What is onychophagia?

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What Does onychophagia Mean

Onychophagia is defined as the compulsive habit of biting the nails . It is a notion that comes from the Greek onyx (in Spanish, “nail” ) and phagein (word that translates as “eat” ).

Onychophagia is present in anxiety pictures and is usually linked to nervousness and stress . When this habit becomes chronic (that is, it develops permanently), alternatives of hunger, boredom or inactivity can be evaluated, but the possibility that it is a symptom of a mental or emotional disorder must also be considered .
Thus, it is usually determined that there are basically two types of causes that cause a person to suffer from onychophagia. In the first place, there would be psychological reasons such as anxiety, nerves, anguish, compulsive states ... And, of course, stress, be it work, social or even educational.

The second type of cause would be the so-called psychosomatic. Under this denomination, a series of cases that emotionally affect the patient would be included, such as not assuming the loss of a loved one, domestic violence, changes within the family unit, pressure for studies both in the school and in the environment. at home, not accepting the incorporation of new members to the family or more personal aspects. Among the latter would be low self-esteem, shyness or various frustrations.
Among the negative effects of this activity we can mention the transport of germs from the nails to the oral cavity and vice versa, which can cause, among other consequences, swelling of the fingers and motivate the appearance of pus.
On the other hand, those who bite their nails in a compulsive way also tend to eat the cuticle and the nearby skin, causing wounds that can be infected with microbes or viruses. Finally, it must be said that biting the nails causes long-term damage to the frontal adamantine substance that is in our teeth, which increases the possibility of contracting cavities in the affected areas.
In addition, it must be made clear that whoever is suffering from onychophagia over time may suffer another series of conditions and pathologies, such as warty formations or even what is known as chronic paronychia. The latter is an acute inflammation of the cellular tissue that exists in the hands and more precisely in the fingers.
To all of them it should be added, in the same way, that it can also give rise to other conditions such as mucous cysts, which are a kind of fluid sacs that arise in the fingers, or subungual exostosis. The latter is defined as an inflammation under the nail.
Onychophagia can be controlled from medicine with antidepressant remedies, clomipramine, fluoxetine, sertraline, paroxetine, fuvoxamine, citalopram, nefazodone, escitalopram and venlafaxine. Instead, there are specialists who prefer to prescribe small doses of antipsychotics , such as risperidone, olazopine, quetiapine, ziprasidone, and aripiprazole. Another option is to ingest vitamin B , which reduces the urge to bite your nails by increasing the level of serotonin in the brain.

On the other hand, onychophagia is treated with behavior therapy to promote a change in habits.

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