My name is Contessa and I bite my fingers

Cannibal queen you better sit on those hands!
Cannibal queen you better sit on those hands!

So my dirty little secret is coming out for some line drying.  I have nibbled on my fingers for as long as I can remember and still do to this day.  It is certainly a disgusting habit that has crossed the line into addiction/obsessive, and I’m writing about it in hopes that admitting to the world, that my chances of actually stopping for good will increase. I notice it getting worse the older I get and I don’t think my hands can handle it for much longer.

There’s apart of it that can look flirty and teasing…

It’s a great posture for picture taking…

This takes a lotta control.
This takes a lotta control.

It’s always been a problem, it’s always been awkward, and painful, and has always brought a bag full of negative emotions on my life.  Yet, at the same time one of those habits that was never deemed bad enough to get any real serious attention.  I don’t have an addictive personality and the only other thing that I must have consistently in my life is change, so this one habitual action that I haven’t been able to change has hit it’s tipping point.

I've actually tried wearing gloves and I actually would bite right through.
I’ve actually tried wearing gloves and I actually would bite right through.

There’s a point when it gets a little out of hand…

nail biting 2

I remember being pre-teen and my oldest sister’s friend from london was visiting us in NY.  She was in medical school and working in psych ward.  She randomly told us a story about one of her residents that bit her finger nails to the extreme.  Pretty much, she was knawing away the tips of her fingers.  She had nibbled away the actual finger nails long ago and now continued to what was left.  Her finger tips were starting to turn black, but there wasn’t much they could do.  (btw, as I reread this sentence, I realize I have my finger in my mouth) This story has haunted me my entire life, and I’m terrified that if I don’t stop I will become the lady with black finger tips.

Later on in my life I was under contract at a theatre and in rehearsals for a play in which I was cast as the wife of a high brow politician.  I was a ridiculously fun trophy wife.  While in rehearsals with stage managers and the designers, the director stopped everybody in the middle of a scene, turned to me and pointed out how nasty my nails looked and that my character could not possibly have hands that looked like that.  He then commanded the stage manager book me a manicure and fit it into the budget.  Although a free manicure was very nice, the incident was insanely embarrassing.  My habit had pulled a rehearsal to a screeching halt.

this is a tame day!
this is a tame day!

So after years upon years of trying all the suggested tips and tricks of stopping:

regular manicures

bitter tasting substances to prevent biting

assigning a close personal friend to slap away your fingers at all times

rewards for chunks of time without biting

carrying around files and clippers at all times

getting to the core of anxiety, boredom

So I’m at the bottom of the list of ideas and tactics and I’m trying this last one out…

I’ve taken myself to the fanciest drug store I know in search of bandages.  For the next two weeks I’m keeping all of my finger tips wrapped up and protected from my chompers.  Even to me this sounds like a crazy idea.  Especially because I’m working with my hands constantly.  I believe I’ve arrived at a conclusion that I chomp so much and so mindlessly because of rough edges.  So, if I have all bandages instead of finger tips, I’ll simply have to replace my old scraggly bandange with a nice new designer band-aid, instead of ripping off my skin.  At least this is the idea.

I’m on day three of bandages, and as long as the bandages stay on its working.  What it has done very successfully is make it extremely apparent every time my fingers head to my mouth.  I leave one lonely finger uncovered and I’m aware at all times if it ends up in my mouth.  This hasn’t stopped me from attacking it, but is making me completely aware how many times a day these digits go to my mouth.  And it’s scary amounts.  I realize that this isn’t going to be easy. I’m not going to all of the sudden just stop.  This has been apart of my life as long as eating food and walking on two feet.  It will be a process to undo.

So here’s to never giving up, never being ok with the status quo, and letting your dirty laundry fly if it’s going to help get it clean.

Thank you in advance to Kermit the frog, Miss Piggie, Gonzo, and the Cynthia Rowley designer bandaids that are safetly guarding the ten precious digits.

Making it humorous and stylish has made me feel a lot better about having my hands covered in bandages.
Making it humorous and stylish has made me feel a lot better about having my hands covered in bandages.

Sometimes its about the small things


From Somewhere inside a puddle

10 thoughts on “My name is Contessa and I bite my fingers

  1. I bite my nails and the skin around them, on the sides. I even make them bleed sometimes, but its a bad habit. I only do it when I’m stressed. If I have long nails and healthy fingers then you know I’m happy! Still, I’m getting better at controlling it and one day I’ll stop for good. Fingers crossed we’ll both kick it!

