You can know just by looking at a person’s hand, especially if they have Dermatophagia. It’s not as scary as it sounds, but it does definitely looks bad. It was like a silent disease that slowly overtook my mind. I always thought it to be a habit and I had control over it, until I realized that it was a mental disorder.
Dermatophagia, as it turns out, is actually a mental disorder related to obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). It is the obsessive urge of gnawing or eating one's own skin, most commonly at the fingers. I am actually doing that as I type this out. In this process along with damaging your skin, it is damaging to your self-esteem. What starts out as a nervous habit, slowly turns into your lifestyle that comes subconsciously. Not being able to stop is the most scariest part.
It feels like trance when you are biting. It relieves some kind of inner turmoil and I look forward to doing it daily, as if it was some kind of reward or enjoyable activity.
I have been doing this for the last 17 years ever since I was a kid. My parents have had innumerable failed attempts to get me out of this habit. Bitter juices, band-aids, gloves, etc did not stop me. It hurts, yes. But the feeling of ripping my skin is enough for me to ignore the pain. On my worst days, I bite my fingers until I bleed. I don’t mind it until I have to do something that involves showing my fingers. Just the thought of holding someone’s hand makes me shudder as all I can think of is if they can feel the callouses that have formed on my fingers.
This disorder is definitely in the mind. I am still struggling with it and haven't found a way to make it stop. It’s got nothing to do with the actual biting and now I am staring at the fact that I do suffer from a mental illness and I need help.
My body of work has pictures of my damaged fingers. My primary reason to use colors was down to the fact that whenever I used to play Holi (an Indian festival of colors) the colors would remain stuck for several days at the areas on my fingers that I have bitten. It was quite embarrassing. Hence, I have used different colors to bring out various textures that have formed on my fingers due to the biting. The white in the last image symbolizes that I wish I could get rid of the scars and this habit. My aim through this project is to bring awareness to this subject and reach out to people who suffer from Dermatophagia and let them know that even though they might feel alone in this, there are other people out there who understand what you are going through
Do not be afraid to ask for help.