In a moment of weakness, your trembling hand sneaks into your mouth, and you find yourself on a random nail biting adventure! This habit, which appears as a natural instinct, but in fact carries within it health and psychological problems that can leave an impact if we do not treat it with caution and precision.

Nail biting is a common negative behavioral phenomenon among many people of all ages, but many do not pay enough attention to this habit and consider it insignificant. So, in this article, dear, we discover together what this habit is, what are its causes and side effects, and finally effective ways to stop it. So, follow with us.

Nail Biting in Psychology

Nail Biting in Psychology

The habit of nail biting or swallowing nails, also known as Onychophagia. There is a close link between nail biting and mental disorders such as anxiety disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder. This habit is pathological and the person’s behavior is characterized by frequent and uncontrolled nail biting.

Nail biting is classified in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders under the heading “obsessive-compulsive disorder and related disorders,” and studies indicate that nail biting is associated with several psychological disorders, including:

  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
  • Oppositional defiant disorder (ODD).
  • Separation anxiety disorder.
  • Tourette syndrome.

Related behaviors include chronic skin sucking, hair pulling, and cheek biting. Treating the habit associated with mental disorders that cause nail biting requires treating the disorder itself and developing alternative strategies to replace the negative behavior.

Nail Biting Symptoms

This behavioral habit may be accompanied by some symptoms, including the following:

  • Feeling nervous and uncomfortable before biting.
  • Damage to the tissues surrounding the nails and skin.
  • The feeling of relief and pleasure after biting, and this feeling can reinforce the continuation of this negative habit.
  • Nail color changes and turns yellow or white.
  • Dental problems such as erosion and deformities.
  • Negative effect on mental health and social relationships.
  • Injury and swelling of the nails skin.
  • Academic delay.
  • A person bites his nails more when he faces difficulties that challenge his abilities.

Although the habit of nail biting is common among children, it may affect adolescents and adults as well. Studies have shown that children who suffer from nail biting disorder can suffer from difficulties in social and emotional communication, which affects their quality of life.

Nail Biting Causes

Research indicates that there are several reasons behind the habit of nail biting, such as:

  1. Nervousness: As a result of stress and anxiety, nail biting is attractive and temporary because of the calming effect it exerts on the nervous system.
  2. Emotions: The emotional factor plays an important role in making a person continue biting his nails, as shyness and low self-esteem can lead to this habit, in addition to the pain that results from difficult life events such as death or divorce.
  3. Perfectionism: As we mentioned previously, people who have this trait have a low tolerance for failure or frustration, and they get rid of it by nails biting.
  4. Boredom: Due to inactivity or not having a favorite thing to do.
  5. Imitation: Children imitate the behavior of adults.
  6. Psychological and physical: This is usually observed in domestic families.

Nail biting is a negative habit that is difficult to control, and it can negatively affect an individual’s mental and physical health. Therefore, it is recommended to speak to a mental health specialist if the habit is severe and causes problems.

Nail Biting Causes in Teenagers

Nail Biting Causes in Teenagers

Although many people suffer from this habit, scientists believe that most people eventually overcome it. Nail biting often appears during adolescence due to several reasons, including the following:

  • Stress and anxiety: Teenagers face many mental and social challenges at this stage of their lives. Anxiety and stress resulting from school problems, friendships, romantic relationships, and the pressures of academic work can lead teens to bite their nails as a way to relieve stress.
  • Nervous habits: Some people tend to develop nervous habits such as nail biting, lip chewing, or hair pulling in cases of anxiety or stress. These nervous habits can appear in adolescence.
  • Emotional growth and mental development: In adolescence, many emotional changes and mental development occur. Nail biting can be a way of expressing the psychological pressures and internal challenges they face.

Nail Biting Side Effects and Risks

Nail biting can be harmful to your health, as it can cause some short-term problems. such as:

  • Diseases, as bacteria are transmitted from infected fingers to the mouth.
  • Dental problems such as misalignment and broken teeth.
  • Skin infection.
  • Oral problems such as jaw pain and soft tissue injuries.
  • Damage to the tissues of the fingers, nails and skin.
  • Temporomandibular joint pain and its disorders.

The good news is that long-term damage from nail biting is rare, but it does happen sometimes, especially if the nails are swallowed after biting. Bacteria that live on the affected nails may be ingested, which can lead to infections in the stomach or intestines.

When to See a Doctor

Minor problems associated with nail biting may not require a visit to the doctor, but you may want to consult your doctor if you have recurring problems such as:

  • Nail growth on the side of the finger in soft tissue.
  • Nail color change.
  • Separate the nails from the surrounding skin.
  • Infection of the skin or nails.
  • Swelling, pain or bleeding around the nails.

