Nail tic disorders: Manifestations, pathogenesis and management

Indian J Dermatol Venereol Leprol. Jan-Feb 2017;83(1):19-26. doi: 10.4103/0378-6323.184202.


Nail tic disorders are classic examples of overlap between the domains of dermatology and psychiatry. They are examples of body-focused repetitive behaviors in which there is an irresistible urge or impulse to perform a certain behavior. The behavior is reinforced as it results in some degree of relief and pleasure. Nail tic disorders are common, yet poorly studied and understood. The literature on nail tic disorders is relatively scarce. Common nail tics include nail biting or onychophagia, onychotillomania and the habit tic deformity. Some uncommon and rare nail tic disorders are onychoteiromania, onychotemnomania, onychodaknomania and bidet nails. Onychophagia is chronic nail biting behavior which usually starts during childhood. It is often regarded as a tension reducing measure. Onychotillomania is recurrent picking and manicuring of the fingernails and/or toenails. In severe cases, it may lead to onychoatrophy due to irreversible scarring of the nail matrix. Very often, they occur in psychologically normal children but may sometimes be associated with anxiety. In severe cases, onychotillomania may be an expression of obsessive-compulsive disorders. Management of nail tic disorders is challenging. Frequent applications of distasteful topical preparations on the nail and periungual skin can discourage patients from biting and chewing their fingernails. Habit-tic deformity can be helped by bandaging the digit daily with permeable adhesive tape. Fluoxetine in high doses can be helpful in interrupting these compulsive disorders in adults. For a complete diagnosis and accurate management, it is imperative to assess the patient's mental health and simultaneously treat the underlying psychiatric comorbidity, if any.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Disease Management*
  • Humans
  • Mental Disorders / diagnosis
  • Mental Disorders / psychology
  • Mental Disorders / therapy
  • Nail Biting / psychology*
  • Nail Biting / therapy*
  • Nail Diseases / diagnosis
  • Nail Diseases / psychology
  • Nail Diseases / therapy
  • Tic Disorders / diagnosis
  • Tic Disorders / psychology*
  • Tic Disorders / therapy*