What is Dermatophagia?

Dermatophagia is derived from two Greek words i.e. derma means skin and phagia means eating. It is a compulsion disorder in which patient behave like gnawing or eating his own skin. Patient mostly eat his fingers and cut down skin with his teeth. Patient bite his fingers and it sometimes leads to bleeding and discoloration. In a worse state, patient can also eat his finger flesh.


Recent research have shown that there is a link between impulse control disorders and obsessive compulsive disorders. Patient chew his skin out like it is compulsory and can start biting his other parts of body. Mostly fingers are involved and secondly skin around the joints. Patient even bite or chew their mouth skin from inside and lips and cheeks. Excessive biting will lead to formation of blisters in and outside of mouth. If behavior of patient is not checked for a long term, patient may develop calluses at biting site. Patient when start biting, he do it in a continuous manner and find it compulsory. Patient feel helpless and cannot stop himself from biting. It normally occurs when patient is mentally disturbed, or thinking deep about anything, planning something or in trouble. All kind of unpleasant events leads to Dermatophagia. When blisters are formed on skin, patient feel like a desire come true and start biting that site again. Excessive biting makes the skin numb or dead which makes it easy to pull skin. Excessive biting may cause skin problems like skin infections can occur. People with dermatophagia are considered more prone to skin infections. Because after biting and taking off skin, it becomes open to bacteria and viruses, so it got infected. This condition resembles trichophagia in which patient finds it compulsory to eat or bite his hairs. That’s why it is said that dermatophagia is a sister disorder to trichophagia.  Dermatophagia is also known as body focused repetitive behavior BFRB. It is not considered a habit but it is a disorder which may get worse with time. The signs and symptoms involve following behavioral activities:

1. Patient bite and chew his body skin again and again until bleeding occurs or get damaged.
2. Mostly finger tips are involved because it normally starts with nail chewing.
3. The color of skin turns red due to excessive biting and skin looks raw.
4. In worst condition, bleeding occurs and infection occurs.
5. Damaged skin looks like discolored, scaring and calluses formation.
6. It may initiate with any depressing event and gradually become a part of life.

It is more common in women as compare to men. There are some risk factors which may interfere with dermatophagia and make it worse. These risk factors may involve environment full of dirt and pollutants. Age is another factor because this disorder mostly occur at the age of puberty. Stress, anxiety and any kind of mental disturbances also leads to dermatophagia and make it worse. Patient temperament also matters a lot in dermatophagia. As short tempered people can have worst state of dermatophagia.
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