Clinical Report

Onychophagia as a Spectrum of Obsessive-compulsive Disorder

Przemysław Pacan, Magdalena Grzesiak, Adam Reich and Jacek C. Szepietowski
DOI: 10.2340/00015555-0646

Abstract

Onychophagia can be explained as a kind of a compulsion that may cause destruction of the nails. Habitual nail biting is a common behaviour among children and young adults. By the age of 18 years the frequency of this behaviour decreases, but it may persist in some adults. Nail biting is an under-recognized problem, which may occur on a continuum ranging from mild to severe. Nail biting has received little attention in the psychiatric and dermatological literature. Its position in widely accepted classifications of psychiatric disorders (ICD-10 and DSM-IV) remains unclear. This disorder seems to be related to obsessive-compulsive spectrum disorder. Here, we present three case reports of onychophagia and co-occurring psychopathological symptoms and discuss
the close relationship of onychophagia to obsessive- compulsive spectrum disorder and possible treatment modalities. Psychiatric evaluation of co-occurring psycho pathological symptoms in patients with onychophagia, especially those with chronic, severe or complicated nail biting, may be helpful in making a choice of individual therapy. Serotonin re-uptake inhibitors seem to be the treatment of choice in severe onychophagia.

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