a suggestion from another picker on Calm Hands (see below), I invested in a pair ofwww.amazon.com/dp/B07PYG8FZ7 from Taiwan. Suddenly, the bloody fingers stopped, and although I’ve got a long way to go to break the cycle, a huge compulsion is currently curbed when I’ve got those bad boys on. Especially since the fingers and palms have a risen bubbly surface, which allows me to rub them repeatedly, scratching my proverbial itch to pick.
Find a Support Group: Most people associate addiction with groups such as AA. Believe it or not, there’s also some communities for pickers as well! I’m