Excessive nail biting may require a more serious treatment program that addresses the psychological and physical factors causing this habit. But knowing whether your nail biting is normal or pathological is not easy, as your behavior may be pathological if:

  • You cannot stop biting despite repeated attempts.
  • Not biting nails leads to severe stress, such as shame, anxiety, or guilt.
  • It limits your ability to work and daily functions.

7 Tips to Stop Nail Biting

7 Tips to Stop Nail Biting

There are a few different things you can try at home. And there are also some cases in which you may want to see a doctor.

Before you try to stop biting your nails, you can spend some time thinking about why you bite them in the first place. Ask yourself some questions, such as: Am I hungry? Under pressure? tired? By answering these questions, you can identify and find different ways to alleviate the cause.

Here are some ways to help stop biting your nails, including the following:

  1. Keeping nails short

The idea behind this method is simple, if your nails are short or don’t have much to bite, you won’t feel the urge to bite your nails, and of course you’ll need to take care of cutting your nails regularly because they’re constantly growing.

Moreover, you can follow the following tips to keep your nails short:

  • Use scissors or nail tweezers to trim them.
  • Trim nails regularly, for example once a week.
  • Do not let the nails grow too much because they will become more susceptible to breakage and cracking.
  • You can apply colored nail polish to create a neat and tidy look to keep them short.
  1. Book an appointment at the nail salon

Do you want to feel pampered and refreshed? Book a nail salon appointment. Let the professionals take care of you, and give yourself the self-care you deserve. Not only will your nails look great, but you’ll feel relaxed. Take some time to enjoy and give your nails the ultimate care.

  1. Flavor for your nails

It may seem strange at first, but using bitter nail polish may help you get rid of the nail biting habit. You can use this type of polish on your natural nails or even on decorated nails. All you have to do is distribute it with a brush on your nails, wait until it dries completely, and reapply, if necessary.

  1. Wear a necklace

You can wear a biting necklace made of silicone, and you can choose your favorite color and its strength according to the size, as it starts from soft to very hard. This type of necklace may be one of the best tools if you suffer from the habit of chewing nails and want to stop it.

Instead of chewing your nails to help focus and relax, you can replace your nails with necklaces. Consult your dentist to find the appropriate solution. Biting on anything, whether nails or anything else, may lead to tooth damage or jaw injury.

  1. Focus on each toe

The American Academy of Dermatology recommends reducing the habit of chewing nails by focusing on one nail at a time, such as the thumb. After successfully stopping chewing the thumbnails for about a week, you can move on to the rest of the fingers in the order that suits each person. The approach may not work well, instead, choose a regimen that suits the person and continue to improve their condition.

  1. Continuity

Do not expect to stop chewing your nails immediately. You must give yourself enough time to achieve this goal.

There is an idea that it takes 21 days to break a habit. This number became famous after the publication of the book “Psychological Automaton” by Maxwell Maltz in the 1960s. But a 2009 study showed that the time required to break a habit is not specifically clear.

The lesson that can be learned is to give yourself enough time before declaring the failure of your attempts. If you continue and work hard, there will be an improvement in the end.

  1. Get social support

Talking to someone for support when you feel the urge to bite your nails can help you get through a difficult moment.

How Can Your Doctor Help You?

If you do not find results with all the home methods to stop the habit of nail biting, you may want to make an appointment with your doctor. For some people, nail biting may be a sign of a more serious psychological or emotional problem, and behavioral therapy is another option that can help you. At your appointment, you can discuss nail biting with your doctor.

You should also contact your doctor if you notice any signs of infection in your fingers or nails. A dermatologist can help you heal your nails and fight any infection using medications or topical treatments.

If you are looking for ways to stop the habit of chewing nails, the doctor can help you determine the underlying causes of this habit and determine the appropriate treatment to get rid of it.

Always remember that you are not alone in this problem, and a doctor and psychotherapist can help you overcome this habit in healthy and effective ways.

Nail Biting and Psychotherapy

Psychological treatments can help stop nail biting, including the following:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) or acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) can help identify and manage the thoughts and feelings that trigger nail biting.
  • A specific type of therapy called habit reversal training focuses on awareness of nail biting triggers, identifying alternative behaviors such as clenching hands or squeezing a rubber ball, and promoting social support.

Habit reversal training has proven to be very effective in treating nail and hair biting disorders, especially in the short term. In the long term, a comprehensive cognitive-behavioral approach is more effective.

It is important to remember that stopping nail biting takes patience and perseverance. Don’t despair if you start to get into the habit again. Keep trying and seek support if you need it.

  • Can drug therapy be used to treat nail biting habits?

Some medications can help reduce excessive nail biting. Medications are not usually used to treat nail biting, but some patients who take serotonin reuptake inhibitor antidepressants find that they reduce nail biting to some extent.

