Could I get nerve damage from what I'm doing?
September 3, 2019 9:19 AM   Subscribe

I like to dig my fingernails very hard into my arms and stomach. I also bite my hands and arms. I don't do it hard enough to draw blood. I'm just wondering if it could lead to last damage besides marks on the skin.
posted by catbird to Health & Fitness (7 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
Why do you do it? If it's a response to stress or anxiety, it can escalate to self-harm; I have a relative who went from pinching her arms very hard, to cutting.
posted by Pastor of Muppets at 9:49 AM on September 3, 2019


It's an effective way to deal with emotions like anger, frustration, or just basically hating my life. I have extremely low tolerance for stress. Like, when I'm trying to learn something and it doesnt take after lots of time.
posted by catbird at 10:03 AM on September 3, 2019


It's actually not an effective way to deal with any problem. Look into getting counselling and treatment for anxiety. If learning is so difficult, maybe you could be assessed for learning anomalies and find new ways to make absorbing new information easier. Hurting yourself is not going to make your life better or easier. Take care of yourself the way you would take care of a loved sibling.
posted by Enid Lareg at 10:27 AM on September 3, 2019 [7 favorites]


Regardless of whether or not this is a good coping mechanism, it’s one you use, and it sounds like you’re interested in the physical sensation it gives you and looking to avoid harm. I don’t have actual answers about the specifics of what risks you’re undertaking, but kink/BDSM resources are likely to be able to help you get the information you’re looking for—the stuff you’re doing to yourself is stuff lots of people consensually do to each other, and there’s plenty of advice out there about how to do it safely. I’d strongly recommend looking into online or in-person BDSM safety education to help you keep yourself undamaged.
posted by some_kind_of_toaster at 10:36 AM on September 3, 2019 [12 favorites]


My brother is autistic and uses hand-biting (and less frequently head-banging) to deal with stress. He has developed extremely thick callouses on his fingers and has a permanent deformation of his skull as a result. Repeated trauma and inflammation, even if you don't break the skin, absolutely can cause permanent damage.
posted by drlith at 11:04 AM on September 3, 2019 [6 favorites]


I'm an emergency physician. I sew up lacerations and slashing/penetrative knife wounds all the time everywhere on the body, and have a pretty good idea of how deep wounds have to be to compromise nerves.

On the stomach and upper arms, you're looking at about 1cm deep; on the forearms, about half that.

As long as you're not breaking the skin and digging in to those depths, and causing significant bleeding ( which evidently you're not), i wouldn't worry about doing permanent damage. If you are, you need immediate psychiatric help.
posted by BadgerDoctor at 2:08 PM on September 3, 2019 [4 favorites]


I believe that biting my arms repeatedly when I was a child led to developing epidermoid cysts when I was in my 20s. The areas on my arms correspond to the areas that were bitten, and nowhere else. I did not bite hard enough to break the skin, only to leave temporary teeth marks that went away after a while.

The doctor who diagnosed my cysts said that they generally do not require treatment unless they become infected. They look unsightly, but otherwise can be left alone. I'm mentioning this to you as a consideration that some effects from biting may not show up until years later, but it is not generally a serious effect.
posted by cynical pinnacle at 7:15 PM on September 3, 2019


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