Sunday, July 18, 2010

Holy Nails!

Nailbiting and skin picking is something I've always struggled with, even before I knew I had OCD. I have ugly hands with nails that dip way down past the quick. They sometimes bleed, and I pick and chew the cuticles and the skin around them, too. (Do you see the irony in this?! I'm a person whose OCD sometimes pertains to contamination, yet I have a nailbiting problem that leaves me with open wounds on my hands. But we already know OCD is illogical!) Perhaps it's an overlap into trichotillomania, I don't know, but there's definitely a nervousness-->compulsion-->satisfaction component involved.

Anyway, I was on vacation from work this week. That meant less time sitting at the computer, less time feeling frustrated by the people I work with, and less time worrying about whether I'll find a new job any time soon. It was simply free time during which my husband and I relaxed, went bicycling, paddled down a river in a canoe, and had lots of good dinners. All of this added up to the longest fingernails in a long while!

I'm hoping I can keep them growing. If anyone else out there has the same issue as I do, be it OCD-related or not, here's the most helpful advice I can offer: interrupt your fingers! While it's hard sometimes to interrupt your thoughts, it's easy to interrupt your fingers. To do so I stop and "play" a C scale on my trumpet (air trumpet, of course). The only enemy of this distraction is inattention; the air scale will work for me as long as I focus hard enough on it.

Wish me luck! : \


  1. Its funny you mention your nails as I am dealing with the same issue just now. I am a picker, too. My thumbs are permanently damaged with ridges that turn dark and I can never get them to look clean. I have been ashamed of them for many years. About 6 months ago, I actually got acrylic nails from a manicurist. I didn't like the idea of the smells bad, and it is a chemical. But I decided to push my ocd aside and give it a try. I wore a mask just like the manicurist. My nails looked normal for the first time. My cuticle picking decreased because I made a commitment to treat my nails with respect. I got a lot of compliments on my nails and my hands (and I'm no youngster). But....over time I realized that I really don't like the idea of the acrylic and needing to shell out money every few weeks for another manicure. So 2 days ago I pulled my acrylics off. It was a painful experience. And my nails underneath are weak. I left the thumbs on because of the ridges. I am still trying to decide how to deal with them. I do feel more like myself without fake nails. Thanks for posting about picking.

  2. Ah yes, the open wounds/contamination OCD contradiction! When I was at my worst, I, like many, many others out there, would have multiple cracks and bleeding crevices on my hands - all making me more susceptible to infection and illness! (Though I wasn't really very afraid of getting sick - just of feeling dirty!)

    Since finding out about my OCD, I sometimes wonder about my own tendencies to pick at my skin, too. I know everyone does it from time to time, so at what point does it become a problem? Every once in a while when I realize that I am basically picking at self-made wounds (from prior picking), I wonder why I can't just let it all be. If there isn't something to pick, I seem to create/find something to be the object of my busy fingers! It hasn't ever really been that bad, but it was always in the background. There is always at least one small wound/scab that I am picking away fact, in reading your post I just realized that I was doing just that, picking, a few minutes ago without even really registering it! I even got up and washed my hands because I got blood on them (and felt dirty as a result)...and yet...this doesn't seem strange to me! I've always done this!

  3. Oh, I can relate to this! I started nail biting at a 5 or 6. My father would go after his cuticles constantly, so I had a lot of modeling. When I started ERP, my nailbiting returned more strongly, along with a spike of trichotillomania. Learning to knit has really helped, as has painting my nails a couple times a week. Part of the habit is the tension relief, and then it becomes wanting to get things "just right" or even.

  4. Skin picking isn't OCD. It's' an impulse control disorder, also known as dermatillomania.

    I pick my finger nails and the skin around them, too. I deal with it by keeping nail polish on my nails. As long as I have nail polish on, I pick at the polish instead of my nails and skin. So I just keep them painted and they stay healthy. I can actually get them a pretty length now and don't have any more scabs around them.

  5. I am a skin picker too, and I have OCD. Two years ago, I took a 5 day, solo kayak trip down the Green River through Canyonlands National Park. Being in the wilderness reduces my OCD more than any medication has ever done for me. However, on my flight home to Chicago, I began picking the skin on my fingers. It was like, I was experience the stress of returning to civilization.

  6. Nice to find your blog! I am going to link yours on mine. I am a skin picker, as well. I pick my face, lips, ears, and back and sometimes my head. Come visit my blog and comment as you like!