Some small studies suggest that N-acetylcysteine supplements are more effective in reducing nail biting behaviors than skin peeling disorder or trichotillomania, but more research is needed.

It is important to discuss the possible side effects of medications with a doctor before starting to take them. Psychological therapies may be a better option as a first step.

If your doctor prescribes medications, it is important to closely monitor their effectiveness and side effects. Do not hesitate to discuss any concerns with your doctor.

Self-care to Avoid Nail Biting

Self-care to Avoid Nail Biting

Here are some important points to maintain the cleanliness and appearance of nails, including the following:

  1. Keep your hands clean

Make sure to completely remove traces of polish from the nails using a polish remover that does not contain acetone, which will not dry out the nails.

After washing hands, put an amount of soap on a clean toothbrush. Then gently scrub the nails and surrounding skin with the brush; To remove dirt and exfoliate dead skin without using harsh and drying chemicals.

Avoid using sharp tools to clean under the nails to reduce the risk of injury and infection. Instead, use a toothbrush moistened with soap.

Dry your hands well after washing, especially between the fingers; To prevent the growth of harmful bacteria, apply moisturizer to your hands after drying them to avoid dryness and cracking.

  1. Handle nails gently

Nails are sensitive, so treat them gently. Avoid using metal tools to clean under the nails, as excessive digging can lead to the nail separating from the skin (Onycholysis), which is common in people over fifty years of age.

Cleaning nails with chemicals and washing dishes by hand can also weaken nails. You can protect your nails by wearing rubber or plastic gloves if necessary.

Make sure to cut your nails straight, and avoid overlapping clipping, which can lead to nail breakage and cracking.

Moisturize your nails and the surrounding areas daily using a moisturizer rich in vitamins and natural oils, to avoid dryness and cracking.

Make sure to eat foods rich in calcium and protein to help build strong and healthy nails.

  1. Cut nails regularly

Regular cutting of nails is as important for them as it is for your hair. Regular cutting reduces the possibility of nails being scratched or broken.

Try to cut your nails about every two weeks, and you can adjust the time period according to your nails’ response.

Gently polish the nails after cutting them using a good nail polish, this will help facilitate the growth and strengthening of the nail, then apply a layer of nail strengthening solution after cutting them to protect them from drying and breaking.

  1. Make sure you have a nail file handy

If your work or sporting activity causes damage to your nails, you can keep a nail file close by to instantly smooth out any rough edges in the nails, and for the best result, work the file on the nail in one direction with the natural nail growth lines.

  1. Give your nails a break

There is nothing wrong with decorating the nails with bold colors and attractive designs, but in moderation to allow the nails to rest and recover. Using strong polish colors consecutively without giving your nails a rest period can cause the nail structure to weaken.

Healthy Nails Signs

Nail care is an important part of women’s daily beauty routine. Beautiful, healthy nails give a beautiful appearance to your hands. Signs of healthy nails include:

  • Its color is white and pink.
  • Excess skin around the nails is present, so don’t cut it.
  • The length of the nails and their white tips are equal.
  • The presence of a white, crescent-shaped part at the bottom of the nails.

Unhealthy Nails Signs

Unhealthy Nails Signs - Nail Biting

There are some signs of unhealthy nails, including the following:

  • Cracking and breaking of nails: This may be due to dehydration or a lack of vitamins.
  • The appearance of small white spots: This usually means that you are biting or painting your nails frequently.
  • Horizontal lines on the nails: They may be the result of stress, high temperature, or rotating the fingers.
  • Swelling and redness of the skin around the nails: It can be the result of removing excess skin around the nails or biting the nails frequently.
  • Spoon-shaped nails (nail concavity): This is one of the morphological deformities of the nail, as it is concave inward. It could be a sign of iron deficiency or anemia.

Regular Dental Check-ups

Regular dental checkups are important for everyone, but it is even more important in the case of nail biting. This is because people usually bite their nails in an unhealthy way, which leads to damage and erosion of the teeth. Therefore, this can lead to oral health problems, such as tooth decay, tooth erosion, and gingivitis.

In the end, my dear, there is no doubt that nail biting can be a difficult habit to get rid of, but let me remind you that true strength lies in persistence. Be patient and steadfast in your goal for the sake of your health and beauty.

Always remember, you deserve care, and that true beauty comes from within. I hope this information has helped you in your journey towards change. See you in other articles concerned with your health and happiness.

Frequently Asked Questions about Nail Biting

Does nail biting cause cancer?

Nail biting in general does not definitely cause cancer. Usually, the outer part of the nail is bitten, which is an outer layer of skin. This layer consists entirely of dead cells filled with keratin protein. Dead cells are not susceptible to cancer.

Is nail biting an addiction?

Yes. Nail biting may be an addiction in some cases. Nail biting is usually an expression of anxiety, tension, or stress, and it may be a mechanism to relieve mental stress.