Trim Your Nails Regularly
“Keep your nails trimmed short, so you’ll have less of a nail to bite,” says Gan Eng Cern, MD, an ear, nose, and throat surgeon in Singapore. “With this trick, there’s a high chance that you’ll get disinterested in biting your nails if you have a hard time reaching them with your teeth.”;
Of course, you may still find yourself nibbling on your fingers. Biting your nails when they’re this short can cause skin irritation, bleeding, and improper nail growth.;
What Causes A Person To Bite Nails
When it comes to deciphering the causes behind the nail biting, experts have had a very hard time finding the exact cause behind the same.
Although the possibilities are quite extensive, chances are that there could be a number of reasons behind the condition altogether. In order to shed some light on the possible causes, we have shared some of the potential ones for you to take a peek into.
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How To Stop Children From Biting Their Nails
Steven Gans, MD is board-certified in psychiatry and is an active supervisor, teacher, and mentor at Massachusetts General Hospital.
If your child bites their nails, they’re not the only one. Around 50% of children between 10 and 18 bite their nails at least occasionally, and for many kids, the habit starts even younger.
Avoid Making It Worse
Calling too much attention to your childs bad habits is likely to backfire and their nail-biting may get even worse. Punishing your child or embarrassing them for biting their nails also wont be effective in helping them change his habits.
Help your child manage their nail-biting but dont get too wrapped up in making them stop. Yelling or telling them that they’re gross wont help.
Skip the lengthy lectures about all the reasons why putting their fingers in their mouth is disgustingthat isn’t likely to work either.
Helping your child put an end to biting their nails will be much more effective if they’re on board with the plan. If they’re not particularly motivated to quit, your efforts aren’t likely to be successful. So, be patient with them and if they’re not interested in stopping, you may need to wait until they are.
You might broach the subject from time to time by saying something like, “I notice you bite your nails a lot. Do kids at school ever seem to notice?” Mentioning that other people might see them doing this might make them a bit more aware of others perceive them.
Similarly, you might ask them, “It looks like your fingers get sore sometimes when you bite your nails so much. Do you ever wish you didn’t do that?”
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Strategically Limit Which Nail You Can Bite Or Pick:
“I was going trough a really stressful time and my nails were paying the price; they were hurting and bleeding all day everyday. One day, my therapist came up with this idea she told me pick a finger out of blue and she didnt tell me the reason. I chose my little finger on my right hand for no reason. And she told me from now on that is the only finger you can bite. This may sound foolish but all of my fingers were in horrible condition, so I think this was clever and after a while, it worked and I havent bitten my nails for five years!”
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Thoughts Linked To Nail Biting
Just like situations, our thoughts and feelings cue up our behaviour.
If you can spot the types of things you are thinking about or feeling when nail biting, then this can help.
When you notice the thoughts coming you can prepare your alternative response .
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Nail Biting Effects On Teeth
;If you want to stop biting nails, you need an incentiveright? In this case, its avoiding physical damage to your teeth and jaws.
Nail biting physically requires positioning your teeth in a way where they hit end-to-end. This is not a normal biting pattern. When we put the tips of our teeth together and grind, bite, or chew on our nails, it places irregular biting pressure on those parts of our teeth. If you dont stop biting nails anytime soon, it will eventually cause those teeth to start wearing down. Theyll physically look short and flat on the biting edges.;
Teeth damage from nail biting isnt your only concern. TMJ and jaw issues may flare up as well. When youre pushing your lower jaw forward far enough to bite the front teeth end-to-end and also apply chewing pressure, your jaw is forcing your TMJ to work unnaturally. Day after day, the strain can take a toll on your joint and the tissues around it.
Up To 50 Percent Of Adults Habitually Bite Their Nails How Can It Be Changed
The bad habit of nail-biting is much more common than you might think.
Some studies have found that about one-quarter of children bite their nails habitually ; others say it may peak at almost 45 percent in adolescence .
