Nail biting: How do you stop it?
First lets see why do we bite our nails
About half of all kids and teens bite their nails. If you bite your nails being an adult, you may have done it when you were younger and just never stopped.
Kids whose parents bite their nails are more likely to bite their nails too.
Studies show that biting nails typically doesn’t begin before the age of 4. However, many cases seem to start between the ages of 4 and 6. Boys tend to bite their nails more than girls.
In other words, you may have begun your nail-biting habit as early as when you were a child. Nail biting typically begins in childhood and can continue through adulthood.
As we all know, habits, including nail biting, are difficult to break. You may bite your nails when you’re nervous, bored, hungry or feeling insecure. At times, you may not even notice you’ve bitten them until you go to get a manicure and they’re nibbled too short.
Nail biting can also be a sign of emotional or mental stress. It’s a way to cope with feelings of nervousness, anxiety or negativity.
There are about a million variables at play when it comes to nail biting, which means there’s no standard magic recipe for stopping that will work for everybody.
Now lets see why should you stop nail biting
The good news is that nail biting doesn’t usually cause any long-term damage. However, it is unsanitary and can lead to more frequent illnesses and nail or skin infections. It’s a good idea to try and quit to avoid these complications.
Below are some downsides of nail biting:
- It can make your nails grow out of shape. Repeated nail biting can make the skin around your nails feel sore, and it can damage the tissue that makes nails grow, resulting in abnormal-looking nails. If you damage the tissue around your nails, they may stop growing the way they should.
- It can damage your teeth. You can chip, crack, or break your teeth when you bite your nails. Over time, nail biting can even cause jaw problems.
- It can make you sick. Hands are a cradle for germs, and nails are their perfect hideout. Therefore, when you’re putting your fingers in your mouth multiple times a day, it increases your chances of getting sick. In addition, the skin damage you can cause when you bite your nails creates an easy way for germs to get in.
How do you stop biting your nails?
There are some different things you can try at home. However, there are also some cases where you may want to check in with your doctor instead of trying on your own.
The best way to start off is by spending some time thinking about why you bite your nails.
Try keeping a log of when you find yourself biting. When you review your log, ask yourself: Am I tired? Stressed? Hungry?
You may start to notice a pattern. Once you’ve discovered your unique trigger, you can work toward finding different ways to ease it.
Whatever the case may be, there are some methods you can try at home that can help you to stop biting your nails.
You may not see a change overnight, but with a little time and effort, you can bust your nail-biting habit.
11 ways to stop biting your nails
1. Keep them short
An easy way to deter yourself from biting your nails is to keep them short. The idea behind this method is simple. If there’s not enough nail to grab with your teeth, you won’t feel as compelled to bite your nails.
Having less nail provides less to bite and is less tempting.
Of course, you’ll need to stay on top of your trimming routine because your nails are continually growing.
2. Coat them with a bad taste
There are special nail polishes with a bitter flavour you can paint on your nails. Available over-the-counter, this safe, but awful-tasting formula discourages many people from biting their nails. The terrible taste will make you think twice before chewing.
3. Get regular manicures
When you start spending money and time to keep your nails looking attractive you are less likely to bite them.
4. Wear gloves
It does sound silly, but if you can’t get to your nails, you can’t bite them. Alternatively, you can also cover your nails with tape or stickers – they can have the same effect to prevent nail biting.
5. Identify your triggers.
Remember those triggers? Well, you must deal with that, or else another bad habit will replace the one you’re trying to get rid of.
Notice how you feel or what you’re doing when you bite your nails. You may already know what these are; these could be physical triggers, such as the presence of hangnails, you might bite out of boredom or when you’re not paying attention, when you’re especially stressed, when you’re unhappy, to vent your anxiety, etc.
By figuring out what causes you to bite your nails, you can figure out how to avoid these situations and develop a plan to stop. Just knowing when you’re inclined to bite may help solve the problem. Once you know what kicks you into nail-biting drive, you can try to find other ways to cope.
6. Replace the bad with the good
When you feel like biting your nails, try playing with a stress ball or just by diverting your mind.
Try therapy, medication, yoga, meditation, etc and get into it to root it out.
This will help keep your hands busy and away from your mouth. Or simply chew gum so your mouth has a job. Give your nail-biting energy another place to go.
7. Commit to Stop biting
Better said than done! This is the hardest part, even though it sounds so easy: You must commit to STOP BITING.
Do not fool yourself. Your word is your bond, and this is a promise you’re making to yourself. Take it as seriously as if you were taking a solemn oath to your partner or very best friend. No half-measures here—you’re in or you’re out.
You must stop putting your fingers in your mouth, or picking at loose skin, or scraping the surfaces, or messing with your cuticles, or whatever your habit is. Seriously. JUST STOP.
8. Try to gradually stop biting your nails
Take a gradual approach to break the habit by focusing on just one nail at a time. Set small goals for yourself.
Start with your thumb nails first. After you’ve successfully stopped biting your thumbnails for a week or so, move on to your index fingers. Then eliminate your pinky nails, pointer nails, or even an entire hand. Go in whatever order makes the most sense to you and keep moving forward with your progress. The goal is to get to the point where you no longer bite any of your nails.
9. Stay Focused
A lot of bad habits happen when we aren’t paying attention or are zoned out—nail polish gets pulled off, dry skin on lips gets picked, and yes, nails get bitten. You need to overcome this.
Be alert, present and aware of what you’re doing all the time, or as much of the time as you can, so that you aren’t unconsciously engaging in nail-biting.
If you’re not 100% focused on what you’re doing, your brain is off dreaming and busying itself with a million different things. Learn to be present, rather than zoning out all the time.
10. Behavioural therapy
Behaviour therapy does not involve one specific method but it has a wide range of techniques that can be used to treat nail biting.
This form of therapy identifies potentially self-destructive or unhealthy behaviours and helps to change or overcome them. The principle of this therapy is that unhealthy behaviours can be changed as all behaviours are learned. The focus of treatment is often on current problems and how to change them.
If you still struggle after trying multiple methods, talk to your doctor about whether therapy’s a good option to help you get to the bottom of the problem and take nail biting out of the picture.
Do not expect yourself to stop biting your nails overnight. Your nails will take a long time to get nice. The skin will heal slowly, and damage done to the nail bed will take a long time to repair.
But that’s fine because you’re playing the long game here. Don’t get discouraged as you want your nails and hands to look and feel good for your entire life, so keep caring for them.
It’s going to be hard, but it’s also going to be okay. Never give up!
Give yourself time before you declare your efforts a failure. If you keep at it, the hard work should pay off.
A lot of these tools are used to break severe nail-biting problem. The only way to stop this is to get through it one day at a time. Every day you must wake up and commit to making different choices and forging better habits. This is not going to be easy and will involve taking responsibilities, so you must be patient.