Psychological problems can often cause people to harm themselves. This can take the form of a behavioral disorder, an addiction or a compulsion. Forty-year-old John Gardener from Wigan, England had suffered from chronic anxiety and depression for a long time and started biting his fingernails as a result. But what seemed like a harmless nervous habit ended up having tragic consequences. John's story is a sad one that will hopefully serve as a warning to all of us.
When John was only 10 months old doctors diagnosed him with diabetes and for the rest of his life he needed insulin injections twice a day. The illness led to further health problems and John developed a serious heart condition. In 2011 his leg was so badly damaged by ulcers resulting from his diabetes that it had to be amputated. At this point John's psychological problems began to get worse.
As the years went on John's fingernail biting became more intense. Dr. Daniel Vernon was treating John at the time and reported that his fingernails were constantly in bad condition and that he had most likely lost all sense of feeling in his fingertips.
This loss of feeling meant that no matter how badly he chewed on his nails, John could not feel any pain. The situation got so bad that he often ended up at the hospital with severe bleeding.
Finally things got as bad as they possibly could. John's fingers became horribly infected with sepsis which spread rapidly through his body. John was given antibiotics to fight the infection but they didn't help and his fingers had to be amputated. At first it seemed that the operation was a success. His condition improved and the fever caused by the infection was gone. But unfortunately for John, this was only a temporary reprieve.
Shortly after his 40th birthday John died of a heart attack. It was later determined that it was caused by the sepsis infection he had suffered as a result of biting his fingernails.
John's death came as a shock to everyone, especially his mother who made this comment: “It’s really hit our family hard, there could’ve been more done to help him. I wouldn’t want this to happen to anyone else’s son — it’s just devastating."
John's story is truly a sad one, but it can also serve as a warning not to take psychological problems lightly and to seek professional help as early as possible. Anxiety, depression, eating disorders and other obvious changes in behavior that are causing harm to that person or to others must always be taken very seriously. Because as John's case shows us, even supposedly harmless habits such as fingernail biting can have severe and tragic consequences.