More surprisingly, the prevalence amongst adults may be just as high, with some estimates at 50 percent . I had no idea it was potentially that highI guess it’s a habit that people hide well from others.
Nail-biting is certainly something that has emerged as a hot topic as I’ve been speaking to people about my new book. As I don’t specifically cover it there, although the general techniques I describe are applicable, here’s my eight-step guide based on the psychological research available:
1. It seems obvious, but you’ve got to want it.
It might seem redundant to say, but any change has to be desired, really desired. And for such a simple behavior, nail-biting is surprisingly hard to quit, perhaps partly because it doesn’t feel like that big a deal, and our hands are always with us. This is especially a problem if you are trying to change someone else’s behavior.
One method for boosting motivation is to think carefully about the positive aspects of changing the habit: for example, attractive-looking nails and a sense of accomplishment.
Also, make the negative aspects of nail-biting as dramatic as possible in your mind. If you tend to think it’s no big deal, then you’re unlikely to make the change.
2. Do not suppress.
3. Instead, replace bad with good .
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Identify Nail Biting Situations
Habits are heavily bound up with situations.
Unfortunately, it can be difficult to spot habits because they are performed unconsciously.
However you may spot particular times during the day when nail biting occurs, like while watching TV.
If you can bear it, enlist those around you to help point out when you are biting your nails.
Painting your fingernails with that nasty tasting fluid can help pull you out of autopilot and alert you to situations in which the habit is performed.
But it probably wont work on its own.
Some people even say they get to like, or at least tolerate, the taste!
How To Stop Biting Nails
Now that we have more or less discussed about the causes as well as the common reasons to stop, it is time we divert our focus on how to stop biting the nails. You will be surprised to know that this habit is often quite common and does have impacts on ones health.
All that being said, you will be surprised to know that there are a few preventive measures as well as remedies for biting nails that can help you let go off of this specific habit for good.
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Motivation To Stop Biting Nails
It might seem redundant to say, but any change, including to stop biting your nails has to be desired, really desired.
And for such a simple behaviour, biting your nails is surprisingly hard to quit, perhaps partly because it doesnt seem that big a deal and our hands are always with us.
This is especially a problem if you are trying to change someone elses behaviour.
One method for boosting motivation; to stop biting nails is to think carefully about the positive aspects of changing the habit, for example attractive looking nails and a sense of accomplishment.
Also, make the negative aspects of nail-biting as dramatic as possible in your mind.
If you tend to think its no big deal then youre unlikely to make the change.
In addition, you can try mental contrasting, which has been backed by psychological research on habit change.
Suppressing Nail Biting Does Not Work
It doesnt matter if its you or your child that youre trying to change, suppression does not work.
Punishing a child for nail biting is a bad move.
They will know its a way to attract attention and they will use it.
The same is true when changing your own habit of nail biting.
Trying to tell your unconscious to stop doing something is like trying to tell a child.
It reacts childishly by doing the complete opposite.
Heres the technical explanation for why thought suppression is counter-productive.
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Keep Your Fingers Busy
One study shows that manipulating objects is somehow effective in preventing people from biting their nails. So, find an object of some sort to fiddle with. This could be a stress ball, a fidget spinner, or simply a pen to click. If your hands are occupied doing something else, you will be less likely to start biting your nails. If you feel nervous, try things such as:
- Keeping your hands in your pockets
- Playing with rubber bands
- Twiddling your thumbs
- Clasping your hands
All of these things will keep your hands occupied if you are stressed, and they will also keep your fingers away from your mouth. Make sure to always have something within reach for when you need it. Whatever you choose, make sure that you are replacing your nail biting habit with a less destructive one.
In addition to keeping your fingers busy, you probably want to also keep your mouth busy. You can do this by chewing gum or sucking on candies throughout the day. It will be difficult to bite your nails if you have gum in your mouth or you are snacking on something a bit more palatable. Also, the texture of your bitten nails in addition to the flavor of your gum or a piece of candy is certain to be gross.
