Half of all children and teenagers bite their nails at some point in their lives. Many individuals never get over it. If you bite your nails as an adult, it’s possible that you did so as a child and have never stopped.
It is possible that your parents are to blame. Although scientists are uncertain if nail-biting is a genetic issue, children whose parents bite their nails are more likely to do so as well. According to studies, this happens even if the parents quit doing it before their child is born.
Nail-biting can often be a symptom of emotional or mental stress. It is more common in persons who are tense, anxious, or depressed. It’s a way to deal with these feelings.
You could also find yourself doing it when you’re bored, hungry, or stressed. The majority of nail-biting is automatic; you do it without thinking.
Why do you bite your nails?
Nail-biting usually begins in childhood and can become more severe during adolescence. It’s not always apparent why people behave in this way. But once it begins, it may be difficult to manage.
1. Frustration, impatience, and boredom
Whether nail biting becomes a habit, it might become your go-to activity when you’re bored, frustrated, or even both. It’s something you do to pass the time.
Sometimes it’s just an unconscious tendency rather than a conscious choice made during intense concentration. You may be aware that you are biting your nails while trying to solve a problem.
3. Stress, anxiety
Biting your nails may be a nervous habit, or it may be an attempt to find temporary relief from stress and worry.
4. Emotional or psychological problems
Nail-biting has been linked to a variety of mental health issues, including:
- ADHD (Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder)
- Major depressive disorder (MDD)
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
- Defiant oppositional disorder
- Anxiety over separation
- Tourette’s syndrome
Not everyone who suffers from these disorders bites their nails. Similarly, biting your nails does not indicate that you have a psychological disorder.
The following are some of the risks of nail biting:
- Pain or infection in and around your nails
- Damage to the tissue that allows your nails to grow
- Changes in the appearance of your nails
- Abnormal growth
- More colds and other diseases as a result of putting dirty fingers in your mouth
- Teeth damage from chewing of hard nails
8 Ways to Stop Biting Your Nails
How can you stop nail-biting? You may try many things to stop nail biting at home. In some situations, you may wish to consult with your doctor instead of starting on your own.
Before trying to stop nail-biting, you need to consider why you bite them in the first place. Keep a record of times you feel yourself biting. Are you tired? Stressed? Hungry? You could begin to notice a pattern. Once you’ve identified your specific cause, you can focus on finding other strategies to stop nail-biting.
1. Trim or Manicure Your Nails on a Regular Basis
Long nails might be difficult to resist, so keep them short. Set up a certain day and time each week for your trim, and take care of hangnails and ragged edges, so you don’t bite them. Another alternative is to have professional manicures on a regular basis.
Spending the money and knowing that your nails will be examined soon may deter you from continuing the practice. To avoid fungal nail infection, only use licensed salons and manicurists who disinfect their equipment correctly.
2. Think of all those germs
What did you put where? When you think about it, nail-biting is rather unsanitary. You’re unlikely to wash your hands every time you bite your nails, which means you’re bringing germs into your mouth from everything you’ve touched. As a result of this, you may become ill.
So, the next time you’re tempted to bite your nails, consider all of the germs that may be hiding on your fingertips, and instead wash your hands!
3. Coat nails with bitter polish
There are a lot of people who suffer from nail-biting. That is why there are nail polishes meant to help you in stopping. If you put your nails in your mouth, they will not damage you, but the bitter taste may cause you to rethink.
You can find them anywhere nail polish is sold, or you can consult with a manicurist or dermatologist for more suggestions.
4. Wear gloves or wrap your fingers with bandages
You might try covering your nails because it is difficult to catch yourself before going for a bite. You can do this in two ways: bandage your nails or wear gloves.
If you bandage your nails, it will work as a constant reminder not to bite them. In fact, transparent tape can be used as a more discreet choice. Gloves are also useful at home because you won’t have to change the tape or bandage constantly.
5. Chew gum or mints
You may need to substitute nail-biting with a neutral habit at first to help you quit your habit.
You may be able to prevent the automatic impulse to bite your nails by chewing gum or eating mints throughout the day, which keeps your mouth occupied and less available for nibbling.
6. Wear chewelry
Yes, you read that right: chewelry. Ark is a company that creates a silicone Saber Tooth necklace for anyone (ages 5 and above) who has to chew. You can select your color and toughness on a scale ranging from soft to extra-extra tough. This sort of gadget may be most effective if you are aware of your nail-biting.
Instead of chewing your nails to help you focus or relax, you may replace them with the chewelry.
You should talk to your dentist about using chewlery. Chewing on anything, even nails, can damage your teeth or injure your jaw.
7. Focus on each finger
Perhaps the all-or-nothing strategy does not work for you. Instead, the American Academy of Dermatology recommends breaking the habit by focusing on only one nail at a time. You can begin by using your thumbs. After a week or two of successfully not biting your thumbnails, then move on to your index fingers, repeat the process. Continue your progress by going in whatever order makes the most sense to you.
8. Keep at it
You are not going to be able to quit biting your nails overnight. Indeed, you’ve probably heard that it takes 21 days to break a habit. Maxwell Maltz’s 1960s book “The New Psycho-Cybernetics” popularized this image. According to a 2009 research, the time it takes to break a habit is not as clear-cut or linear in its progression.
What is the takeaway here? Give yourself some time before declaring your efforts a failure. If you continue, your efforts should be rewarded.
The Bottom Line
Nail-biting is a habit that can range from minor to severe. It often begins in childhood. While some people grow out of it, it might become a lifetime habit for others.
Most of the time, nail-biting is a cosmetic issue that does not require medical treatment. However, severe nail-biting can cause infection, dental difficulties, and other issues that must be treated.
There are various methods you can use to stop biting your nails. Though it is not always clear, identifying the reason is helpful. If you’ve done everything and still can’t stop the habit, CBT is an effective tool for changing behavioral patterns.