Dermatophagia Causes

Dermatophagia is a medical condition which lies under the heading of obsessive compulsive disorder OCD. Dermatophagia is derived from two Greek words i.e. derma means skin and phagia means to eat. In this condition patient bite and chew his skin. People with this anxiety disorder are known as wolf biters. People suffering from dermatophagia, usually bite their nails, cuticles, nail folds and hangnails. Other than fingertips, patient bite his cheeks skin from inside of mouth. Cut his lips also. People usually start by biting and chewing skin around nails and then start chewing other parts. People do this to relax themselves when they are under stress conditions. When patient is mentally disturbed, he find it pleasure to bite and chew his skin around nails. It is kind of relaxing to them. Patient experience combined feeling of pain and pleasure. This is uncontrollable and patient find it difficult to stop biting and chewing his skin. As it an anxiety disorder, so it may occur due to many reasons. Some of the common causes are discussed below.


  • It is not just a habit, but a separate disorder with specific signs and symptoms. 
  • Dermatophagia works as a defense mechanism in response to:
  • Stress: when patient is in mental stress and thinks a lot, unintentionally he start biting his fingertips and do it again and again. He is so into thinking that he even do not notice this. Patient find it stress relieving so he do it again and again for pleasure and relaxing. 
  • Childhood trauma: any kind of trauma or head injury may lead to mental disturbances and patient develop dermatophagia as a defensive mechanism. 
  • Genetics: genetic mutation is counted a cause behind dermatophagia. Mutation in a specific gene leads to mental disorder or mental uncomforting, so patient develop dermatophagia to combat this condition. 
  • Boredom: sometimes boredom also leads to nail biting and this nail biting leads to a severe condition i.e. chewing and biting of skin around nails. 
  • Depression; when an incident occurs in patient’s life and he can’t get rid of thinking about it, then dermatophagia works as a defensive mechanism to relax patient. When patient start biting his skin, he feels relax and comfortable. 
  • Nervousness: when patient is feeling nervous, like during an interview or on 1st meeting with any member or during presentation, they start biting their nails and skin around them to combat nervousness and anxiety they are facing. And normally they stop biting nails and skin when nervousness ends. 
  • Chemical imbalance: dermatophagia may also develop due to hormonal changes and any kind of chemical imbalance in our body. Patient behaves strange and bite his fingertips as a mind relaxing behavior. 
  • Obsession with body image: when patient feel obsession with his body physique, he feel nervousness and as a result dermatophagia develops. Patient start biting his nails and skin around them again and again until nervousness ends and patient eel mentally relaxed. 
  • All the reported possible causes of dermatophagia are mentioned above and symptoms appeared are not related to the leading cause behind it.
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