Eat small snacks throughout the day. You of course don’t want to eat so much that you are gaining weight, but you can carry around some healthy and crunchy snacks such as carrots or celery so you can chew on them throughout the day.
Why Do I Bite My Nails
Before trying to stop your nail-biting habit, it’s important to know the causes behind the behavior or onychophagia, as medical experts call it in clinical settings. According to Rebecca Rialon Berry, Ph.D., a licensed psychologist and director of the Tics, Tourette Disorder, and Trichotillomania Program at the Child Study Center at NYU Langone Health, nail-biting falls along the lines of a type of behavior in the clinical world called body-focused repetitive behaviors, or BFRBs, which refer to any repetitive self-grooming behaviors that damage the skin, hair or nails.
Why is it that we engage in these types of behaviors? Research suggests that more likely than not, there’s a genetic cause behind this tick. But there are also a number of environmental triggers that manifest the onset of nail-biting behavior including stress, anxiety, boredom and other forms of emotional distress. “Sometimes people engage in these behaviors because they’re actually feeling underwhelmed, under-stimulated or bored,” adds Berry. “And then there is a subset of people that could be working more automatically as part of a stress response.”
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Keeping Your Hands And Mouth Busy
Habits to Replace Nail-BitingPlay with a small object. Carry a rubber band, penny, or something else to hold in your hands to play within place of biting your nails.Distract your hands at key nail-biting times. Identify when you usually bite your nails, such as during car rides or when you’re sitting in class, and find a new way to replace the habit depending on where you are. If you’re in class, focus on writing extremely thorough notes. If you’re in the passenger seat of a car, fiddle with your keys.Mold silly putty or clay. Try keeping an “egg” of Silly Putty or a piece of clay with you. It is fun to play with and it occupies your hands during biting-prone times.Keep a coin in your pocket. Try keeping a coin in your pocket, and play with it when you feel the urge to bite your nails.
There Are Things You Can Do To Help You Stop Biting Your Nails
It might be possible for some people to go cold turkey, but many people will need some strategies to guide them. The tips from the American Academy of Dermatology Association are a great place to start. They offer a mix of practical strategies as well as mental exercises that can help you. For example, among the strategies recommended by the AADA are identifying your nail-biting triggers, keeping your nails clipped short, and taking a gradual approach . The AADA also explains that nail biting might be a sign of emotional or psychological distress. So if youve tried to stop biting your nails and cant, theres no harm in contacting your doctor to discuss your concerns. And if you develop an infection from nail biting, a dermatologist or other healthcare provider can help you treat it, the AADA says.
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How To Stop Biting Your Nails In 10 Steps
In this article I will explain how to stop biting your nails with what has worked for me, since I have been several years with this bad habit.
You may have tried everything to control onychophagia and have not seen results, but with the right actions you can stop biting your nails. The effort will be worth it, since it is a bad habit, almost an addiction that can produce unpleasant consequences.
Get Ahead Of Hangnails
Often people start biting their nails by going after a loose hangnail. Then, before long, they have moved onto the actual nail tip and then its off to the races. The secret to stopping this pattern from repeating, according to Elliott, is to be prepared.
Carry a nail clipper with you at all times and clip those hangnails before you have the urge to bite, she said.
Put a nail clipper in your purse, in the center console of your car, or in a desk drawer at work.
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Take Your Teeth Into Consideration
You may have your dental hygiene routine down but biting your nails could be setting your mouth health back, bigtime.
Biting your nails can cause problems down the line like cracked and chipped teeth. Use this as motivation to stop biting your nails unless you really do want to go and sit in that dentist chair.
Day : Trim Your Nails
Ill be frank: I knew from experience that this method wouldnt work , and to quote Jeff Goldblum from Jurassic Park, Boy, do I hate being right all the time! Switching from my teeth to nail clippers did nothing but exacerbate the sorry state of my nails. Not only was I still biting my nails, but tying my shoes or peeling stickers off things became excruciatingly painful. It was clear by the end of the day that there was more to my nail-biting than routine.
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