You may bite your nails when you’re anxious. You may bite them when you’re bored. There are various reasons why people bite their nails, but they generally boil down to anxiety. This habit makes people bite their nails and the soft tissues around the nail bed, bringing about unattractive and often painful fingers. Another name for nail biting is onychophagia. (1)
Nail-biting is common among many, and it’s still an unresolved problem in psychiatry, psychology, medicine, and dentistry. (2) The below stated reasons are usually the perceived foundations for people to bite their nails.
In some cases, this condition is hereditary and might run in the family. Kids may build up this habit while watching their folks or other people in the family do it.
Besides imitating family’s behavior, children may have similar characteristics of anxiety that run in their family, driving them to bite their nails when they become restless.
The hereditary connection to onychophagia might be the reason for nail-biting when a kid has an inherited propensity toward repetitive behaviors and a higher rate of restlessness and anxiety problems from a family member.
2. Behavior Copying
In addition to observing their folks exhibiting this behavior, kids may likewise observe teachers or other school peers biting their nails. This could bring about replicating the behavior and getting stuck with the habit themselves.
Nail-biting is the most widely recognized nervous habit around the world, and it’s a well-known habit among adolescents. For most parents, nail-biting can be as bad as thumb sucking, tooth grinding, or hair-pulling because these are largely redundant and stress-relieving behaviors that include the body. Be that as it may, some guardians may not understand they do it without noticing it too, which unconsciously sets an example for their children.
3. Boredom or Loneliness
Studies have proposed that an absence of incitement, stress, and loneliness can lead to nail-biting. (3)
Some people feel tense when they are bored, and biting their nails is a response towards boredom.
For people who have an oral fixation, they may bite their nails unknowingly while reading a book or watching a program. Truth be told, there are some people who continue making this habit even while they’re sleeping.
4. Obsessive-Compulsive Behaviors
Biting your nails might be a compulsive habit that you are bound to do when you’re bored, tense, or frustrated.
Furthermore, psychologists guarantee that nail biting is something that people do when they feel the need for control. Many people like to have a feeling of control over their lives, and when this control is lost, they seek something they can control. Along these lines, people develop obsessive-compulsive disorders.
5. Indications of Emotional or Mental Stress
People who bite their nails tend to engage in this behavior when they are under pressure, which proposes that this condition is not always because of nervousness. Studies also show that nail biting is related to stress, (4) because biting one’s nails has been known to diminish stress and tension. People who bite their nails consistently sometimes do this when they feel anxious, stressed, or hungry.
Perfectionists can’t unwind or perform their assigned tasks at a normal pace, so they’re inclined to get frustrated, anxious, and dissatisfied when they do not meet their targets.
Nail biting helps perfectionists lessen their sentiments of dissatisfaction at that moment. As one would expect, it assists these sets of people to decrease their accumulated vitality and tension they might hold on to.
But, if you or your child nail biting seems to border on compulsion, it will be smart to visit your health care practitioner to decide whether there is an underlying mental disorder that needs attention and treatment.
Biting your nails may not be of much concern to you, but dermatologists have advised that chronic nail biting may really cause some serious damage.
Some risks of biting your nails include:
- Chronic paronychia: A bacterial infection that causes irritation of the skin on fingers and around the nails.
- Harm to your teeth from biting hard nails
- Subungual infection: This is a deeply painful condition under the fingernails in which blood clots together.
- Temporomandibular dysfunction: The difficulty of utilizing the chewing muscles and the joints that are situated between the skull’s base and the lower jaw.
- Diseases contracted through putting unsafe microorganisms into the mouth by fingernail biting after touching something unhealthy.
- Onychomycosis: a nail fungal infection.
- Changes in your nail’s appearance
- Onycholysis, which is serious Harm to the nail bed.
- Long-term damage to the tissue that makes your nails to develop and the obstruction of normal nail growth.
- Frequent colds and other sicknesses from inserting dirty fingers into your mouth
Then again, if you or your child nail biting doesn’t appear to be compulsive, then there is no reason to see a specialist. Here are some strategies you can attempt at home that can assist you to put a stop to biting your nails:
Before you attempt to quit biting your nails, you might really need to spend some time contemplating why you bite them. Try keeping records on when you bite your nails. Is it when you are tired? Anxious? Stressed or hungry? You may begin to see a pattern. When you’ve found your trigger, you can then work on how to stop the habit.
Strategies To Assist You In Stopping Nail Biting
1. Keep your nails short
A simple method to dissuade yourself from biting your nails is to keep them short. The reason for this strategy is simple. If there’s close to nothing or nothing at all to bite, you won’t feel the need to bite your non-existent nails.
2. Flavor your nails
While it might seem weird, using a bitter flavored varnish-like ORLY may be useful. You can apply this kind of hindrance over your exposed nails or over manicured nails. Brush it on, let it dry totally, and reapply when you have to.
3. Wear Chewelry
You read that right! An organization called Ark makes a silicone Saber Tooth necklace for anybody (ages 5 or more) who needs to bite. You can choose your own color and sturdiness on a scale from soft to extra-hard. This kind of device may work best if you are aware of biting your nails consciously.
Rather than biting your nails in order to calm yourself or to focus, you can supplant your nails with jewelry.
Note: You might need to consult with your dental specialist before using the device. Biting on anything — nails or otherwise — may harm your teeth or damage your jaw.
4. Try not to give up
Nail-biting is an addiction that is very hard to break. You can’t expect to stop biting your nails overnight. Give yourself time before you proclaim your attempts a failure. If you keep at it, the hard work will pay off.
The Wrong Approaches To Stopping Nail Biting:
Discipline does not stop nail-biting. Actually, it may exacerbate it by adding a component of shame to your kid’s nail-biting. Also, try not to blame or shame a nail biter this will just exacerbate the situation.
Stop pulling off hangnails. Tenderly clamp them off. Initially, you might still notice yourself biting your nails, notwithstanding the measure of self-control you think you have. But, with time and tolerance, you can move past this habit and be able to relieve your nails from torments forever.
Photo Credits: Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels
Obisesan Oluwatosin Grace is a freelance writer. She has worked as a reporter for a magazine firm called Ijebu Flavors and a content creator with Jetheight Services. She has contributed articles to Howng, Howafrica, Howsouthafrica, Nigeriana, and many more.
Obisesan is obsessed with creativity, and she likes to spend her free time learning how to improve her skills. She enjoys watching Sci-Fi and action movies, reading numerous fictional works, writing poetry, and listening to continental music. She is currently taking a creative writing course at Wesleyan University, USA.