As any hen-pecked husband can attest to — nagging is one of the most unpleasant behavior traits a person can have. Nagging can itself turn into an obsessive-compulsive behavior that needs modifying of its own!
What to do if you’re nagged about your picking
If your parent or spouse nags you about your compulsive picking disorder, they aren’t treating the problem as seriously as they should. Understand that they probably think of it as simply a bad habit, not a true disorder.
The best thing you can do is communicate to your parent or partner that you have a real problem — but to do that you have to realize it yourself and own up to it.
Seeing a mental health professional for diagnosis of an impulse control or anxiety disorder — or an even more serious problem — is a good first step. The issue of a parent or partner’s nagging behavior can be raised in the company of a therapist — who is a neutral third party. A therapist can provide an objective opinion on how to remove nagging from your relationship. After that, seek out psychological treatments for the underlying disorder.
What to do if you nagged someone else about their picking
Its intuitively obvious to most people — even naggers — that nagging doesn’t help a relationship. But its very hard to refrain from nagging your child or spouse/partner to stop picking when you see it happening. Just know that nagging will not solve anything, and will probably worsen things.
Keep the following things in mind if you catch yourself nagging your beloved little finger picker:
- Nagging is disrespectful
- Nagging creates resentment
- Nagging can make your spouse or child feel inadequate — which will only increase their shame and guilt from picking
- Nagging makes your spouse defensive
- Nagging puts you in the parent role — which isn’t a healthy dynamic if its your spouse you’re nagging
Follow the same recipe as you would if you were in the nag-ees shoes:
The risk of contracting a disease from compulsive picking behavior is usually the last thing on a compulsive picker’s mind. They’re more focused on the boredom, shame, nervousness, guilt, anxiety, stress, etc. — that both cause picking and (in a cruel twist) frequently result from picking.
Maintaining fingernail health is an important reason to not pick your fingers and skin around the fingernail. Picking exposes the deeper layers of skin — and other areas such as the cuticles and nail plate — to the fungus and bacteria that live all around us. And there are some extremely freaky fingernail diseases that you don’t want to get!
However, there is also the risk that some diseases — both related and unrelated to picking — can be spread by open sores on the body. Nail Fungus and bacteria can be easily spread to other people through touching. Further, skin and blood-borne diseases such as HIV, Hepatitis B/C and certain viral fevers can all be passed to others by contact with open sores.
Thankfully, few compulsive finger pickers ever go so far in injuring themselves that this becomes a danger.
Make no mistake — Kava is powerful stuff to treat both the causes of compulsive finger picking, skin picking and other obsessive compulsive-type disorders (OCD). Kava extract in the proper doses can reduce the feelings of stress, anxiety and nervousness that frequently precede each act of compulsive picking. It has a soothing and euphoric effect on the mind, and has been shown to focus the mind on the task at hand. This alone would be a helpful thing to OCD suffers who usually look to their compulsive behavior as the thing to focus on. Kava can be a helpful tool in your efforts to modify your behavior.
Unfortunately, controversy over Kava’s rare toxicity has led to tight regulations — and even bans — in many western countries. If you live in the following countries, you may be out of luck for real Kava extract (unless you go black market, that is ):
- Most EU countries (France, Netherlands, Switzerland, UK)
Whether the obstacle to Kava’s mainstream acceptance is the powerful pharmaceutical industry lobbying groups or crusading health bureaucrats — is hard to say. “Big Pharma” always has lots to lose by herbal competition for its synthetic antidepressant drugs. And bureaucrats love to bark orders and dictate what’s good and what’s bad for people.
Let’s hope that Kava and other natural remedies will emerge from the current cloud of doubt that surrounds them.
At last count over 18% of American’s suffer from an anxiety-related disorder such as obsessive compulsive disorder — together with the so-called OCD-spectrum disorders like body dysmorphic disorder and impulse control disorder. Quite frequently a compulsive finger picking habit is a symptom of these types of anxiety-related psychological disorders.
Extreme anxiety is characterized by an irrational or illogical worry not based on facts.
You might have a full-blown Anxiety Disorder if:
- You think everyone will notice the slight imperfections on your skin or fingers — which drives you to pick at them in an effort to “smooth” or “even them out”.
- Your compulsive skin picking habit creates real, unsightly skin damage. Your shame and guilt from picking causes you to avoid crowds of people — even to stay home for long periods — so as not to expose your embarrassing problem to the world.
- You go into a hypnotic trance when you pick and feel somehow disconnected from your body (De-realization). You use picking as a way to “check out” from your body and reduce stress.
Treatments for Anxiety Disorder
The standard treatments for Anxiety Disorder are the same as those for other disorders related to compulsive picking, including:
This “drug” — St John’s Wort — is an odd-ball in the realm of antidepressant drugs. For one thing — its totally natural, not synthesized. This is in contrast to drugs like Prozac, Paxil and Zoloft — all of them Frankenstein-like creations of chemistry genius.
For another thing, it has an infamous reputation in traditional agriculture. Unlike herbs such as chamomile and kava — each revered through the ages for their therapeutic effect — St John’s Wort has long been the bane of cattlemen and farmers alike, due to its toxicity to both grazing animals and regular planted crops. Not only is it a “super-weed” that can crowd out staple crops in a matter of weeks, it can effect cattle in some darn right scary ways — including destroying the central nervous system, causing spontaneous abortion and even death.
