Friday, July 12, 2024
HomeEditor PicksWhy Do People Bite Their Nails

Why Do People Bite Their Nails

Repetitive Behaviour That Relieves Stress

Why Do People Bite Their Nails? – SourceFed

Some people believe nail biting is an obsessive-compulsive disorder . Nail biting does sound an awful lot like OCD, in that people have a compulsion to keep biting their nails, even when they are inflicting damage.

Clinical psychologist Lorraine D. DAsta, Ph.D., believes that nail biting is a compulsive disorder. However, this doesnt mean people bite their nails all the time, as a person with OCD would have to wash their hands 100 times a day.

It simply means that this is a routine used to relieve stress. They may have others that help them, such as always hanging their coat up and putting their shoes away in a certain place.

Compulsive behaviours are linked with anxiety and panic, whereas nail biting is associated with soothing sensations.

So although the behaviour is repetitive, it is not compulsive. Lead researcher, Kieron OConnor, at Université de Montréal, agrees:

Although these behaviours can induce important distress, they also seem to satisfy an urge and deliver some form of reward. Kieron OConnor

Why You Should Stop Nail Biting

I know that stopping nail biting is easier said than done. But having a reason to stop is one of the first steps in the right direction.

It is easy to come up with several reasons to why you should stop nail biting. I will give you 3 good ones here.

The germsEvery day our hands get in contact with thousands of germs. They are transferred to us when we use public transportation, shaking peoples hands, using the coffee machine, preparing a meal and typing the keyboard. They are everywhere.

And the perfect place for them to live under your nails!

These germs can include bacteria like Salmonella and E.Coli. And every time you bite your nails, you transfer them into your mouth. From there, they have good access to the rest of the body.

You can get a worm infectionWhen you bite your nails, you increase the possibility of getting pinworms.

The embarrassmentFor me, nail-biting was a huge embarrassment and I honestly think it is for most nail biters. The bitten nails and damaged skin around them give your hands an unattractive appearance. For many people, this will cause a feeling of shame and embarrassment.

Especially when I got older and started to work, I found my nail biting habit very problematic. I would be among other adults and suddenly realize I was sitting with a finger in my mouth biting my nails. Did anybody notice? I hope not!

If you want to get more reasons to stop nail biting, read my list of 9 good reasons why you should stop nail biting.

The Formation Of The Habit

Our brain is always seeking convenience and ways to do less work, so it attempts to offload a task to its subconscious. This means that once a habit is successfully established, people stop thinking about it. From then on, the brain stops sending the behaviour activity from the basal ganglia to the prefrontal cortex. The PFC regulates decision making, and once a habit is formed, people no longer think about what they are doing.

Statistics show that it can take from 15 to 254 days of training for a behavior to fully become a habit. Fortunately, most habits are not normally physically harmful, but some can become a damaging psychological condition, creating open sores or wounds, wearing down teeth or leading to literally pulling their hair out.

Also Check: How To Get Rid Of Nail Glue On 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.

How To Stop Children From Biting Their Nails

Onychophagia (Nail Biting): Why Do People Bite Their Nails?

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.

Its one of the most common nervous habits, a category that also includes hair-twisting, nose-picking, and thumb-sucking. Formally, it’s characterized as a body-focused repetitive behavior. While some kids bite their nails because they are fidgety, others don’t know what else to do when they feel anxious. Fingernail biting can be self-soothing.

In addition to being unpleasant to witness, nail-biting could do some damage to your childs teeth and nails. So, if your child is particularly aggressive when they’re gnawing on their nails, it may be important to address the issue with their dentist.

For the most part, nail-biting doesnt create any serious health issuesand it usually isn’t a sign of a deeper-rooted issue. Instead, it’s just a little nervous habit that often drives parents nuts.

Recommended Reading: Best Polygel Nail Kit For Beginners 2021

It’s Most Common In Teens

Studies show that up to 45 percent of all teenagers give themselves a nibble on a nail regularly enough to . In very small kids, it’s often believed to be a development of thumb-sucking â something comforting to do with the hands and mouth if a frightening or unsettling thing happens. But unlike thumb-sucking, it sticks around, and a huge swath of adults now bite off their nails. Among other things, it’s a costly habit. The Academy of General Dentistry estimates that nail-biters may need $4,000 in additional dental care over their lifetimes. Ouch.

Who Bite Their Nails

Nail biting is not something new. In fact, it can be traced back to ancient Greece, where the philosopher Cleanthes was said to be addicted to nail biting.

Today nail biting is a lot more common than you would think. Despite the embarrassment and the potential health consequences, between 20 and 30 percent of people do it.

