Listen to this article
Do you tend to bite your nails whenever you are stressed? It has been observed that many people with stress and anxiety problems, bite their nails in frustration. But nail biting is itself a very frustrating and unhealthy habit. Doing so can make your nails look awful and unfortunately it can even probably lead to some health issues. Let’s first understand the causes behind this condition and we’ll give you some solutions to avoid biting your nails.
Health Shots spoke to Dr Sonal Anand, Psychiatrist, Wockhardt Hospitals, Mira Road, Mumbai to know what causes this strange habit and ways to stop it.
Before you get down to the solution to get rid of the nail biting habit, it is important that you look at the causes behind this behaviour. Usually, this strange habit can be seen only in children. However, there are some adults who still cannot stop biting their nails or develop this habit in adulthood. Whatever the case causes are the same!
According to Dr Anand, “Anxiety and stress are more commonly the reasons for nail biting. Children start with this habit at a young age and then it could go on into adulthood.”
Usually, adults learn not to overdo the habit in most cases. But curiosity and boredom can be something difficult to deal with and nail biting can be seen in some people who don’t know how to handle boredom, frustration, and wait time.
“There is a Freudian notion that nail biting is something to do with being stuck at the oral stage (between birth to about 18 months) of psychological development,” says Dr Anand.
Those who are perfectionists have higher chances to develop this condition. Dr Anand says, “Perfectionism is related to nail biting because it leads to stress and anxiety.” In fact, the journal Scientific American Mind, also finds that people with higher levels of perfectionism chewed their nails more as compared to other people.
Also, read: Nail your nail care routine with these tips!
In certain cases, chronic nail biting can be a symptom of OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder). “Not only this, sometimes it is associated with ADHD, separation anxiety, Tourette syndrome, rarely depression and psychiatric disorders,” says Dr Anand.
People who bite their nails occasionally, may be because they are frustrated or it may be that they are in a situation that they cannot handle which is causing them to bite their nails. A study published in Journal of Behaviour Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry found that frustration is one of four emotions that cause nail biting.
Nail biting may seem harmless, but it is not without risks. This behaviour doesn’t only affect the look of your nails but can lead to number of risks such as:
* Infection in your nails due to continuous pulling, irritating and biting
* Soreness around the nails and top of the fingers
* Nail biting can also take a toll on your dental health
* Abnormal growth of nails
* Illnesses which passes through bacteria and germs from your finger to your face, mouth, and stomach
All in all, biting nails is detrimental to your health. Try to avoid it as far as possible.
In most cases, nail biting is benign and can be overcome with determination and motivation to quit the habit. Remember, finding out what is causing nail biting and working in that direction is a major goal.
Here’s how you can get rid of nail biting habit:
According to a 2016 study in the University of Tasmania, physiological imbalances such as stress and anxiety cause nail biting and therefore reducing them can help get rid of nail biting habits. To reduce the level of stress following a healthy lifestyle with yoga, meditation, and relaxation techniques can help.
Deterrents like putting bitter tasting nail polish or bandages or using gloves can be used initially. You can also simply apply vinegar because it has a bitter taste and can help you avoid nail biting.
Whenever you feel like biting your nails, distract yourself by keeping your hands busy and away from your mouth. Dr Anand says, “Distraction methods, fidget devices, and stress balls can come to the rescue.”
A very easy and good way to avoid biting your nails is keeping your nails manicured. “Going for a professional manicure can help in some cases as neat and clean nails look pleasing and no one wants to destroy the look,” says Dr Anand.
Fixing a time of the week for cutting nails/manicures can relieve the stress of nail perfectionism.
Some cases may require CBT (a type of psychotherapy) or even medical management.
So don’t worry and follow these tips to stop biting your nails.