NAIL-BITING may be classified as a type of obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) in the upcoming edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V).
Other “pathological grooming” habits such as hair-pulling and skin-picking – collectively known as trichotillomania – will also be included in the OCD classification.
The DSM-V, published by the American Psychiatric Association, is known as the “Bible of psychiatrists”.
It is used by international clinicians, researchers, psychiatric drug regulation agencies, health insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies and policy makers.
According to Wikipedia, obsessive compulsive disorder is characterised by intrusive thoughts that produce repetitive behaviors aimed at reducing anxiety.
Symptoms can include excessive cleaning, repeated checking, hoarding and nervous rituals such as opening and closing a door several times before entering or leaving a room.
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Sydney forensic psychiatrist Dr Robert Kaplan has written several papers on the subject, identifying seemingly harmless habits such as hair-pulling, face picking and nail-biting as signs of psychiatric disorder.
“(Trichotillomania) is a very interesting phenomenon,” he said. “You see it in children of primary school age and you also see it in adult men and women.
“If you talk to sufferers you find that they are very stressed and embarrassed about it.”
Dr Kaplan said trichotillomania affected between eight per cent to 14 per cent of women and slightly fewer men.
The proposed classification of nail-biting and other forms of “pathological grooming” does not mean that all finger-munchers will be diagnosed with OCD.
“As with hair pulling and skin picking, nail biting isn’t a disorder unless it is impairing, distressing and meets a certain clinical level of severity,” Dr. Carol Mathews, a psychiatrist at the University of California, San Francisco, told US website Women’s Health.
Most people who bite their nails don’t fit in this category, which is only comprised by “a very small minority of people,” she said.