STOP Nail Biting!!!

"How do those nails taste like?"  Asked my grade school teacher out of the blue.  She must have spotted one of my classmates biting their nails.  She paused from the lesson at hand.  "Self confidence is very important.  That's how people would take you seriously.  Even when you are not self-confident, you can fake it.  Nail biting betrays lack of self-esteem.  So don't do it."  She was forceful.  She paused and went back to the lessons.  Didn't give it much thought then.  I personally knew no one with this habit.

Photo credit:

Those were the days... Today, it seems I see and hear more and more people biting their nails.  Too many that it's almost like a norm. Some even announces it quite proudly that it almost sounds fashionable.  I quickly clench my fist and gently tap my lips with it as I catch myself putting my nails on my mouth.  Being exposed to many who bite their nails is making me unconsciously 'follow their example.' Is there really something wrong with the habit?

 Our nails are a marvelous part of our body, it's there to protect the soft, delicate tips of our fingers and serves as a barrier from harmful germs and bacteria.  Imagine all the things we touch and come in contact with daily?  Hence, biting your nails is bad for your health.  It can cause serious infections and cause permanent damage not only to nails but also to the teeth and gums. Rumor has it that eaten bits of sharp nails can cause stomach problems in the future. Yeah, that's not proven.  Although it is for a fact that our mouth is teeming with bacteria that can enter the broken skin of bitten nails causing infection.  In turn, our nail beds are host to many sorts of germs and bacteria that can be ingested through nail biting.  

There is also the matter of manners. Ever stop to wonder what people think if you suddenly start biting your nails while in the middle of a conversation? Besides our face, our hands is also one of the most visible part of our body and often readily seen by others.  What impression would we be sending others if our nails look unkemptIf nail biting was caused by lack of self-confidence, would having untidy fingers alleviate that or worsen it? 

So don't do it!!!  Granted, it's not easy to quit.  I can't even begin to imagine how hard it may be.  But it can be done* (For serious cases please See #3).

FIRST, one has to have the determination to quit.  Once a definite goal is set, commit yourself into fulfilling it.  We can only give sufficient effort to something we are determined to fulfill.  So, DECIDE and COMMIT! Only then will suggestions such as the following will have an effect on you.

I scoured the internet (and some books) for some tips and suggestions.  I will be posting my references at the end of this post rather than quoting them continually.

1.  Change behavior. | Here are some practical HELP!

     ~ Keeping our hands busy so that it is not available for biting.  When not busy, we can simply sit on it.

     ~  Have hard shelled nuts handy and visible so that when having the urge to munch, you can nibble on that sunflower seed instead.

     ~ A loud or noisy bracelet may catch attention when one lifts his/her hand towards their mouth.

     ~ Set up reminders on you phone to alert you at different times of the day.

     ~ Isolation is a deterrent to social skills and encourages bad behavior. Making it a habit to talk to a dear trusted friend will help tremendously.  You may even have friends who also share the same habit and underlying causes that you could relate too.  Sounding off your goals and progress to each other can be very encouraging.  The support of each other can also make one feel the warmth of companionship that can alleviate stress and anxiety.

Photo Credit: Unknown

 2. Identify triggers and avoid them.

    ~ Some people do so unconsciously.   Each person may be triggered by many differing factors. Keeping a mini-journal as to the times and circumstances surrounding each occurrence of the biting can help you be aware of these triggers.  This includes people, places or things that motivate finger munching.  Being aware of the triggers equips one to avoid them.

     ~ Be aware of it.  Some people do it, for example, when they absentmindedly watch TV.  If that's a problem, stick a message to your TV reminding you "DO NOT BITE!" A post it is a good idea to stick on places you often see - Like your bathroom mirror so it's the first thing you see in the morning.  You may also stick it at your desk and computer at work or a safe but visible part of your car.

3. Talk to your doctor.

     *Chronic nail biting can be caused by many different reasons. Sadly,  this may more than just an unconscious silly habit prompted by boredom.  It is a nervous response to stress and anxiety.  Or it may be a symptom of a far more serious psychological problem such as Impulse Control Disorder, OCD or BDD. These should prompt professional medical help.

4.  Encourage good habits.

    ~ This is especially true for children.  Scolding will only cause fear that prompts them to hide instead of asking for help.  Encourage good habits instead, many children outgrow their nail nibbling.  Some recommend finger tapping, gum chewing, or candy eating.  But these can backfire - creating new unpleasant habits.  So vary your methods.

     ~ Some bite their nails in response to minor stress or anxiety (for serious kind, please refer to #3). If that's the case, one may adapt relaxation or stress reduction techniques - simply closing your eyes for a few seconds and deep breathing can do wonders.  

     ~ Better good habits include humming or singing, crafting (things that make them profitably busy) and proper nail care.

Photo Credit: Divine Nail Spa

And that's my favorite part: PROPER NAIL CARE

    ~ For ladies, keeping the nails polished or properly manicured can help.  Who would want to bite that pretty little artwork?  For some, it may require a regular visit to their manicurist.  Some others learned how to do nail art themselves.  Nail cosmetics can ameliorate the look of badly bitten nails.  Consider properly applied artificial nails or nail enhancements. Examples are acrylic or gel nail extensions.  "Even the most experienced nail biters have trouble gnawing their way through them."   Word of caution:  Allowing the polish to chip on your nails can make it look unsightly and can be counterproductive.  Hence, keep your manicure in good order.  Change polish once it is chipped.

     ~  For men, a colorless matte coating may do the trick.

     ~ Some employ a bitter spray on their fingers. There are also anti-nail biting lotions in the market. (Ask your pharmacist) The revolting taste can discourage you to bite. Having stopped for a couple of weeks, your nails will recover a bit and grow longer giving you the incentive to quit.

     ~ Uncomfortable, sharp edges can tempt one to "smoothen it out" by biting.  Keep a glass nail file and a small clipper handy so you can instantly smooth away rough edges and cut hangnails or protruding skin. 

     ~ Keep the hands and cuticles moisturized.  Anyone can be tempted to bite off those uncomfortable hangnails or protruding dry skin.  So carry a nice hand cream with you and use it often, paying particular attention to the cuticles. Tip:  Wash your hands often and apply hand cream while skin is still moist.

     ~ Devote 10 minutes a day to care for your nails. As they start to look better, pride develops and you will be less inclined to bite them.

In the next article, I will be posting a step by step hand-pampering. You can have your own at home spa treatment to keep your hands and fingers moisturized and hopefully help you recover from nail biting.  So please come and visit my blog again.

Photo Credit: Charlene NK Photography

*Onychophagy - Greek name for bitten nails.

Milady's Art and Science of Nail Technology 1992 page 68
Awake Journal May 22, 1998 issue, pages 21-23 
Pro Nail Care by Leigh Toselli pages 40 and 215
Manicure and Pedicure (The Complete Guide to Professional Results) page 34
Nail Biting
America Now News
Washington Post February 9, 2010
Just in Five Minutes July 1, 2013
Nail Bitten (Images)
How Stuff Works - Nail Biting

Disclaimer:  I am not a professional in this field.  I tried my best to compile this information from several sources and references in the hopes of preventing myself from starting the habit and helping my friends who do to quit.  Please do check the following references.  You are also welcome to write additional suggestions based on your own personal experiences and references on the comments below.

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