What is Dermatophagia and How to treat it

Muhammad Usman Babar
4 min readSep 17, 2020


Do you have a bad habit of biting the skin of your nails, lips, or the inside of your cheeks? If so, you are most likely suffering from dermatophagia, a psychological impulsive control disorder that can have serious consequences if not treated properly. However, to properly treat dermatophagia it is essential to know what prompts this bad habit in each person. In the following HOWORWHAT article, we will talk precisely about dermatophagia: what it is and how to treat it, so if you suffer from this common disorder, read carefully and discover what exactly its causes and consequences are.

What is dermatophagia

As we have seen, dermatophagia is a psychological disorder that consists of compulsive biting of the skin. It is a condition that has peculiarities of three classes of disorders: anxious, obsessive-compulsive, and impulse control, which is why people who suffer from dermatophagia are usually very nervous.

If the bites occur on time for a short period caused, for example, by an episode of stress, there is no need to worry or seek help. However, if the behavior persists or worsens, it is essential to seek specialized psychological care.

Biting the lips, biting the fingers, orbiting the inside of the cheek are the clearest symptoms of this disorder since the areas that suffer the most are the skin around the nails, the lips, and the inside of the cheeks. A person suffering from dermatophagia can bite themselves until they hurt themselves and bleed, which is a problem for the affected person’s health.

Read Also: What is the relationship between rhinitis and asthma?

Causes of dermatophagia

Although each case is different, the person who suffers from this disorder feels a reassuring pleasure when biting the skin, since doing so releases tension. This pleasure is precisely what reinforces the action and the one that leads these people to repeat the behavior, thus entering a vicious circle that is very difficult to break.

However, some people do not bite to feel pleasure but to feel pain; in this case, we would speak of self-injurious behavior that the affected person would carry out to focus on physical pain and forget emotional pain. Let’s see more specifically some causes of dermatophagia:


Extreme stress can trigger disorders such as dermatophagia since in these cases the affected person tends to bite the skin to release tension.

Anxiety and nervousness

Very nervous people are more likely to develop some OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder), so they use repetitive and compulsive actions to channel their nervousness, which would explain dermatophagia.


Depression is a mood disorder that can affect all kinds of people in different ways. In many of these cases, when someone is going through a difficult and difficult personal moment, they try to decentralize the emotional pain through self-injurious actions. In this way, physical pain becomes a “distraction” from constantly thinking about emotional pain.

Read Also: What are the health benefits of white onion?


Boredom is a feeling of demotivation that is more related to depression than we think. Although it sounds extreme, resorting to biting your skin out of boredom is a form of nervousness linked to stress and apathy.

Consequences of dermatophagia

We have already seen what the main causes of dermatophagia are, however, to better understand this disorder it is essential to see what its consequences may be:

Skin lesions: as is obvious, if the origin of this problem is not treated and the bites persist, it is most likely that skin lesions will appear. The most common are dryness and swelling, as well as irritations. Biting the lips, for example, can cause chafing and inflammation, while biting the fingers can cause minor injuries. Biting the inside of the cheeks can also cause wounds, swelling, and even infections.

Oral problems: Due to the constant compulsive use of the teeth, dermatophagia can cause dental and oral problems as well as make it difficult to swallow food.

Pain tolerance: Even if wounds bleed and hurt, a person with dermatophagia can continue to bite without problems, which is worrying about pain tolerance, as it could miss serious injuries and not treat them properly.

Other psychological disorders: although dermatophagia is a consequence of problems such as stress, anxiety, or nervousness, it can also be the cause of other more serious psychological disorders, since bites and pain can become the only coping channel to stress. If this occurs, it is essential to seek professional help to stop the vicious cycle of this behavior and address the root causes that infuse it.

Read Also: How to use baking soda to remove wrinkles

How to treat dermatophagia

Being obsessive-compulsive behavior, it is very difficult to stop biting on your own. Therefore, experts always recommend going to a specialist to receive the appropriate treatment. Keep in mind that only good psychological care will help you treat the root problem and can offer you the most appropriate solutions for your case.

In these cases, psychologists often use cognitive-behavioral therapy to modify the patient’s behavior and help him deal with problems with healthier and more effective tools. In severe cases or more difficult to treat in a short time, the professional may propose to complement the therapy with medication.

The most important thing is to bear in mind that dermatophagia has a solution and that with the right help it can be treated. The first step, and perhaps the most essential, is to

This article is merely informative, at HOWORWHAT we do not have the power to prescribe any medical treatment or make any type of diagnosis. We invite you to see a doctor in the case of presenting any type of condition or discomfort.

Originally published at https://howorwhat.com on September 17, 2020.