How to Stop Picking at Skin on the Fingers

Man's hand
Peeling skin on fingers can be a nervous habit. (Image: BananaStock/BananaStock/Getty Images)

Picking at and peeling off the skin on your fingers can be an unconscious habit or a known behavior in which you indulge when you're stressed or upset. What may seem like a benign happening can become a medical problem in some cases; open wounds on your fingers can pick up bacteria easily and may become infected. Habits such as these can become ingrained in your neural pathways and are difficult to stop. Persistence and support can make it happen.

Step 1

Two black leather gloves
Wear gloves. (Image: toomler/iStock/Getty Images)

Install physical barriers that make picking at the skin on your fingers more difficult for you to achieve. Wear gloves during times that you are likely to indulge in your compulsive habit; affix bandages to your fingers if gloves inhibit normal activities such as cooking or writing. Buy a foul-tasting, over-the-counter nail biting prevention solution that you can paint on your fingers to discourage yourself from picking if you use your teeth to remove bits of skin and nail.

Step 2

Teenage girl (16-17) lying on bed, writing, close-up
Write in a journal. (Image: Ryan McVay/Photodisc/Getty Images)

Keep a journal that details your feelings of anxiety, depression and questioning of self-worth; in conjunction with these notations, write down the times at which you realize you are picking your fingers. Psychology Today online explains that many compulsive behaviors are triggered by anxiety and other negative emotions. Consider talking to a counselor to address your emotional health as a step toward stopping your compulsions.

Step 3

Woman walking by lake
Go for a walk. (Image: Jupiterimages/Goodshoot/Getty Images)

Stay busy to boost your self-control. KidsHealth from Nemours suggests that you distract yourself when you notice you are indulging in a bad habit. Get up and take a walk, engage in an activity that requires use of your hands or chat with a friend. Boredom can also be the cause of bad habits like peeling the skin off your fingers.

Step 4

Manicure
Get a manicure. (Image: MIlan Kostic/iStock/Getty Images)

Set a goal or reward for yourself that will keep you on the right track and help you break your habit. Goal-setting can increase your feelings of self-worth and inspire you to actively work towards your chosen reward. Pick something that you can't do when you pick at your fingers, like getting a manicure, or another special treat that you'll work towards.

Step 5

Women whispering outdoors
Ask for support from friends. (Image: Jupiterimages/Creatas/Getty Images)

Ask a spouse or friend to point out when you are picking your fingers, to help you stay accountable for your behavior. Choose someone who will not make the healing process more difficult by responding harshly and negatively each time she notices your behavior, but a person who will calmly and neutrally point out what you are doing, as you may be unaware of your actions.

Things You'll Need

  • Gloves

  • Bandages

  • Nail biting prevention aids

REFERENCES & RESOURCES
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