A little OCD

Sometimes a seemingly insurmountable problem can be solved by the most insignificant thing. nail biting 50s.jpeg

Hello! My name is This Girl and I’m a recovering cuticle-biter. Shredded and ripped raw and bleeding, in some cases down to my knuckles.

I tried meditation to be more mindful and I’ve covered fingers in bandaids to prevent my own access. Offended friends thought I found them boring. Self-conscious, I’d wrap my fingers into my palm when I had to write in a meeting so my colleagues wouldn’t see the mess of my hands. I once tried a manicure but the beautician kept on and on about the torn skin on my fingers. Little did she know how much I had to psych myself up to make an appointment.

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I’ve never known how to stop but I do remember when it started.

Around the age of seven, I was sick for much of the year. I returned to school and into the next grade. Overwhelmed by what I missed and anxious about what I didn’t know, I started snacking on my own hands. That was almost 40 years ago.


Heading to Cairns at Christmas time I had a vision of myself poolside with painted toe nails. A little, ‘Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous’. The pedicure went swimmingly. Then while I was paying, the nail technician asked about a manicure.

For some inexplicable reason, I felt I wouldn’t be judged. I told her about my nasty little habit. Eager for a sale she said no problem.

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She trimmed my cuticles, and filed, buffed, and efficiently painted and dried my nails. It was like watching a Ford assembly line. There was no comment or reaction.

Once she’d finished she looked at me and said – ‘Just one week. Try not to chew your fingers for just one week. They will get better.’

OCD cycle

I walked out sporting fabulous nails and I decided I didn’t want to chew them anymore. Even better, the shellac nail polish was so thick, I couldn’t get my cuticles into my mouth if I tried.

I’m not saying I haven’t had a scratch and that my dry skin hasn’t peeled in places, but I feel pretty much cured of something I thought I could never escape.

This and other behaviours like hair pulling or skin picking are now considered a mental health issue, and there’s a view that they arise from an emotional disturbance. Duh. But the latest is that they sit within the obsessive compulsive disorder classification. It makes perfect sense. As an adult I don’t have to be so worried about not knowing something. I’m not a little girl anymore. But behavioural patterns become entrenched and they need concrete strategies to break them.

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Saved by nail polish.

When I look at my nails now I think – don’t they look great! Rather than – what can I pick next? Whodathunk?

I love my nails now. I like to call the colour Tiffany Blue but I believe it’s just number 49.



I go to Metro Nails and Hair, Wellington Centre, Hobart.

How have you said goodbye to an old habit?

Here’s an interesting post I can relate to by a former nail biter.

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