And you can´t just point in one direction and say These are the type of people who bite their nails. Nail biters you will find all over the place big or small, tall or short, young or old, rich or poor, boy or girl, successful or not successful, happy or unhappy, etc. They are everywhere! So no you are not alone with this habit.

I clearly remember that several of my school and football friends were nail biters. And today when I am among other people, it does not take me long to spot some nail biters.

If you look at age groups, the majority of nail-biters are young kids and teenagers. It is estimated that around 45 percent of teenagers are nail-biters at some point. And though most quit again by themselves, we can still see that many take this habit into adulthood. I was one of them!

Read Also: How To Make Impress Nails Last Longer

Trim Or Manicure Your Nails Often

Long nails may be hard to resist, so keeping them trimmed is a good idea. Set a particular day and time every week for your trim, and take care of hangnails and ragged edges so youre not tempted to bite them.

Another option is to get regular professional manicures. Spending the money and knowing that someone is going to check your nails soon may keep you from reverting to the habit.

Choose only licensed salons and manicurists who properly sterilize tools, so as to prevent fungal nail infection.

Nail Biting Ages 6 To 12


Why does my child bite his nails?

Children bite their nails for many reasons — out of curiosity or boredom, to relieve stress, to pass the time, or from force of habit. Nail biting is the most common of the so-called “nervous habits,” which include thumb sucking, nose picking, hair twisting or tugging, and tooth grinding. Nail biting is most common in high-strung children, tends to run in families, and is the most likely of the nervous habits to continue into adulthood. About 30 to 60 percent of elementary school students and 20 percent of adolescents bite their nails, at least for a time between one-quarter and one-third of college students say they still bite their nails.

Is my child’s nail biting a sign of excessive anxiety or some disorder?

Growing up is an anxious process, and many of the tensions and pressures are invisible to parents. If your child bites moderately and unconsciously , or if he tends to bite in response to specific situations , there’s probably nothing to worry about.

If you know or suspect that a particular situation is making your child anxious — a recent move, a divorce in the family, a new school — make a special effort to help him talk about his feelings.

If, on the other hand, the habit doesn’t seem to pose any physical or psychological threat, ignoring it is the best way to ensure that down the road your child will either stop on his own or ask you to help him quit.

How can I get my child to stop biting his nails?


You May Like: Vicks For Toenail Fungus Before And After

The New Theory: Nail Biting Helps Us Balance Out Our Emotions

Recently psychologists have come to a more plausible theory of nail biting: that it can provide a temporary escape, distraction, or bit of pleasure or relaxation for the biter.

Penzel points out that many people get the urge to bite when they’re understimulated or overstimulated . “When they’re understimulated, the behaviors provides stimulation, and when they’re overstimulated, it actually helps calm them down,” he says. Like nicotine, the idea is that nail biting can have a biphasic effect: it can stimulate under certain conditions and relax in others.

It’s still not proven, but to someone who’s spent a lot of time biting her nails, this explanation rings true and a recent study conducted by Sarah Roberts and other researchers at University of Quebec at Montreal provides a bit of evidence for it.

nail biting can provide a temporary escape, distraction, or bit of relaxation

In the study, people with onychophagia, trichotillomania, or other body-focused repetitive behaviors were put into situations designed to elicit frustration , boredom , anxiety , or relaxation .

Obviously, these situations are somewhat artificial. Still, when the researchers observed the participants’ behavior and surveyed them afterwards on how strong their urge to bite was they found something interesting.

Can Medication Help With Excessive Nail

Medications are not often used for nail-biting, though some patients prescribed SSRIs for anxiety and depression find that the medication reduces their nail-biting somewhat. Some small studies suggest that N-acetylcysteine, a supplement also being investigated for trichotillomania and excoriation disorder, is more effective at reducing nail-biting behaviors than a placebo, though more research is likely needed.

You May Like: How To Take Off Contacts With Nails

/4why Do People Bite Their Nails

There is no particular reason why people bite nails, but some probable causes can include:

– If you are frustrated, bored or impatient, nail-biting can become an easy way to keep yourself busy.

– When you are doing something with utmost concentration, you might not even realise and bite your nails at that time.

– Nail-biting can give temporary relief from nervousness and anxiousness.

– In some cases, the habit can be a symptom of a mental health condition like ADHD, depressive disorder, OCD and separation anxiety disorder among others.

/4easy Ways To Stop Nail Biting

The psychology of why so many people bite their nails

You need to remember that giving up on any habit takes time. If you have been trying to quit nails and are unable to do so, you have to be patient with yourself. Here is what you can try.

Trim nails often

When you invest time in taking care of your nails, you will not be tempted to bite them. You can also get regular manicures as when you will spend money on your nails you will not want to bite them.

Put nail polish

Most nail paints are bitter in taste. When you coat your nails with nail paint, as soon as you put your nail in the mouth, you will feel uncomfortable and not do it.

