HEALTHY LIVING
11/01/2012 05:33 pm ET

Nail-Biting May Be Classified As OCD In New DSM

Are you a nail-biter?

It might be officially considered a type of obsessive compulsive disorder in the upcoming version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). Other "pathological grooming" habits like hair-pulling and skin-picking will also be included in the OCD classification, ABC News reported.

"The beauty is that a categorization in the DSM-V gives it a whole new light," Dr. Nilay Shah, medical director of the Integrated Medicine of Mount Kisco, N.Y., told ABC News. "And the research institutions can have a unified definition and approach that will lead to drug company and NIH funding."

The Toronto Star reported that nail-biting moves from being in a "not otherwise classified" disorder in the DSM to being considered an OCD behavior.

Obsessive compulsive disorder is a condition where a person keeps having obsessions (unwanted, repeated thoughts) and compulsions (behaviors where they feel like they have to do something), according to the A.D.A.M. Medical Encyclopedia. OCD can manifest as the need to count everything, being overly afraid of germs or uncleanliness, or having to check things over and over again to make sure they've been done.

Even though nail-biting is being proposed to be given this new classification in the new DSM, that's not to say that everyone who bites their nails will be diagnosed with OCD.

"As with hair pulling and skin picking, nail biting isn't a disorder unless it is impairing, distressing, and meets a certain clinical level of severity," Dr. Carol Mathews, M.D., a psychiatrist at the University of California, San Francisco, told Women's Health. Most people who bite their nails don't fit in this category, which is only comprised by "a very small minority of people."

NPR points out that "pathological grooming" behaviors -- when normal grooming turns uncontrollable -- and OCD are similar in that they both involve doing a certain behavior to the extreme.

But they also differ because "in OCD, the compulsion is really unwanted," Mathews told NPR in another interview. With pathological grooming, "it's rewarding. It feels good. When you get the right nail, it feels good. It's kind of a funny sense of reward, but it's a reward."

What do you think? Should nail-biting be considered a kind of OCD, or is this just a case of adding a label to something that didn't need one? Weigh in in the comments section below.

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