  2. I had the bad habit of biting my nails and the skin around them when I was younger. Now it’s progressed to picking away at the skin instead, but I’m working on trying to stop that habit as well. Know you are not alone in your quest. May you have the best of luck in your pursuit!

  3. I used to be just as bad. It was painful and bloody and gross. One day I realized that I always used a particular tooth for chewing, and onthe process that tooth was getting worn down! And it’s a front tooth, so no easy way to fix it. It was getting worn down enough that it hurt. That’s when I realized I absolutely had to stop because I didn’t want to end up having the tooth pulled and replaced with a fake. I’ve mostly stopped, but still catch myself from time to time when I’m stressed. Have you looked into EFT? Emotional Freedom Technique? That helped me as well.

    Now if I could just stop chewing the inside of my lip/cheek….

  4. I bite my nails, the skin on the side included, when I’m stressed, bored, well really anytime I notice I have fingers. 😦 Really bugs me. I have made them bleed, and sometimes I get this… undernail? That pulls up and hurts SO bad! And using files and clippers make me cringe, I DON’T KNOW WHY! 😦

  5. I have dermatillomania, so I think I kind of get where you’re coming from. I pick on the skin on my face or at my neck and shoulders and that has resulted in pimbles, inflammations and badly healing wounds. There is no particular reason for me doing that either, I realised that I usually do it during times when I’m thinking deeply and concentrating hard (for example on reading) or when I’m stressed out or bored. I’ve tried lots of different things, even putting band aids on my back and face (no good). The only thing that helps me is doing the entire opposite: Doing a facial with healing earth. I suppose covering my face and the resulting good feeling give so much attention of the positive kind that it does the trick for me. That still doesn’t take away the entire problem but it keeps this odd drive at bay, so that my skin is in a normal condition. (Still, I can’t go without it, I’m down to doing a facial every one or two days, that can’t be good, either…) But it seems your case is a tad more extreme, seeing as you even bite right through gloves and all. I hope your bandages project will work out and if not, keep trying!

  6. I saw the name of this article and immediately clicked on it. I thot ‘I bite my fingers too!’. I don’t get my nails done, or ever paint them, Plus they are not long enough. I know my parents always tell me to stop biting my nails. I don’t know if I ever will, to be honest. Sometimes I use clippers on them, but it probably doesn’t really help anything. I have tried before to stop and let them grow, it worked a tiny bit, but then I’d just bite them all off again.

  7. I was wondering how your project went.. It’s been many months since you posted your plan to use bandages and I was wondering whether it worked for you. Once the bandages went off, were you able to resist the temptation? This problem is gender-agnostic and I see that both my brother and I do it a lot. I’ve come to the point that my left index and pinky are covered in hard skin, which results into me biting even more off it. I tend to bite mostly when I’m concentrating, when I do something creative or when I’m stressed. I put my pinky in my cheek and sometimes feel the urge to push my finger in so far that I nearly gag. Just to comfort the urge of keeping my finger in my mouth. Then, when I realise what I’m doing, I take it out again. I hope the bandage technique works and I want to try it as well. Wish there was something that could turn my skin back to normal too! Let us know your results!

  8. Hi Contessa, I bite my nails, though rarely to the nub. I have always had a cuticle obsession and pick at them constantly. My hands are always busy picking. I’ve read that it is a natural grooming gene gone into overdrive. It’s a type of OCD that is reward based since it also gives pleasure – you know, when you get that right piece of skin or nail (gross right?)? . Not like the OCD that is fear based, like driving home to see if you locked the door – for the third time. I also have trichotillomania which is pulling individual strands of hair out, on my head, on my eyebrows and eyelashes. What they all these “ticks” have in common is this overgrooming/OCD gene. I just like knowing that it has a name. The thing that has always helped me is having my hands busy on a napkin, thread, paper or pen when I am feeling most anxious or when I really need to concentrate (see executive function disorder for more about that!). I also ALWAYS carry grooming tools with me; tweezers, cuticle cutters, nail file, scissors; so that I have no excuse to use my teeth or fingers to groom. It helps a lot. I still have my hands in my mouth way too much and my 7 year old has started to do the same. I have a strong desire to stop, but realize I may never have it completely under control, but better is still really good.

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