At some point in our lives we may not be aware that we have succumbed to biting our nails. Perhaps it is because we were bored, stressed, anxious or nervous. Often, negative emotions can make us respond to a variety of habits. There are others who chew on their lip or hair, chew on the skin of their fingers, while others bite their fingernails.
Nail biting is a common habit for a lot of people. An estimate of 20 percent or more adults bite their nails on a daily basis. Having the habit is not always a bad thing. However, when it becomes borderline excessive it can often lead to serious health problems for some.
For instance, recently a father of two in the U.K. almost died due to sepsis that is caused by bacterial infection from nail biting.
How do people bite their nails?
Nail biting is when the nails are constantly placed near the mouth and with the urge to use the teeth to peel or bite off the top part. There are also nail biters that bite off the cuticles or skin around the fingers as well. This body-focused behavior is a pathological habit and is known as onychophagia.
Why do people bite their nails?
Although nail biting is a common habit, it happens more frequently for some people than others. Often, the habit can look gross and feel like a nuisance as well as it is embarrassing. No matter how many times nail biters try to get rid of the habit, it can still be a struggle to stop.
It’s difficult to pinpoint the direct cause why people bite their nails. However, there are several factors that triggers the brain to unconsciously start munching on them.
Here are five facts why people just can’t break the habit of nail biting:
- Nail biting is often thought to be linked to Obsessive-Compulsive behaviors
For people who bite their nails constantly, they are known to be pathological groomers. It means nail biting can be a sign of obsessive-compulsive behaviors. People who find themselves with an urge to arrange things in proper order display this kind of behavior. Similarly, when a person bites their nails, it is a reflexive response to squelching the anxious urge to put things in order.
- Nail biting is a habit that goes way back in history
The habit itself can be traced back for millions of centuries, specifically during ancient Greek times. Greek philosopher Cleanthes was even known to be addicted to nail biting. It was thought that his wisdom was derived from constantly biting his nails all the time. In fact, the term used to describe nail biting originated from an ancient Greek word.
- Nail biting is also thought to be a sign of perfectionism
Although the word perfectionist is also associated with obsessive-compulsive behavior, it can also sprout a different meaning. People who are perfectionists would usually indicate an idealistic focus to excel and achieve high performance. In other words, perfectionists are excessively competitive and would display anxious behaviors resulting to repetitive body-focused habits.
- Nail biting can begin as early as childhood
In some cases, this body-focused habit can develop as early as 6 years old. This is usually a time when a child feels the pressure of growing up. When a child bites his or her nails, it can often be a sign of boredom or a way to relieve stress which can often go unnoticed by parents. The downside of this behavior is when it is not properly intervened, it can continue until the child as grown up. In fact, the habit becomes increasingly regular during a person’s teenage years and will resume until adulthood.
- Nail biting is a result of a faulty psychosocial development
According to the founder of psychoanalysis Sigmund Freud, he said compulsive behaviors that relates to body-focused habits occurs due to a disturbance during the oral phase of a person’s development. It can also be a way of mutilating oneself in response to hostile emotions.
How to stop the habit of incessant nail biting?
When nail biting becomes increasingly difficult to overcome, it can do more bad than good for your image and body. It is not only gross to look at chipped fingernails, it can also lead to slew of infections from bacteria that gets into your mouth from the nails. It can also cause your fingers to feel sore and create a lot of damage to sensitive skin tissues around your fingers.
Nail biting is thought to be a psychological disorder and if it becomes excessive, doctor consultations and therapy is required. However, there are easier and non-medical methods to stop. So, how do you kick the habit of biting your nails? Here are eight naturally effective methods to getting rid of the habit.
- Keep your nails always trimmed and short
When you have lesser and shorter nails, the urge to bite becomes less as well. Use a good quality nail-cutter to keep those urges at bay.
- Keep yourself productive and busy
Some people bite their nails to ease boredom. To pacify this, find activities that can help keep you from always finding yourself chipping off your nails with your teeth all the time. Try doing things that involve using your hands like drawing, handicrafts or painting. If you’re hungry, munch on healthy snacks instead. If you’re feeling anxious, carry around a stress ball to keep your fingers away from your mouth.
- Try applying bitter nail polish that are safe
There are remedies like these that are available over-the-counter. Alternatively, you can purchase them also online. The bitter taste of the nail polish on your nails repels the urge to bite them all the time.
- Try wearing gloves or place barriers on your fingers
Gloves are good options to stop nail biting. You can place band aids or sticky tape on your fingers to help you get away from your fingers and keep from biting.
- Get help from others by helping you identify triggers
Nail biting can be caused by emotional responses like nervousness, anxiety or hunger. Round up your family and close friends to help remind you to stop biting. Getting to know what sets you off to bite can also help as knowing them may help lessen the urges.
- Invest in nail treatments and manicures
Often, the idea of having clean and trimmed nails can also help us control the urge to start biting them. So, it is a good idea to splurge on manicure sessions to help you keep your fingernails clean and good-looking.
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