Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Dermatophagia and Trichophagia

 One of the things that Monster Man has been dealing with for a very long time (since well before his diagnosis) is biting his own fingers.  It started out with nail-biting and progressed into chewing on the skin around his nails. I cannot remember the last time that I actually had to clip Monster Man's fingernails because he's bit them down so short for so long.  

At first, we didn't realize that this was in any way, shape, or form related to Tourette Syndrome.  A few months after his diagnosis, I started noticing that other parents were talking about how they fight the chewing by using things such as chewelry (jewelry that can be chewed on).  With all the posts I was seeing online in the Tourettes groups that I am on, I came to realize that chewing of skin (whether it be on the fingers, the toes, or wherever), as well as the chewing of hair, is very common in the TS world.

I finally discovered today that there are actually names for the chewing of skin and hair.  Those that chew on their skin most likely suffer from dermatophagia, while those that chew on their hair most likely suffer from trichophagia.  Both conditions are not part of Tourette Syndrome itself, but are actually part of a TS comorbid... Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.  

In my reading on dermatophagia, I came to realize that it is something I've always struggled with myself.  I have always chewed the inside of my mouth, often leaving sores on the inside of my cheek and on the inside of my lip.  As a kid, I tried to control it either by chewing on pencils or chewing gum.  I ended up with TMJ in middle school, and I had to cut back on the gum chewing.  I've been chewing the inside of my mouth off and on ever since.

I still haven't found something to help Monster Man compensate for the need to chew his fingers.  We've tried multiple times, unsuccessfully, to at least limit how much he chews on his fingers. He often chews on them until they bleed or scab, and we're concerned about the possibility of infection if he doesn't start controlling how much he chews.  We're hoping something will come to us soon, but at least we know now what we're really dealing with. 

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