"I bite the hell out of my fingernails. I can't stop. I should stop. It would be nice to grow my fingernails out. It would be healthier. I could pick up dimes."
– Jackie Earle Haley
Nail biting, also known as onychophagy or onychophagia, is a type of impulse control disorder that's characterized by a persistent, unexplained desire to bite one's nails. From an outsider's perspective, it may sound unusual, to say the least. But there's a certain neurological impulse that compels people with onychophagy to bite their nails. If you fall in this category, keep reading for some helpful tips and tricks on how to overcome this habit.
How Common is Nail Biting?
You might be surprised to learn that as many as 45% of teenagers bite their nails. The prevalence of nail biting decreases for adults, yet it's still a disorder that affects tens of millions of men and women (about 25% of adults).
Health Risks Associated with Nail Biting
Biting your nails may seem harmless enough, but it can actually lead to a variety of health problems, some of which include the following:
- Viral infections in and around the cuticles, such as paronychia.
- Nail fungus.
- Warts on fingers around the base of nails.
- Increased risk of gum disease (gingivitis).
- Crooked and/or broken teeth. Because nails are made of thick keratin, chewing or biting them may knock your jaw out of alignment -- or worse, cause broken teeth.
- Lower quality of life. Due to the social stigma associated with this disorder, people who bite their nails often experience a lower quality of life.
How to Stop Biting Your Nails
First and foremost, you need to ask yourself why you bite your nails. Stress/anxiety is among the most common reasons cited for this habit. If you experience high levels of stress and anxiety on a regular basis, you may feel compelled to bite your nails out of instinct. Take a step back to reevaluate your daily life, searching for ways to relax and reduce your stress. Meditating, exercises and eating right are just a few changes that can yield a huge improvement in your stress levels, and subsequently, your nail biting habit.
According to a Behavioral Research and Therapy study, the application of denatonium benzoate may prove useful in discouraging nail biting. Although safe and non-toxic to humans, this chemical has a bitter flavor. So if and when you bite your nails, you'll taste a strong bitter flavor that should discourage you from proceeding with the habit.
Keeping your nails trimmed short -- but not too short -- may also help in your battle to overcome nail-biting. If your nails are short, conventional wisdom should lead you to believe that they will be difficult to bite.
If you are still having trouble breaking free of this habit, consider seeking professional help from a hypnotherapist. A hypnotherapist can uncover the root cause of this habit, training your subconscious to no longer feel the impulse to bite your nails.
If you would like to compliment your therapy with an alternative treatment option (or need a place to start), try hypnotherapy.
Call for your FREE consultation. No pressure. No obligation. Let me help you understand what this might mean for you. Hypnosis and Life Coaching have helped many. Let it help you.