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Tips And Tricks To Stop Biting Your Nails
Maybe you found yourself with nails between teeth while sitting through a boring class lecture, anticipating a career-changing meeting with your supervisor, or anxiously watching the fate of your favorite horror-movie heroine.
Biting fingernails is a habit that often starts in childhood. Studies show 60% of children and 45% of teenagers bite their nails. Nail biting becomes less common after age 18, but it can continue into adulthood. Many adults and children are often unaware they are biting their nails because doing so has become a habit.
The problem can range from a mild, occasional habit to an ongoing and more serious problem.
Why We Gnaw Our Nails
Stress and boredom are the main nail biting culprits for most people. The habit is often a way to ease anxiety or to keep at least one part of the body occupied while the mind lacks interest. Frustration and loneliness are additional emotional triggers that can lead to nail biting. Some research suggests genes may play a role.
Biting fingernails can also be a symptom of a psychological condition, such as obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). People who wash their hands several times in a row or check the front door locks compulsively may also bite their nails as part of the same spectrum of behaviors. Many children who are nail biters also have other psychiatric disorders, such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), oppositional defiant disorder (ODD), separation anxiety disorder, or bed-wetting.
Regular nail biting that causes severe damage to the nail and surrounding skin can be considered a form of self-mutilation, similar to cutting and related behaviors.
Problems With Regular Nail Biting
Nail biting has both physical and emotional consequences. Regularly biting your nails and cuticles can leave your fingers red and sore. The area of skin around your nails may bleed and become infected. Bacteria and viruses passed from your fingers to your face and mouth can make you vulnerable to infection.
Nail biting can also harm your teeth, leading to poorly aligned, weakened teeth.
The appearance of bitten-down fingernails can also be embarrassing, which can only add to anxiety and stress.
Get Ready for a Change
1. Confront your problem
- It’s time to admit that your nail-biting habit is getting out of control, and that you don’t feel capable of stopping whenever you want. Before you stop trying to bite your nails, you must realize that you have been doing it in class, at work, or other public places, and that it is not socially acceptable. Tell yourself that you want healthy, beautiful nails and to drop your nasty habit for good.
- Take pictures of your nails and examine them. Is that what you want your nails to look like forever?
- Study the nails of people who don’t bite their nails for extra motivation.
- Remember that severe nail-biting can also cause health problems. When you’re biting your nails, you’re constantly transferring bacteria from your hands to your mouth.
- Talk to a friend about your problem. You don’t have to deal with this alone.
2. Visualize yourself with strong
- Healthy nails. Take a picture of healthy nails and put it on your wall, or even carry it with you.
- Every night before you go to bed, visualize yourself with healthy nails.
- Visualize yourself with healthy nails every time you’re tempted to bite your nails.
3. Make a plan
Schedule a day for when you will be determined to stop biting your nails. This doesn’t mean that you’ll have to completely stop biting your nails that day, but that you should be committed to beginning the process of stopping that day.
- Write the day in your calendar.
- If you’re really focused, write down your ideal stop date.
4. Know when to get help.
If your nail biting is such a problem that you’re always biting your nails, frequently causing your cuticles to bleed, or even losing fingernails, you may not be able to stop biting your nails on your own. If this is the case, see a doctor as soon as you can to see if your problem is a symptom of a bigger issue like Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD).
If you’ve tried everything to stop biting your nails and nothing has worked, it may also be time to see your doctor.
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