Dermatophagia: Skin Eating Disease

Dermatophagia, or the act of eating one’s own skin, is not a common disorder. However, there are some cases where it is present in people with mental illness. It can be seen as an obsessive-compulsive disorder that may also have a genetic component to its aetiology.

The condition of dermatophagia is sometimes referred to as “skin eating disorder.” It can be defined as a type of obsessive-compulsive disorder that causes the individual to commit random acts of self-harm and includes picking and chewing at their skin until it bleeds.

This dangerous behavior may disrupt the integrity and appearance of the epidermis, which can lead to infection or serious injury. Some things that may trigger dermatophagia are feeling down or being stressed, not being able to concentrate on anything else other than thoughts about one’s skin.

What is Dermatophagia?

The condition of dermatophagia is sometimes referred to as “skin eating disorder.”

-Do you gnaw your fingers, especially the skin around your nails?
-While eating your skin, your flesh is bleeding but you can’t stop yourself?
-Do you know this is an unthealthy obsession, but you still can’t stop yourself?

If yes, look at the photos below.

If your fingers are like this, you probably have a psychological problem called dermatophagia.

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dermatophagia: skin eating disease 1

Many People With Dermatophagia Don’t Do It Consciously

It is a disease that occurs in adults by biting, tearing off the skin around the fingers and nails, and even in the form of eating.

Many people with dermatophagia don’t do it knowingly. These people don’t realize they’re eating their finger skins. Even if they realize, they do not try to prevent this behavior.

Although it is a very common disease in the society, it is a very rare subject in the medical literature.
People who do this often don’t talk about this problem, they rarely go to the doctor.

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At the same time, as it rarely causes a health problem, it rarely needs to be treated. However, wounds around the hand with open wounds can cause a person to be hospitalized.

Michael Scott Jr., father-son psychosomatic dermatologist. and Michael Scott III, in 1997, wrote in the scientific journal Cutis:

Dermatophagia is not as rare as some reports claim. However, it is hardly mentioned in textbooks. Specifically, this disorder is defined as a neurotic and obsessive habit of causing a person to break their limbs with their own teeth.

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Why Do People Bite Finger Skin?

It is not yet known exactly why but it can be treated. Although it’s related to stress and anxiety, research shows that such behavior is not always a response to stress or anxiety. In some investigations, it was revealed that there is no need for stress or anxiety to see this biting behavior. On the other hand, stress and anxiety increase the likelihood and frequency of this behavior.

Dermatophagia means ‘skin eater’ in Latin.

Similarly, this condition has been associated with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). However, such claims are not strong and sufficient. For the first time, this disorder coexisted with other “pathological care issues” in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Illness (DSM) in 2013.

However, not everyone agrees that this is related to the OCD. A psychiatrist at the University of California at San Francisco, Carol Mathews says:

The obsessions seen in the OCD are really unwanted obsessions. However, the individual feels good when eating nails pathologically. It feels really good. She feels good when she gets rid of her nail or crooked skin. This is a strange sense of reward; but ultimately a reward. Behaviors such as hair pulling, skin eating, nail biting should not be seen as a disorder unless they affect daily life and require certain clinical urgency.



J. Koebler. People Who Chew On Their Own Skin Have A Disorder Called Dermatophagia.

Last Updated on December 10, 2022 by Lucas Berg


10 thoughts on “Dermatophagia: Skin Eating Disease”

  1. My daughter has had this problem since age 3. She is now 13. It hasn’t stopped and I am ready for another technique/treatment for her to retrain her habit.

    1. Marilyn Walker

      Hello there; I hope your daughter will recover soon.
      I will post the related behavior training tools here. However, my advice will be to research emdr therapy first.

      I also wish you to become a member of our facebook group.

  2. I have this problem never knew others did. I’m now 40 and my right hand is offten a mess. I try wearing gloves to prevent me from doing this and trying very hard to stop because of injury and infections especially with covid.

  3. The images on this article are extremely triggering. I could not read the text because of how graphic they were. I would encourage you all to tone it down a little bit.

    thank you

  4. Where can I find a psychiatrist to help with the therapy? I am 50 and have had rhis condition since around the age of 11 or 12.

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