OCD or pathological grooming?

On the way to work this morning, I listened to a story on NPR’s Morning Edition about “pathological grooming.” Never heard of this disorder? It’s called biting your fingernails…or other similar things (hair pulling, face picking, nose wiping, etc.). Apparently, the forthcoming DSM 5 will lump it into an OCD diagnosis.

Here’s a couple of interesting tidbits from the 8 minute show.

  • Those with OCD tend to have more of a conscious awareness of unwanted repetitious impulses while pathological groomers may be more thoughtless in their nail-biting
  • Some mice with a specific genetic variant are excessive groomers, to the point of going bald, but not everyone with the gene displays the grooming habits. Thus, genes are surely part of the problem but not all
  • Given the spectrum of OCD symptoms and mental health disorders, maybe nail-biting isn’t that important to eliminate.

So, what do you think? Do you think chronic nail-biting fit better within an anxiety disorder, an addictive disorder, a tic disorder or just merely a silly habit unrelated to any mental health category?


Filed under Anxiety, Psychology

2 responses to “OCD or pathological grooming?

  1. D.S.

    Interesting subject. Just yesterday I asked a mother about the bald spots on the back of her toddler’s head, presuming it a hair cutting mishap. She said that he routinely bangs his head against the slats of his crib at night, seemingly as part of his go to sleep routine. The pediatrician told her that it is ‘normal.’ She then revealed that when she was young she pulled the hairs at one spot on her head to the extent of giving herself a bald spot. Another woman reported that she also pulled at her hairs when she was young. Not favoring any one place, she never developed a bald spot from it.

    Another time I had a woman tell me that she had OCD which manifest itself in repeatedly counting the shades of hair in the person with whom she spoke. She said she was doing it even then as she spoke with me.

    What is mental health? Is there a dividing line between health and un-health? Even if there is a line, would we say that my friend who believed she had OCD is as unhealthy as someone who spends hours consumed with cleaning their floor, and blocks anyone from entering her room, because otherwise she must begin cleaning again? If nothing else, it illustrates the conundrum of the attempt to integrate dimensional with categorical into the DSM.

  2. V

    I think addictive disorders are almost always about an underlying anxiety or depressive disorder. So, nail biting is addictive when it releases endorphins as the nailbeds bleed which can become addictive…ask cutters! With no pain involved it seems to be a compulsive disorder based in anxiety, as the act of repetition relieves built up anxiety, Hmmm. Are they all connected??

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