St John’s Wort is native to Europe, the Mediterranean, Russia, India and China. It was introduced to North America and grows wild in many meadows — probably in your area if you look closely enough.
The gold chemical inside of St John’s Wort is called Hypericum — an extract that has proven successful treating depression as well as various anxiety disorders. It acts similar to the synthesized antidepressants in that it is a so-called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor. However, where cost is a concern Hypericum wins out against these other drugs because of the natural overabundance of St John’s Wort. When one man’s weed is another man’s wonder drug, you’ve got a good symbiosis happening .
Hypericum is available over the counter, without a prescription in most western countries. Its also marketed in herbal tea and tincture form.
Paxil is the name given by pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline to its brand of the antidepressant drug — Paroxetine.
Like Prozac and Zoloft — Paxil is a so-called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI). English Translation: it prompts your body to pump out more serotonin when it really needs it — when you’re anxious, nervous, or bored and you start digging into your fingernail, cuticles and hangnails.
In 1997 Paxil was the first officially approved SSRI-type antidepressant to be approved to treat obsessive compulsive disorder. This marks it as the first pharmaceutical treatment for an anxiety disorder related to compulsive finger picking.
Because Paxil interacts less with other drugs than other SSRI antidepressants, it is considered the “cleanest” SSRI drug on the market.
Another of the antidepressant drugs such as Prozac and Paxil — Zoloft (chemical name: Sertraline hydrochloride) has been on the market for over 15 years, and has a history dating back to experimental antidepressants from the 1970s.
Zoloft is most often prescribed to treat clinical depression. However, it was approved in 2003 in the US for use by children under the age of 18 — not just for for depression but for other related disorders. It has proven successful in treating symptoms of anxiety disorders such as obsessive compulsive disorder (ODC) and the so-called OCD “spectrum disorders” — impulse control disorder and body dysmorphic disorder, among others.
Zoloft acts on the chemical serotonin in ways similar to the most common antidepressant drugs — it regulates and boosts the levels in the nervous system, thereby providing actual chemical changes in the body that affect mood and emotional outlook.
For extreme cases of compulsive finger picking, clinical depression may result. In these cases — and where the compulsive picking habit has with an obsessive-compulsive root cause, use of an antidepressant drug such as Prozac may prove successful.
In pharmo-speak, PROZAC (chemical name: Fluoxetine hydrochloride) inhibits the “re-uptake” of serotonin in the brain. English translation: it gives your brain a controlled serotonin injection — and serotonin feels goooooood. Specific to the picking problem, the effects of Prozac can decrease the symptoms of OCD.
Studies have shown Prozac to be effective for disorders related to OCD — including compulsive finger and compulsive skin picking for up to 6 months. During this time its essential to engage in some form of behavioral modification therapy, so that one’s compulsive habits don’t relapse once the Prozac treatment is ended.
Massage is one of the oldest forms of medical care — practiced in societies around the world. Ancient massage therapy traditions exist in Greece, India, Japan, China and Egypt. Thanks to modern-day communications and inter-cultural training, practitioners today have an array of techniques at their disposal to bring to bear on the stress associated with compulsive finger picking.
Constantly picking at the fingernails, cuticles, or other parts of the hand can actually overstress the tendons and ligaments of the other hand that’s doing the picking. Massaging the forearms, elbows and hands can alleviate this stress. Cracking the knuckles also can relieve stress in the finger joints — though since that can lead to a problem on its own (not arthritis ) its not recommended.
If you feel that your picking rises to an obsessive-compulsive level, or else a high level of anxiety is present right before you pick, consider the following self-massage regimen to calm your nerves when the urge to pick comes:
- Warm a couple ounces of olive oil
- Apply the oil to the parts of your body that are tense (neck, shoulders, chest, arms, etc)
- Work some oil into your scalp
- Work some oil into your forehead and face
- Use your palms when massaging — kneading your muscles isn’t required
- Massage along the long bones of your body using a circular motion
- Massage your chest, abdomen and back (as far as you can reach)
- Massage your feet, especially the instep and arch
- Wrap it up with a hot steam, bath or shower
Meditation is an interesting treatment option for those whose compulsive finger picking habit has an obsessive-compulsive root cause. Interesting because the act of picking itself — whether the fingernails, skin, or hair — are often done for the trance-like, meditative effect. Picking smooths nerves and anxiety — its a form of self-hypnosis.
If not for the physical damage and life disruption that compulsive picking causes, there would be little to complain about. But the shame and guilt associated with the damage, together with the disruptive, desperate measures to which suffers will go to avoid embarrassment in public — these require treatment on several levels. Meditation can be an important part of this treatment.
Meditations for Compulsive Picking
- Yoga — particularly Hatha Yoga — is excellent as it combines physical rejuvenation, stretching and strengthening, together with relaxation
- Prayer — whether religious, to God, Jesus, Allah or some other “higher power” — this ancient form of meditation can’t be overlooked
- Habit Reversal Training (HRT) is a holistic approach to eliminating impulse control disorders centered around meditation