Why do you indulge in nail biting and how to stop it?

Why do you indulge in nail biting and how to stop it?

Why do you indulge in nail biting and how to stop it?

Do you often bite your nails when you are stressed? It has been observed that many people with stress and anxiety problems bite their nails in frustration. But nail biting is in itself a very frustrating and unhealthy habit. Doing so can make your nails look awful and unfortunately can even lead to some health issues. Let us first understand the causes behind this condition and give you some solutions to avoid nail biting.

Health Shots spoke to Dr Sonal Anand, Psychiatrist, Wockhardt Hospitals, Mira Road, Mumbai, to find out what causes this strange habit and ways to stop it.

These are the reasons why you bite your nails

Before coming to the solution to get rid of nail biting habit, it is important that you look at the causes behind this behavior. Usually this strange habit can only be seen in children. However, there are some adults who still cannot stop biting their nails or develop this habit in adulthood. Whatever the case, the causes are the same!

causes of nail bitingNail biting often begins when you are a child and continues into adulthood. Image Courtesy: Shutterstock

1. Anxiety and stress

According to Dr. Anand, “Anxiety and stress are the most common reasons for nail biting. Children start this habit at a young age and can then continue into adulthood.”

2. Boredom

In general, adults learn not to overdo the habit in most cases. But curiosity and boredom can be a difficult thing to deal with and you can see nail biting in some people who don’t know how to deal with boredom, frustration and waiting time.

3. Psychological factors

“There is this Freudian notion that nail biting has something to do with being stuck in the oral stage (between birth and 18 months) of psychological development,” says Dr. Anand.

4. Perfectionism

Those who are perfectionists have higher chances of developing this condition. Dr. Anand says, “Perfectionism is related to nail biting because it creates stress and anxiety.” In fact, Scientific American Mind magazine also finds that people with higher levels of perfectionism bit their nails more compared to other people.

Also, read: Take care of your nail care routine with these tips!

5. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

In certain cases, chronic nail biting can be a symptom of OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder). “Not only this, it is sometimes associated with ADHD, separation anxiety, Tourette syndrome, rarely depression, and psychiatric disorders,” says Dr. Anand.

causes of nail bitingHow obsessive are you? Image Courtesy: Shutterstock

6. Frustration

People who bite their nails from time to time, it may be because they are frustrated or because they are in a situation that they cannot handle and that is causing them to bite their nails. A study published in the Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry found that frustration is one of four emotions that cause nail biting.

Is there a risk of nail biting?

Nail biting may seem harmless, but it is not without its risks. This behavior not only affects the appearance of the nails, but can also generate a series of risks, such as:

* Nail infection from continuous pulling, chafing and biting
* Pain around the nails and the tops of the fingers
* Biting your nails can also affect your dental health
* abnormal nail growth
* Diseases that pass through bacteria and germs from your finger to your face, mouth and stomach

causes of nail bitingTake care of your nails and resist the temptation to touch them. Image Courtesy: Shutterstock

All in all, nail biting is detrimental to health. Try to avoid it as much as possible.

How can you stop biting your nails?

In most cases, nail biting is benign and can be overcome with determination and motivation to kick the habit. Remember, finding out what is causing the nail biting and working towards that is a primary goal.

This is how you can get rid of the nail biting habit:

1. Avoid stress

According to a 2016 study at the University of Tasmania, physiological imbalances such as stress and anxiety trigger nail biting, and thus reducing these can help kick nail biting habits. To reduce your stress level, following a healthy lifestyle with yoga, meditation, and relaxation techniques can help.

2. Apply bitter taste nail polish

Deterrents such as putting on bitter-tasting nail polish or bandages or wearing gloves may be used initially. You can also just apply vinegar because it has a bitter taste and can help you avoid biting your nails.

3. Stress ball

Anytime you feel like biting your nails, distract yourself by keeping your hands busy and away from your mouth. Dr. Anand says, “Distraction methods, stress relief devices, and stress balls can come to the rescue.”

causes of nail bitingThe stress ball can be very useful. Image Courtesy: Shutterstock

4. Get a manicure

A very easy and good way to avoid biting your nails is to keep them well cared for. “Getting a professional manicure can help in some cases, because neat, clean nails look nice and no one wants to destroy the look,” says Dr. Anand.

5. Keep your nails trimmed

Setting a nail clipping/manicure time of the week can relieve the stress of nail perfectionism.

Some cases may require CBT (a type of psychotherapy) or even medical treatment.

So don’t worry and follow these tips to stop biting your nails.


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