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Hair Pulling, Nail Biting, Skin Peeling and Biting

Asked by on with 1 answer:

All my life I’ve bitten my nails. It’s caused me a lot of trouble, especially with my bipolar mother who has always thought screaming and shouting at me (and often a smack when I was younger) would make me stop.

At around 7 I also started biting and peeling the skin on my fingers which has caused a lot of social and health issues for me from being to ashamed to join in with prayers at school, to getting my fingers getting a fungal infection causing long lasting damage to my fingers.

Soon after I started to pull out the tiny hairs on my legs during school assembles and by 12 I began to pull my eyebrow hair out.

How can I stop doing this to myself? I don’t even realise I’m doing it half the time (I started biting the skin around my fingers just writing this and caused it to bleed a little). I’m afraid to bring this up with my parents because of how they have reacted in the past and I’m far too embarrassed to ask anyone I would typically trust. It has severally impacted how I interact with people and doesn’t exactly help with my already awful self-steam.

I’d appreciate any advice you can provide. Thank you in advance. (From the UK)

Hair Pulling, Nail Biting, Skin Peeling and Biting

Answered by on -


Technically, this condition is called dermatophagia and is often classified as an obsessive-compulsive disorder. There is a lot of very good therapy for this, and I would highly recommend seeing a cognitive-behavioral counselor for this. Therapists trained in CBT have a particular way of approaching these conditions that tend to work. Ask around to find someone trained — or use our Find Help button at the top of the page to find someone that may be near you in your country. Ask your parents for help in securing an appointment.

Wishing you patience and peace,
Dr. Dan
Proof Positive Blog @ PsychCentral

Hair Pulling, Nail Biting, Skin Peeling and Biting

Therapists live, online right now, from BetterHelp:

Daniel J. Tomasulo, PhD, TEP, MFA, MAPP

Dan Tomasulo Ph.D., TEP, MFA, MAPP teaches Positive Psychology in the graduate program of Counseling and Clinical Psychology at Columbia University, Teachers College and works with Martin Seligman, the Father of Positive Psychology in the Masters of Applied Positive Psychology (MAPP) program at the University of Pennsylvania. He is Director of the New York Certification in Positive Psychology for the Open Center in New York City and on faculty at New Jersey City University. Sharecare has honored him as one of the top 10 online influencers on the topic of depression. For more information go to: He also writes for Psych Central's Ask the Therapist column and the Proof Positive blog.

APA Reference
Tomasulo, D. (2018). Hair Pulling, Nail Biting, Skin Peeling and Biting. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 28, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 May 2018 (Originally: 26 Mar 2018)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 May 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.