Wear gloves

Though this is only a temporary solution, you can wear cotton gloves so that you cannot bite your nails.

Analyse what makes you do it

Analysing what makes you bite your nails can make it easy for you to get rid of the habit.

Replace the habit

You can replace the habit with another one like chewing gum. You can also occupy yourself with a stress ball or fidget magnet.

Be patient

Last but not the least, don’t expect that you will transform the habit in a day or two. Just like forming good habits takes time, giving up bad ones also requires time.

You May Like: How To Get Rid Of Nail Fungus From Acrylic

Is Biting Your Nails Actually Bad For You Though

We all know biting our nails isn’t great. But is it bad?

Here are the consequences of biting your nails:

  • It can increase your risk of infection around the nail, especially if you bite at your cuticle or the soft tissue around it.
  • It can harm your teeth.
  • It can spread germs on your hands and fingers to your mouth, increasing your risk of getting sick.

We probably feel the first consequence the most, but it’s the last one that’s become the most ominous since the COVID-19 pandemic began. An easy-to-spread virus can really make you realize just how many things and surfaces you touch every day.

Perhaps that’s enough to make you consider taking steps to finally kick the habit?

Some Scientists Think It’s Related To Ocd

There was a small shift in the world of nail biting in 2012. That was the year that the American Psychiatric Association decided that it actually counted as a form of “pathological grooming,” alongside such behaviors as plucking out your eyelashes or obsessively picking at spots, and therefore deserved to be part of the pantheon of behaviors associated with OCD, or obsessive compulsive disorder.

It’s not an uncontroversial opinion, though. Some psychologists accused the APA of scaremongering, and amping up the importance of what is, for many people, a simple habit of preoccupation and stress relief, rather than a serious failure in impulse control. Serious nail biting as a psychological problem and physical disorder does exist, but the argument over whether even minor cases are still pathological is still ongoing.

You May Like: How To Take Out Contacts With Acrylics

Heres What Happened When Emily Rekstis Tried To Break Her Nail

Biting your nails is a terrible habit, one that I cant seem to knock. I turned to the internet and talked to experts to find the best hacks that will hopefully help me break my habit. Here’s how my little experiment went:

Ive used anti-biting polish like Maval Stop Polish in the past, so I didnt want to try that this time around. Instead, I went for a DIY solution that served the same purpose. This hack I found while scrolling through the many threads on Reddit about nail biting: First, you dip your nails in water. Then you dip them in salt and dust off some of the excess .

Like the anti-biting polish, the salt is meant to leave a gross taste in your mouth when you bite your nails. This unappealing taste is worth a try if you are looking for a DIY solution, dermatologist Melanie D. Palm, M.D., explains. But some may not find this is enough of a deterrent, and the salt granules may cause a mess. She also points out that if you rub your eye with salt-covered fingers, it can really sting and hurt. Keeping that in mind, I decided to give it a try.

Did it work?

Did it work?

Did it work?

The scissors did keep my hands out of my mouth. But it did not help with my quest for stronger, longer, healthier nails and cuticles. In fact, my cuticles looked even worse after this hack.

Did it work?

Even though I know that nail biting and tonsillitis arent directly associated, I could use my distinct memories of the sore throat and fevers as an easy tool to use to break my habit.

Early Theories On Why We Bite Our Nails Have Been Rejected

Why Do We Bite Our Nails?

Most of the early explanations of nail biting have been thoroughly disregarded. Sigmund Freud, for instance, believed that excessive nursing during infancy could lead to a so-called “oral receptive” personality and a tendency to chew on nails and other objects, as well as a distinct preference for oral sex. He had no evidence for this idea, and subsequent followers of his ideas didn’t turn up any, either.

Later, some researchers considered nail biting, hair plucking and skin picking as mild forms of self-harm the intentional injuring of oneself, often by cutting. Under this theory, biting one’s nails would be sign of hostility towards oneself.

Undercutting this idea, however, is the fact that most nail biters aren’t particularly fond of the damage their habit causes and for many people, it’s the main reason they want to quit. Starting in the 1990s, most psychologists began distinguishing it and body-focused repetitive disorders from more severe forms of self-harm.

freud believed that nail biting was a sign of an “oral receptive” personality

As they’ve begun to better understand the behavior, one big question is whether it should be grouped in with obsessive-compulsive disorder . Though the latest DSM puts nail biting in a broader category with OCD, many of those who specifically study body-focused repetitive disorders disagree.

“The word ‘obsessive’ doesn’t really apply,” says Penzel. “Every behavior that’s repetitive is not necessary a compulsion.”

Read Also: How Do You Take Out Contacts With Long Nails


Popular Articles