FCCCaffeineQueen: Grooming each other is something primates do. It bonds us together and is comforting to both members. With physical contact being a less acceptable form of socialization, we are probably motivated to recreate the grooming ‘program’ on ourselves when we’re stressed.
mattjh: Just stopped picking at the skin around my fingernails to click on this. Count me in. Why do my idle hands try to destroy themselves?
ebilgenius: 1. It’s hard to stop once you’ve been doing it long enough because it becomes easier to do it then not to do it (i.e. to constantly remind yourself not to).
2. It’s just difficult enough to provide your fingers/mouth/brain with something to focus your spare energy on but not difficult enough to make it not worthwhile.
3. Once started, leaving the results of a half-picked/chewed area is usually more irritating then to just see the picked/chewed area through until it’s either no longer irritating or it’s too painful to continue.
SoaDMTGguy: Can confirm, chewing my lips right now.
My dog does the same thing (well, not her lips). She chews at her legs, like she’s try to scratch a spot. Maybe it’s something built into all mammals as a form of self-care?
MinecraftHardon: I clench my teeth like crazy when I’m programming. I really don’t notice until I go to get a drink or something and my jaw rests and it feels like it’s deflating.
MotherOfRavens: Skin picking disorder is considered a type of repetitive “self-grooming” behavior called “Body-Focused Repetitive Behavior”. It is caused from stress or anxiety.
viperperper: I chewed on my fingers as a teenager but since then I stopped, age may be a factor. High school stress could also be responsible.
pm-me-kittens-n-cats: It’s always with us, so it’s easier to pick up or resume bad habits. We also tend to do these things to comfort or console ourselves. It’s all in our minds.
We can, and frequently do, override senses of self preservation for to increase dopamine in our brains.
ColinWalker77: I think like all addictive tendencies it’s a matter of dopamine levels. With these specifically, it’s something akin to ticking boxes and clearing away unwanted emails. There was a recent scientific study on the front page a few weeks back about how doing such things gives gratification – even if only very subtle (I think it referred to getting rid of the red dots that come up when you don’t look at email or social media notifications, and how clicking on them clears it and reinforces the behavior).
Biologically, it’s natural to do these things, although many of them are considered outside of cultural normativeness. Take picking your nose. Practically everyone on the planet does it, and it likely comes down to clearing out bacteria once it has collected up in there. Doing the action and getting those boogers out is good for you, even though you wouldn’t want to do it in front of people you’re trying to impress. In some form or another this is reinforced by either feeling good, or fresh, or otherwise not bad (eg. picking boogers out lets you breathe again, takes weight out of your nose – even these small things are desirable compared to the alternative). Your brain over time makes positively reinforced associations with doing the behavior. That’s how we get personal grooming as a matter of hygiene reinforced over time.
Then comes the old saying: “Everything in moderation.” While it’s typical that almost everyone will observe this, at the same time almost everyone probably does some habit or activity more than moderately. This can take form in addictions, but on this scale it’s less of an addiction than a compulsion to do a small habit. You may have one habit or all of these habits. Unless it’s getting in your way and taking over a part of your life, then there’s no need to worry, you are human like everyone else. If it’s getting in the way, then tell your doctor. It’s senseless to be dishonest with your doctors. They might tell you that there’s a therapeutic solution to your habit, a medical solution, or that it’s even less of something to worry about than you suspect.
kogashiwakai: It’s more a manners thing than anything else. Things like picking your nose and nails, pulling scabs and what not is commonly considered unsavory and ‘gross’. If I’m not mistaken, originally it was considered rude to do this at the eating table only, as that was an actual hygiene issue.
But in all seriousness, do you want to see someone pulling a scab in front of you?